Would getting rid of Google Search be all bad for SMEs?

Strategic connector and Business Woman Media publisher Amanda Rose. Source: supplied.

‘I’ll just google it.’ It’s a phrase so deeply enrooted in the Australian vernacular and spoken almost by default now when we are searching for information on the internet.

So much so that the ACCC reports that 95% of Australians turn to Google as their search engine of choice.

New government reforms have meant that search engines such as Google along with social media giant Facebook will be held to task, with moves to have these mega monopolists pay for the news content they publish (which they did not create).

Google, from the top of the throne where we have put it, did threaten to boycott the Australian market, and then backflipped recently, most likely because Australian’s don’t like being bullied by overseas conglomerates.

We, as Australians, have put the search engine on a pedestal and there is almost a sense of internet ownership we place in the hands of Google and now the mega-company feels it’s OK to leave us in a position of permanent fear it will effectively switch off its search engine, telling the powers that be that it is untenable and not a financially viable option to pay for content.

Odd, as Google appears comfortable to currently be paid for content, but uncomfortable to see this reverse-engineered. Also, Microsoft put their hands up and said they had no problems with the financial model recommended by the ACCC.

Nonetheless, tempers have since cooled and negotiations have started for revenue-sharing agreements with some (but not all of those affected).

How long the negotiated deals might last is anyone’s guess, and I have no doubt we will quickly fall back in the trance that is Google until the next threat arises.

Small businesses in their right are confused by this whole facade. Not only do they feel that they have not been communicated to when it comes to how these media reforms are likely to impact them, but there is a lot of panic surrounding what exactly might happen if Google exits the market that they so strongly rely on for content and sales generation.

I’m going to say it though: is it really all bad if Google decides to set off into the sunset?

After the gasps and murmuring subside, and everyone recomposes themselves, I can tell you just exactly why this isn’t the deal-breaker businesses think it is, and it all comes down to one of the first business strategies I teach: you need to make sure you have multiple avenues and streams and not rely on one source or platform for prospects or clients to reach you.

COVID-19 was unexpected, but in a way, it was a wake-up call that a proportion of our time as business owners needs to be on back up plans and protection of our IP, content and access to markets.

We need to consider strategic adaptation and minimise the risk associated with threats — be it natural disaster, pandemic or technological.

Cyber risk is real and it doesn’t only come in the form of hacking, it can easily be Google leaving the Australian marketplace.

In today’s world, small business owners need to go further than a SWOT analysis in their business and start to include a risk matrix especially when it comes to technology and the online world.

A small business strategy needs to cater for situations where one form of lead generation or even servicing of customers/clients could be gone overnight.

We also need the consumer mindset to change from using just one form of search engine, or one source of anything, for that matter.

What happened to shopping around? Consumers have more power than they realise. They can change governments with a simple vote.

This shakeup should be seen as opportunistic for small businesses rather than potentially restrictive.

There is real merit in not only encouraging consumers and businesses to reassess their reliance on one provider but look to other ways to engage their community and build their businesses. This could be a return to print or micro-communities and niche publications.

The government can also take the chance to step up here and encourage businesses to join them in seeing the reform as a viable and sustainable opportunity through grants which could encourage spending and investment in other search engines that are aligned with what the reform stands for.

I commend the ACCC for this reform. It’s definitely important to ensure not only our journalists are being recognised and paid for their work, but that we can encourage other platforms to step up and for the community to use them.

Private Media, the parent company of SmartCompany, is a current participant of the Google Showcase program. Content from SmartCompany and other Private Media brands will be featured on Showcase as part of a commercial partnership.

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