Friday, May 22, 2015

A Keyword Example of Why The Google Monopoly is Bad

It's late Friday afternoon, and I'm checking in on my Feedly. Feedly is one of my favorite news aggregators, and I came across 'Through the Google Lense,' which is an official column by Google on trends in search queries.


Google as a Monopoly
Through the Google Lense is pretty sad when you drill into it. Why? Because the tool its actually based on - Google Trends - is in and of itself a sad little tool. Google Trends gives you only the most basic access to search query trends on Google: you can compare two words to each other, but you can't really drill into words (phrases, synonyms, related words, etc.) and you can't really do much with the data, quantity or value of search terms.

You can't really customize Google Trends to any significant degree.  So it's a more a temptation than a tool.

Why is that? The reason, I submit to you - dear reader - is that Google is a monopoly, and like all monopolies, Google stifles innovation.


If It Walks Like a Duck, It Stifles Innovation

For all intents and purposes, Google is a monopoly. Do you use Bing? Yahoo? I thought so. Ask your friends, family, business colleagues, mom, dad... does anyone willingly use Bing or Yahoo? Not really, and so Google is a monopoly when it comes to search. 

(According to the latest public data, Google has about a 75% market share (here), although people like me who work in search and who have access to client data would estimate it more like 90% or even more.)

Now, if you took Econ 101 in college, you learned that monopolies are bad. For many reasons. One of them is that they stiffle innovation

Does Google stifle innovation? Well, let's take a look at the data it releases on keyword search queries.


Keyword Tools and The Fingerprints of Monopoly

Let's look at search queries (keywords), as an example, and the data available to the public on keyword-driven search queries. Take Google trends.  As Rodney Dangerfield used to say, Take Google trends, please. And fix it. And make it robust. And make it real-time. And make it so I can input a term like 'Hillary Clinton Email' or 'California Drought,' and get real-time results, into which I can drill. 

Make it like Buzzsumo. Now there's a tool that can blow your minds about what's trending, where, how, and why.


Example No. 1 of the Google Monopoly Effect: Google Trends


Google trends is a fixed window on the search world: Google's window, defined by Google. Now, yes you can make small adjustments, but you can't really drill into months vs. years, this keyword vs. that keyword. Just compare it for a moment to Buzzsumo, and you'll get my drift.

I love and adore Buzzsumo. Google trends makes me want to cry. 

If we had some competition - say two, or three, or four search engines - they might see the incredible market opportunity in creating a paid search query trend tool, with a freemium Buzzsumo like structure.

It would be AWESOME. You and I could drill into search queries, compare this one with that one, drill into today, drill out to last month, compare exact queries to phrase match queries and on and on and on.  We could see trends, watch them emerge and combine our own innovative quest for insight with the second-by-second emerging data on what people are searching for now.

But no, we're stuck with sad pathetic Google Trends.  And an official 'from on high' report called 'Thru the Google lense.'  Through the Google Lense just makes me angry: it tells me obvious things, like people are searching for bikers, NBA, and David Letterman, all of which you can tell just by reading the news!

Can we - the mere user - drill into trends? Nope. Can we create our own 'Through the Jason lense' on keywords and trends we care about? Nope, nope, nope. The effect of the Google monopoly is little, if any, innovation into what has to be an incredibly important topic: what are people searching for in real-time, and how can a journalist, a marketer, a PTA president, or a USA president get real-time intelligence into the collective thirst for knowledge?

We can't get to that data because the keeper of the keys, Google, doesn't let anyone but Google have access to the real data.

Example No. 2: the Google Keyword Planner


Here's a second example.

The AdWords Keyword Planner is the fountainhead of data about how people search Google. It replaced a much more robust keyword tool, but because Google has a near monopoly on search, you can't do much with the "new and improved" (sic) tool. The most important example being that you can't compare search phrases with exact search queries.

You can't ask the Keyword Planner to tell you, how many monthly searches there are for the phrase "divorce attorney" vs. the exact search query [divorce attorney] not to mention drill into a search like "divorce attorney and child custody" and see any significant data about trends, related search terms, or close synonyms or adjacent searches.

If you are a marketer doing AdWords, SEO, or even Social Media, this limitation means more than half of your job is to "guess" what people for searching for, in what quantities and with what relationships to other terms.

The Google monopoly stifles any real innovation into keyword tools; the paid tools depend on Google's data stream, and therefore, they - too - can't really do anything wonderful.

The fountainhead of data - Google - has that data, and it ain't sharing. Google could build an incredible, wonderful, insightful tool into search queries, share that data with customers and the public, and we'd all live in a better world because we'd have much better data about who's searching for what, when, where, and how.

If search were only a competitive marketplace, we'd have three, fix, six, Buzzsumo's of search telling us the volume, value, and trends of every search query on the planet.

But it's not, and we don't.  But we have Buzzsumo and we have social, and that - dear reader - is beginning to do an end run around the terrible, rotten, horrible scraps of tools that are Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner.

Oh, and case you were thinking that I work for Buzzsumo or have some commercial relationship, I don't. It's just an amazing tool, and it deserves a lot of attention from anyone involved in Internet marketing. Check it out, and then toggle over to the Google tools. And cry.