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Search engine optimisers are increasingly copping flak from their clients whose websites have been penalised by Google as a result of poor search engine optimisation (SEO) work.

In a dramatic shift in the internet landscape, search engine conglomerates like Google have pitted themselves against the SEO industry.

Before the commercialisation of the Internet, creating brand awareness relied upon two main communication channels: editorial content; and advertising content.

Editorial involved having journalists publish stories which were brand positive, whilst advertising fell into the four categories of television, radio, newspaper and magazines.

The commercial application of the Internet changed all that.

The first generation of new online marketers were SEO-ers. These techies told the international business community that with carefully planned keywords, manipulated metatags, and thousands of “dummy” websites linking back to a website, they could optimise a business’ ranking in search results on the major search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.

What SEO-ers have not toldthe business community is that Google realised as far back as 2000 that it was missing out on billions of dollars in potential revenue as the result of the manipulation of its search results. Accordingly, Google’s “Webmaster Guidelines” was established to stop the growth of SEO-ers populating the internet with spam-links and content of no value to the user. This ‘internet policeman’ approach also dovetailed nicely with Google’s core business model — now known as Google’s “AdWords”.

AdWords is an online advertising platform that places advertising copy at the top, side, or bottom of the search results Google displays for a particular keyword search query, or on a website which Google determines is relevant to the ad copy. The choice and placement of the ads is based in part on Google’s proprietary advertising algorithm called “quality score”. This is how Google determines the ad’s relevance to a particular search query or webpage.

Google’s total advertising revenues were USD $42.5 billion in 2012 and are expected to be in excess of $50 billion in 2015. AdWords offers pay-per-click (PPC), that is, cost-per-click (CPC) advertising, cost-per-thousand-impressions or cost per mille (CPM) advertising, site-targeted advertising for text, banner, and rich-media ads, and remarketing. The AdWords program includes local, national, and international distribution.

In essence, Google Adwords is the number one competitor to search engine optimisation. It has also become Google’s main source of revenue.

Ever heard of Google’s “Panda” or “Penguin”? These are the names given to algorithms created by Google to frustrate the SEO industry,  in order to divert revenue from the SEO industry  into their AdWords program.

Add to this the ever-improving enforcement of the Webmaster Guidelines and Google’s removal of keyword referral data in their Google Analytics reporting, and SEO’s position in the marketplace becomes precarious.

In a groundbreaking matter currently before the Supreme Court of New South Wales, an SEO-er  is being sued for more than $2 million for poor SEO work which attracted Google’s wrath, diminishing the client’s web traffic and decreasing sales revenue as a result.

Levitt Robinson Associate Ben Brady, who is acting on the case, says that the shifting dynamics in the online search industry will no doubt lead to further litigation between businesses and SEOs for breach of contract, negligence, and misleading and deceptive conduct.

“The business community needs to be very careful in selecting SEOs to drive traffic to commercial websites. There are many hard-working SEO professionals out there, but if the SEO-er thinks he’s smarter than Google, run a mile,” Mr Brady said.

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For more information contact Ben Brady on 02 9286 3133 or bbrady@levittrobinson.com