Google hogs traffic for itself, cheating online users

Google hogs traffic for itself, cheating online users

Google hogs traffic for itself, according to data showing nearly two-thirds of searches ended without a click in 2020

Almost two-thirds of Google search queries end without users clicking on a single result, according to new analysis.

Per data compiled by Rand Fishkin, the CEO of audience intelligence platform SparkToro, 65% of Google searches on mobiles and laptops ended without users clicking through to another domain. 

The takeaway is that in a large number of cases, Google is directing its billions of search engine users their valuable eyeballs at its own properties. Google, alongside Facebook, dominates the digital ad market and in the fourth quarter of 2020 pulled in $32 billion in revenue primarily from search.

Fishkin previously published research in 2019 that suggested just over 50% of Google queries ended without a click. He warned that it was tough to compare the 2019 and 2020 research because he used different data sources as the basis for analysis but, he wrote, the trend was one of "increasing click cannibalization by Google."

Fishkin also noted that the overall number of searches is growing — likely because many of us have been stuck behind screens all day during the pandemic.

Of major concern to Google critics will be the idea that the search giant is finding ways to keep people on its own properties, potentially at the expense of third-party sites and publishers.

For example, a Google search for "COVID-19 deaths" offers the below, with information pulled from the likes of the New York Times, Wikipedia, and the World Health Organization placed at the top of the page, ahead of clickable links to their sources.

Likewise, a search for the day's weather would probably display the information needed without a user having to click into a weather website.

"In the last three years, Google's been the overwhelming beneficiary of increasing worldwide search volume," Rand added. "And as the pandemic takes more people off their laptops and desktops and puts them back on their mobile devices, the zero-click search problem is likely to rise even more." 

In a blog post published on Wednesday, however, Google dismissed the research, highlighting a number of reasons search queries don't result in clicks, including: "people look for quick facts", "people reformulate their queries", and "people navigate directly to apps." 

"We care deeply about the open web and have continually improved Google Search over the years, helping businesses, publishers and creators thrive," it reads. "While we do show website links for many queries today when they are the most helpful response, we also want to build new features that organize information in more helpful ways than just a list of links."  Source: Business Insider

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