Now that this year’s I/O conference is in the books, digital marketers have had a chance to digest Google’s big announcements. Chief among them was Googlebot getting pushed to the latest version of Chromium, Assistant delivering results up to 10 times faster and, perhaps the most contentious, Search supporting FAQ and How-to structured data. As you can imagine, reactions weren’t limited to applause from the live audience.

Googlebot’s long-awaited update has engineers and developers nodding favorably.

Still, some are keen to point out that this should have come sooner, especially because the update benefits businesses, consumers and Google itself.

A number of Google Assistant-related announcements were made, but the speed demonstration is what might get users to take advantage of it more often and, by extension, businesses to prioritize integrating with it. Naturally, people drew comparisons with the competition.

The announcement of support for How-to markup in search results received strong reactions. Some were excited to give it a test drive…

…while others were anxious about what it could mean for the industry.

“Google started adding ‘features’ to the SERPS. Features whose content is not created by Google, but which operates off the scraped content of the sites in their index,” Schachinger, the digital strategist and SEO consultant quoted above, elaborated in a follow-up with Search Engine Land.

“These features ‘steal the click’ meant for the site because they are meant to keep people on Google’s page, so they will click on Google Ads. Despite a recent study showing users still, by majority, prefer the ten blue links the how-to feature shows these features are just becoming more (and not less) prevalent. The ten blue links now appear, on average, 1000px down the page, where previously they appeared between 300-400px.”

“In ‘stealing the click,’ Google is only benefiting its bottom line. And for those whose content they are using to do this, it fundamentally alters the previously beneficial relationship between Google and site owners,” she points out. “What happens to their business when site owners start putting their money and efforts elsewhere? And this is not just supposition, I can tell you I know of some enterprise level C Suites that are testing just this, right now, because of the perception that Google is becoming less and less beneficial.”

Adding to the assortment of reactions, some see structured data (such as How-to markup) as an opportunity to gain more visibility by leapfrogging the top organic search results. Others, like Greg Finn, digital marketer and partner at Cypress North, acknowledges that the change does convenience users.

“On one hand, users should benefit in the immediate future by having Google surface every bit of helpful content on a site and showing it directly in the search results. Better yet, webmasters that participate may see a boost as they put themselves into the position of offering better content for Google.”

“The other hand is the scarier one,” Finn admits. “One way to look at it is that they are cutting out the middleman, with the middleman being the website itself. Many of the examples shown simply won’t drive traffic. Take a look at the FAQs and the ‘How To Tie a Tie’ example specifically. There is a monumental downside to Google Search changes that bypass your site & your work, so be careful. Make sure you know who is benefiting on your markup. When websites lose visitors & income, the overall content and output inevitably become worse. That’s my fear here.”

Why we should care. Google has been introducing numerous products and features that insert itself between businesses and users under the guise of getting users the info they want faster. The problem is businesses aren’t necessarily seeing the benefits but Google still stands to gain.

Clicks are becoming more scarce, and that’s an indicator that potential customers are getting less contact with our brands. By investing resources and embracing these new features and markups, are we facilitating search engines at our own expense? If that’s the case, at some point brands are bound to get fed up and seek alternative routes to their audiences, or the search engines will have to offer us more for our efforts and ad budgets.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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