"Don't Be Evil" was Google's motto until 2015. Then they removed it. What has happened to Google? Probably the best argument for the changes is simply to increase profits. Google went public in 2004. If you had invested $30,000 in Google then, you'd be close to a millionaire today! It wouldn't seem so evil had you invested in Google when they went public. I guess evil is in the eye of the beholder! But still - they did dump the motto - sadly.
Focusing specifically on the search engine itself and ignoring all of it's other products, Google has seen many changes and it seems that every change is for the benefit of the stockholders at the expense of those who have depended on Google for lead generation... though Google does recognize that this is a fine-line... as marketing options avail themselves across the internet.
How does Google increase their profit and revenue from search? First, understand that Google pay-per-click is a competitive bidding system, which means that the more people using the system, the higher the price. It truly is supply and demand. All Google would have to do is devise a strategy whereby businesses slowly lose 1st page visibility but want to maintain their first page exposure. (in other words - increase demand for Google paid ads)
I'll mention two such strategies here that we have seen in our own local SEO reports going back to 2010.
FIRST: The MAPS exposure used to have as many as 7 businesses listed in the local section of Google search. That has since reduced to 3. Not long after this reduction Google introduced the ability to place ads inside of Google MAPS - clearly not a coincidence.
SECOND: Businesses that had done their best at improving content and SEO (search engine optimization) were rewarded with exposure on the organic section of the first page. Today, with a subtle shift in the search algorithm, Google has allowed directories to dominate the organic searches. e.g. More than 50 percent of the organic listings for "plumbers in Dayton Ohio" are directories like BBB, Angi, Home Advisor, Porch, Yelp, Thumbtack et al. This is true for most searches among the trades. I suspect this is by design since it pushes actual businesses off the 1st page results and if those businesses want to maintain Google search exposure, they must resort to paid search options.
As small local businesses gets squeezed off the "free" real estate in a Google search, they are forced to look for alternatives. A move into Google text ads by more businesses does two things that benefit Google. More businesses use Google Pay Per Click and the competition drives up the price of the ads. "Plumbers Dayton Ohio" is $20 per click! Many businesses have resorted to other Advertising venues that seem cheaper. Facebook has been the biggest benefactor of this shift - but here again we've seen a steady increase in the cost per lead as the competition in Facebook advertising heats up.
50Bubbles started out with Local SEO as our core service. Google is forcing us to change too! Local SEO is still a key product but we have had to seek creative paid marketing strategies that still deliver traffic at a reasonable cost. Here's a brief summary of a campaign to show what we've been able to accomplish in the Roofing industry with creative digital marketing strategies (compared to Google Text Ad Costs). This was for a roofer in Nashville, TN.
COSTS and Cost per click vs. Google Text ads
Total spent for the month: $450
Total clicks generated: 452
The Google ads cost for Pay Per Click on the term “roofing Nashville” is $35.63 .
Google prorated cost for same number of clicks: $16,104.76 !
Cold traffic cost per click: $ 1.10
Retargeting cost per click: $ 0.54
With creative digital marketing strategies, we've saved our client over $15,000, driven the same amount of traffic. Add to that - we've plastered our clients brand and message visually - something you can't do with Google text ads (the campaign above generated 77,000 ad views. ) Additionally, the ads were sent specifically to clients likely to need their services.
If you find your businesses squeezed off the first page of search, you don't have to let Google dictate the method to maintain local visibility. The secret to cost effective digital marketing is finding ways to get your business information in front of those that are most likely to buy your products and services using multiple marketing channels to do so.