Could search marketing decrease online competition?
by Keris Lahiff
Search marketing, otherwise known as search engine optimisation (SEO), is the practice by which a business’ website will aim to increase visibility in online search engines. But let’s get past the tech-heavy patois. Essentially, what it means is getting your website up the top of Google searches.
However, according to a new study by The Australia Institute, getting to the top is proving more and more difficult as larger and more staid companies hold monopoly on the top search results.
The Australia Institute’s research found that two-thirds of Australians are in favour of the government stepping in to ensure a level playing field on the internet.
Dr Richard Denniss, The Institute’s executive director and co-author of the report, says there is a real risk online retail could soon be dominated by a few big-name brands and retailers.
“Unless regulators pay more attention to the need for online diversity, and there is greater understanding of how search engines function, online retail could come to resemble today’s shopping centres, in which the appearance of choice exists but actual choices are limited to a small number of players,” says Dr Denniss.
Forty-six per cent of online shoppers surveyed said the order in which search results appear had an affect on their purchasing decisions. Only 15 per cent of those surveyed said they went past the first page of search results in their most recent online search. And, worryingly, more than a third of those surveyed said they were unaware search engines favour, or even display, paid advertising.
“Search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing have become an essential service, much like electricity, telephony and banking,” says Dr Denniss. “However, key aspects of how they operate, such as how their search algorithms actually work and the nature of their commercial arrangements with advertisers, are currently shielded from public scrutiny.
“Just as Australians have expressed concern about a lack of competition in banking, mining and retail, they should also be concerned about the potential for such market power to emerge in the online economy,” he says. “Put simply, the more diverse and competitive the online economy is, the greater the cost savings to consumers will be.”
Published on: Tuesday, August 23, 2011