Google is removing some Australian news sites from search results in a move which follows a government order to pay publishers for their content.
The Sydney Morning Herald, which is one of the affected news sites, reports Google has admitted to removing content as part of an “experiment.”
A Google spokesperson tells The Herald:
“We’re currently running a few experiments that will each reach about 1 per cent of Google Search users in Australia to measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other.”
The experiment is expected to run until early next month.
Google is receiving much criticism for its decision to run an experiment which demonstrates its impact on the Australian news businesses.
This comes across as an attempt to intimidate lawmakers into voting against a proposed industry code that would force Google and Facebook to share revenue with news publishers.
A spokesman for Nine, owner of The Herald, says Google’s message was received loud and clear:
“Google is an effective monopoly and by withholding access to such timely, accurate and important information they show clearly how they impact what access Australians have to that.
At the same time, Google are now demonstrating how easily they can make Australian news providers who fall out of their favour effectively disappear from the internet — a chilling illustration of their extraordinary market power.”
Google is campaigning against the proposed industry code, saying it provides value to publishers through referral traffic. In 2018, Google estimates the value provided to publishers through referral traffic was $218 million.
The proposed code would allow publishers to negotiate deals with tech platforms like Google and Facebook. They can work together to set a price that suits both parties, or defer to an arbitrator if talks fail.
Devised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the code is being examined by the Senate committee before a final vote later this year.
Google hopes to get to a “fair” and “workable” code before it goes to a final vote, says a company spokesperson:
“We remain committed to getting to a workable code and look forward to working with the Senate committee, policymakers and publishers to achieve an outcome that’s fair for everyone, in the interests of all Australians.”
Why Does This Matter?
You may be reading this from another country thinking “why does it matter what Google is doing to Australian search results?”
Australian news sites are being impact right now, but this could be a sign of things to come from Google in other countries.
Observing how the company responds to proposed government regulations in Australiais a preview of what may happen if US lawmakers try to impose something similar.
Whether you believe news sites deserve to be paid by Google or not, is removing them from search an appropriate way to campaign against the proposed new code?
Google’s impact on the news business is known without having to run further experiments.
Rachel Anderson, Technical SEO for DeepCrawl, estimates the amount of traffic this experiment is costing publishers is over 200k users per day.
I did some calculations on this. If 86.5% of the AU population uses the internet (21,936,400) and Google has 95% market share, 1% is over 200,000. Publishers excluded from search in this experiment are losing out on visits from over 200k users each day! Feels like blackmail to me https://t.co/TMYqKwSgUV
— Rachel Anderson (@rachelleighrva) January 15, 2021
The news of Google’s admission to blocking traffic has drawn the ire of many within the SEO community. This is a story worth following as Google’s experiment remains in effect over the next few weeks.
Source: The Sydney Herald
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt has an uncanny ability to make the most complex subject matter easy to understand. When he’s not ferociously following and covering the search industry, he’s busy writing SEO-friendly copy that converts.