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Google V Australia – What Does It Mean For You?

It can be hard to spot amongst the ongoing Australian pandemic news and the bushfire bulletins, but you may have noticed there’s a bit of an altercation going on between Google and the Australian government.

You might be wondering what it means, how will it impact you as a business owner, and most importantly, what the hell they’re even talking about. We get it – let’s explain!

Is Google going to ‘leave’ Australia?

First things first – probably not. We don’t really want to speculate, but with new information coming to light we thought it important to reassure business owners that Google fully withdrawing its services from Australia is pretty unlikely.

Although it’s frustrating and there are many unknowns at this stage, we can assume Google will lose a fair amount (to the tune of $4bn, according to the Economist) in advertising revenue if it withdraws. And although Australia only makes up a small percentage of the tech giant’s overall profit ($46bn globally), it’s still a loss. Google may not really ‘need’ us, but we suspect there’s a stronger chance of compromise than cutting ties altogether.

Why is Google pissed off with Scomo anyway?

This is the part that’s a bit hard to explain, so bear with us.

The internet, as we know, is fundamentally based on the free flow of information. For the most part, that free flow has contributed to marvellous things – but at times, it has also damaged entire industries. Think cable television, travel agencies and video stores. One of the biggest ones, maybe the biggest, is journalism.

As the revenue of news media outlets continues to plummet and Google’s revenue continues to rise, some countries have attempted to ‘balance’ the scales by proposing legislation that will force Google to pay for some of the content that appears in its search results. It’s not just Google, either – this legislation (the News Media Bargaining Code) applies to Facebook and similar outlets, too.

In this instance, the Australian government is asking Google to pay a fee to media outlets when it displays news articles as a Google Search result. This is a big deal because Google doesn’t have to pay for any of the content it serves us – that’s the basis of it being a free search tool. Google is arguing that it is simply helping people find the news they’re searching for, and that it brings hundreds of thousands of viewers to news websites everyday by doing just that. The Australian government, on the other hand, is saying that news websites aren’t being fairly compensated for their work.

At the moment, both parties are at a bit of stalemate.

Is it important?

This time, it kind of is. Similar feuds have broken out between Google and various governments in the past, but not really to this extent. As far as we know, this is the first time Google has actually threatened to withdraw Google Search from a whole country. It’s worth noting, however, that Google has had similar spats with France and Spain. In France, Google pays a licensing fee to individual news publishers in exchange for reusing their materials online. In Spain in 2014, Google pulled Google News from their product line-up altogether but retained Google Search.

It seems the tech giant isn’t willing to make those same concessions again in Australia.

What could happen if Google does leave Australia?

There are a few options here. At the moment, Google is threatening to pull Google Search from Australia. In this instance, Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC) and Search Engine Optimisation would look very different for business owners than it does today, but they wouldn’t by any means be obsolete. We’d just manage SEO and PPC on other channels – most likely Bing or Duck Duck Go, which uses Bing’s ad platform. If Google leaves, it will be to Bing’s advantage.

A less likely but more severe scenario could play out if Google decides to pull it’s whole suite – Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, YouTube and all. At the moment, though, there’s been no indication that Google is considering such a harsh move – and even if they did, diversifying our tech product use in favour of more privacy-centred options is never a bad thing. Plus, there’s always the option of a Virtual Private Network (VPN)!

So where to from here?

It’s 2021. We survived 2020, so we’re getting pretty good at resilience – and adaptation is the word of the decade. We’re not scared of a tech giant, and we will find alternative ways to use search and advertising products! Great things come out of great changes. What we personally hope to see is a compromise – and that’s in line with Google Australia CEO Mel Silva’s hopes too.

The bottom line is that Australians are tough and resilient, and diversifying your marketing channels is rarely a bad thing – so let’s not panic just yet.

Still a bit foggy on the details? No worries! Reach out to Roobix for a chat anytime on 13 30 40. We’re always happy to help.

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