I’ve been thinking about this on and off for some time. Am I too dependent on Google? Are you too dependent on Google.
Why you should be concerned
Before looking at individual applications you use, I’m sure you know by now, an entire industry of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing worth billions each year came as a result of who Google picks to be on the front page.
This is okay. After all, it is just business. The organizations that have the resources to pour into SEO and SEM will win the race. This is very similar in life.
What is not okay is that the playing field is not level. The internet used to be relatively free. Almost anyone can be found online on Google initially. Over time, this is no longer the case.
Google’s mission was to organize the world’s information. Along the way, like most corporations that grow too big, it began to look after its own, and shareholder interest.
The internet was about diversity. Anyone can and should be able to share their ideas, and thoughts. Over time, when more user start to use Google search results, Google began to dictate which search results you see.
Today, most of the top ten search results are dominated by 16 large media companies. That in itself, is not bad.
In order to rank well, i.e. be in the top 10 or 20 of search results, your website and web pages have to meet certain criteria.
The bad part with Google is that, while small websites have to comply with certain good practices according to Google, those same large media corporations don’t play by the same rules.
In essence, Google favors the large media companies, even though your website may have better, more accurate, and up to date information!
How it affects you and me
How it affects you and me is that media companies can and is dictating what you and me read, influencing our thinking and behavior.
In the past, there were skewed news. Now there is fake news. Many media organizations are no longer truly interested in the truth, but in clicks! Yes, clicks to their websites.
News that generate the most clicks and shares are promoted and repeatedly shown to readers. Over time, large segments in the population can be influence to think very differently about certain topics.
Over time, you won’t be able to tell the difference between what is true and what is not.
And you are still not concern that Google is tracking everything you do from your movement, your emails, your contacts on Android.
The worst situation is, if for some unknown reason Google decides to disagree with your website content or if you are a competitor, it can delist your website so that if someone wants to search for you on Google, you won’t be found at all.
It is almost as if you don’t exist!
That is what Foundem experienced. It was supposed to be a better search engine than Google years ago. While Foundem as just a startup then, Google already controlled search but not like today where Google absolutely dominate.
While Google was fined 2.1 B Euro recently for doing that to new startup, Foundem.com, the company was practically wiped out from the market.
Why I want to reconsider my relationship with Google
Google has been good to me so far, but there are things that slowly made me uncomfortable with over the years. Most people think that is it about their personal data. It’s that but it is also more than that.
Looking at the overall picture, I find it strange that while Google claims to have issues policing YouTube, while on the other hand, it is busy dipping its tentacles into my harddrive and phone, uploading photos and videos I make, via Google Photos
Yes, initially it was my choice to use Google photos to backup my photos and videos, but I no longer do so. The two things just doesn’t add up when you give it some thought.
If the product is free, you are the product.
I’ve read about Google deleting email accounts, YouTube deleting channels, leaking your data from Android, Google de-listing entire websites, and some of the practices that big corporations tend to do, and I think it is about time to take back some of the power I, as a user gave to Google.
YouTube videos and channels deleted
One problem with YouTube is, they can’t tell which videos are okay, and which ones are not. The algorithm that YouTube uses to flag a video often times don’t work well, and request to review the video can take a long time.
So perfectly innocent videos get demonetized, or deleted, just due to some words in the title, description, and or tags. Even YouTube’s own video got marked with a copyright claim. That says it all for the algorithm.
Another problem is YouTube deleting videos and channels without recourse. In the past, they’ve done so without even checking if copyright claims are legitimate. Too bad if your video got flagged.
However, when news channels that offers diverse views gets deleted, then you begin to wonder.
While I support the freedom of speech, I also think there should be some form of censorship like racism, hate speech, extreme and graphic violence etc. I feel that certain censorship is valid.
Thus far, actions taken by YouTube is not really consistent.
Universal Music Group, UMG’s deal with YouTube. Individuals who post mash up, critique, education, commentary can use media under Fair Use without copyright infringement. Unfortunately, YouTube made a deal with UMG and takes down videos without recourse for the creators even if it falls under fair use.
Not too long back, Google decides to launch Google AMP. It is supposed to improve mobile web search experience but creating faster loading pages for users on mobile.
Kista a WordPress hosting company gave it a test over 2 months and results were mixed. After implementing AMP, they found the following
- Our mobile leads dropped by 59.09%.
- Our newsletter email sign-ups from mobile dropped by 16.67%.
- Our account creations from mobile devices dropped 10.53%.
Read further down and you can see this
“currently there are no SEO benefits from AMP yet unless you are a news site trying to score the carousel in SERPs”
Looks like news sites aka media sites, benefits from AMP. Here are more reason why many think AMP is a bad idea.
I’ve been on several of Google’s wild goose chase only for Google to reverse their decision when there wasn’t enough adoption. Remember Authorship markup and Google+? I was there.
Many went on that wild goose chase. Google reversed the decision on Authorship and just a few weeks ago, Google announced that Google+ will be shut down in 2019.
Imagine all the man hours and millions poured into improving search rankings and then in just 4 short years, it didn’t really matter.
One the web, Google tells business to jump, and everyone ask, how high.
AI used for the military
Remember when Google was the company that says, “Do no evil?” Well, those were the good old days. These days, it is a totally different company.
When you see these words in a paragraph, no good will come out of it. Cutting edge artificial intelligence powered by Google, drones and Pentagon.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a safe, secure world. The world is a dangerous place and some people have to do things to keep thing safe for people like you and me.
I just don’t think a company like Google which has an immense data trove on everyone should be involved. It is not like they needed the money.
Gmail is something of a love hate affair for me. On the one hand, very few spam gets into the Inbox. On the other hand, on numerous occasions, Gmail mark legitimate emails as spam. Emails I want to read and I’ve subscribed to!
A few months ago, I wonder why I haven’t head from some people I subscribed to. I went over the their website and found that they have been sending emails but many were marked as spam. Apparently it either was a error on Gmail or something else, can’t really be sure, but email deliveries dropped by as much as 50% for some businesses.
If you rely on email newsletters as part of your business strategy, and since a lot of your customers are probably using Gmail, your business is severely affected by what Gmail do or don’t do.
Also, emails from your customers or potential customer can easily end up in your spam folder, causing potential loss of business. I’ve a few email from my website, this very one, ended up in my spam folder.
Even without marking legitimate emails as spam, Gmail already segments your email into 3 tabs, primary, social and promotions.
I’ve also experienced moving emails from the promotions into my primary folder because I want to receive those emails from sites I subscribe to, yet subsequent emails still ended up in the promotions tab again.
So, Gmail is deciding who I read emails from. Shouldn’t I be the one making that decision?
Whether you are a customer, or a business, I think it is better to migrate out of Gmail, especially for your business emails.
Reducing Google’s power
Anyway, here’s are some ways you can reduce the power you give to Google. Yes, we as users of Google’s services, gave power to Google in the first place. Collectively, we can reduce that power.
There are 2 things you can do right now without revamping everything. The first is Google search and Chrome.
Instead of using Google search, use Duck Duck Go. Yes, it is a funny name, but I assure you it is a legitimate search engine, and I’ve been using for a few years now. Duck Duck Go results are pretty good, fast, and they don’t track you.
Duck Duck Go makes money from advertising just like Google, but the don’t have to track you to show you the advertisement.
Full disclosure. I still use Google search occasionally when I could not find the information I wanted, or when I need to check SEO rankings of competing websites. As much as I can, I avoid it.
The second is the Chrome browser. Using Chrome browser, Google also gets your search queries, and partial search queries. Google even knows partially typed words in the search box but somehow you didn’t complete the search.
Thus, stop sending data to Google. I suggest you use Firefox. Firefox has been updated and just as fast if not faster than Chrome. If you want to, you can add extensions in Firefox that blocks tracking cookies.
Make sure you use both of these on your computer, and also on your mobile phone. On mobile, you can use Opera for blocking ads which by the way, carries tracking code.
Have alternatives ready
As a business, or even as an individual, it is never good to rely on one service provider. It is always good to have alternatives ready.
I suggest you examine if you overly rely on Google. For example, have you ever consider if Google decides to shut you down whether intentionally or not?
If Google were shut you out from one or two of their services, how would that impact your business? You may think that it won’t happen to you, but it can.
I have a video titled “The Death Of Blab As We Know It“, that got flagged and demonetized just because of the word death. Nothing graphic, and Blab is a service.
While you can appeal against demonetization, it is only for videos that hit a certain amount of views. My video wasn’t that important to me, and wasn’t really making me any money, but the fact that I can’t appeal says a lot about how Google works.
For me, I will explore options and reduce relying on Google as much. It will be something I do over time, I’ll slowly migrate out of Google services, or at least have backups services elsewhere
For example with email, I already use Zoho as an alternative email provider. I also use Protonmail after testing it for 4 months. I really think that if you are doing business of any sort, you ought to have your own personal email address.
Over time, I’m going to reduce using my Gmail account too. Bookmark this page. I’ll continue to update this as I go along.
So far, this is what I’ve done to extricate myself.
- Google Photos – at this point in time, I’ve shut off auto syncing my photos up to the cloud.
- Google Analytics – taking a cue from SEO experts, Analytics is Not installed on my websites. I’ve not installed Analytics on my sites for many years. There are other free services you can use, or you can also host your own analytics eg Piwik now renamed as Matomo, so that no data goes to a third party.
- Google Search – limited use, I already use mostly Duck Duck Go.
- Chrome – hardly use Chrome anymore. On laptop, I use Firefox. On mobile, I use Firefox and Opera.
What about you? Do you think you are relying on Google too much?