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SNHU - IT-210 Business Systems Design and Analysis
Written by: Chris Bell - July, 2012

Google Ad-Free Search Engine - Research Paper



Introduction


With tricky advertisements, pop-ups, flashing pictures and pop-unders it's getting more and more difficult for searchers to figure what a reputable website is which leads us to a very eye friendly Google Ad Free Search. Imagine getting all ten real results by entering a search query without having the paid advertisers at the top and along the side of the search engine. Imagine all of the websites within that network are no longer allowed to display advertisements of any kind on any part of their website or blog.

There's no doubt that Google's search results are getting cluttered with advertisements that only get clicked 9% of the time anyways. These companies paying to sit at the top may or may not be reputable because as it stands there are no criteria to join Google Adwords. Google Adwords is the program that companies use to put a link at the top of search results based on the keywords and phrases that relate to their company. That link can be clicked for a price that relates to the popularity of the keyword and the click will report straight to the desired website.

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Google Ad Free Search will be a separate entity created without any advertisements in the search engine or in the websites within that search engine. There will be a small monthly fee paid by the user to avoid websites that want to rank just so that a few people might click an Ad after visiting their website. This will bring ten very reputable search results to the first page of Google. They will continue to use the same algorithm to achieve the proven results searchers are used to from such a reputable company like Google.

The monthly fee is similar to the fee charged for satellite radio that runs commercial free for subscribers. Millions of people love commercial free radio and are willing to pay to get rid of advertisements. Advertisements in the Internet world work very similarly to commercials in the radio and television world, so people should jump on the opportunity to have an Ad free search engine for a small monthly fee.

In order to avoid logging into the search engine each time the user will sign up and get a web address that can be entered as their default homepage allowing access each time the user clicks on the internet from their desktop. The user will have to log in when using Google Ad Free Search from another computer to avoid free loaders. The IP address will be set up so that it can only access the search engine through that one computer similar to an anti-virus licensing agreement.

Competition


This will give Google a competitive advantage as the first to offer an Ad free environment. As it stands Google includes a less amount of paid websites within its results than the next two biggest competitors. This search engine will also have the same Google algorithm so even if competitors copy the idea they still can't copy the algorithm or access the 70% of people already using Google. This would be a very rare service to offer as others could not possibly imitate it without knowing what Google already knows. However, if a brand new search engine came into play with a completely Ad free business model from the start many people might be apt to switch which could hurt Google if they don't create it first. As long as they create the right marketing plan through television and radio advertisements it could prove to be quite the idea.

The value of this idea is completely in Google's hands. If Bing came out with the same idea first they would still have to steal the 70% of Google searchers. At that point Google can come out with something equivalent or even better to keep their customer base and trade the Ad revenue for the monthly fee in order to make up for lost revenue. When you can deliberately see a company asking for a sale you want to do the opposite of what they're asking. People want to use Google to help them gain information so that they can tell family and friends things that they now know and understand. When you pull into a car dealership and see the salesman walking your way you just want to disappear because all your going to hear them say in your head is "hey want to buy this car, hey want to buy this car?" You've already deemed them worthless to you because you'll buy the car if you want to. To clear up the analogy, companies paying to be at the top of Google are saying "hey buy my stuff, I took the easy way out by just paying to be here instead of the hard way of showing up in the natural search engine". That first Google result is king and treated accordingly. Anyone who sees the first natural result knows that company spent a lot of time and money to get there. It shows a company that's done everything in a reputable way in Google's eyes because we all know that shady websites quickly get knocked to the bottom of the results. A company that is paying to be there could be a new company that wants immediate results or it could be a company that already got knocked to the bottom leaving it very little options. The paid search results get clicked 9% of the time and 30% of those are by accident. Either someone accidentally clicked it or didn't even realize what they were clicking and quickly backed out of the website they entered. Searches for products bring that average up and searches for information bring it down.

Google will implement this with ease as they have the best programmers and web developers in the world. Even if only a few people join it won't hurt anything other than time of developing it. However if the idea gained popularity Google could use the information within their current customer relationship management system to track very valuable results. How often is the Ad free search engine being used compared to the standard version? If the same top ten results come up in both search engines how do the clicks differ from one another when the Ads aren't involved if at all? Do consumers buy more products from websites that are forced to remove the Advertisements? Are informational websites deemed worthless for those trying to make money via Ad space? The feedback will be endless and Google can use that information to enhance both of their search engines.

I don't believe the long tail effect can help Google in any way. Yes, there are obscure searches made every day however, the results often bring you to the same larger websites. Just because a company is as big as Wal-Mart doesn't mean their website automatically shows up in the search engine when looking for a washing machine. Wal-Mart has to hire search engine optimization experts to create pages of information about "washing machines", price them right and make user friendly pages. Then they need to be sure that their website is not only Google friendly but user friendly in order to keep visitors on their site viewing more than one page. Have you ever entered a website and backed out of it immediately? Why? Google includes that in their algorithm by negatively impacting the rankings of websites that constantly get backed out of right away. A company such as Wal-Mart has the opposite affect with Google as the visitors surf around the site viewing multiple pages and buying products during each visit. Smaller website owners and small business owners have a harder time keeping up with Google's algorithm and therefore have a much harder time showing up in the first ten results when competing with a company such as Wal-Mart. Google does this because the amount of time a visitor spends on a website directly relates to how reputable they believe it is. That means it's just as easy, or hard, for Wal-Mart to show up for "washing machines" or "how to fix my washing machine hose when it's broken" as it is for a small business website.

Google currently makes 97% of its revenue through advertising so they better be sure that searchers and advertisers don't find something better around the corner. Every percent of searchers that move to Bing will be a percent of revenue lost for Google. There are only so many people in the world with so much time available to be not only searching via Google but also clicking on advertisements. Microsoft's Bing search engine came about a few years ago and they blasted a huge $80 million into advertising online and through television commercials. Three years ago Bing only had about 3% of search volume while Yahoo had 20% and Google had 71%. In 2012 after three years of advertising Bing now has 15% while Google dropped to 66% and Yahoo dropped to 13%. Collectively the three giants have the exact same total of 94% while Bing has taken 5% from Google and 7% from Yahoo.

Microsoft's Bing was also the first to incorporate Facebook into its search results. When signed into Facebook the right hand side of the search results will show you if you're friends have used a certain website or product that you're looking to gain more information on. Right there in the search it will show you positive or negative comments about that camera you're looking to buy from the best references anyone could ask for, your friends, coworkers and family. Google seems to be more concentrated on creating open source products available to anyone for free rather than their only money maker of advertising. Why?


All of the Bing discussion brings us back to the fact that Google needs to stay on top of their game. Sure their user base only dropped 5% in three years but that's 5% of its revenue when 97% of your revenue is based on advertising. Bing is working on big things and it's only a matter of time before many people will switch search engines. Google Ad Free Search will be a brand new product that users can try for a month free of charge. Anyone searching for a product knows there will be the top ten results along with another possible ten paid advertisements. If 66% of people searching trust Google's algorithm then why do they need to see the added paid results? The top ten results should be the only thing on Google's page with additional product reviews, informational website reviews or Facebook comments along the side. Google and Angie's list could figure out a way to work with one another in order to offer one full page of beneficial results to both of their customers similar to how Bing and Facebook have started a relationship.

Angie's List


Google has no reason to offer so many products for free and should pull back on that precedent. They can include all of their services in the monthly fee and create far more with the new revenue. The only thing Angie's list offers is company reviews for $4.99 per month with a completely Advertisement free environment. Google doesn't need visitors to stay on their website to make money, but other websites do in order to gain more rankings and revenue. However, the problem with Advertisements is that the website is actually losing rankings by visitors clicking an Ad and leaving their website. If Angie's list offered their services for free and cluttered extra space with Ads, less people would use it and more would start clicking the Ads to visit other websites which contradicts their own existence. Why would companies choose to promote other companies instead of their own? Why would companies choose to send their visitors to related companies or even competitors? If Angie's list can gain over 1.5 million subscribers the possibilities are endless for what Google could conjure up with the amount of products they offer.

For the past ten years Google's Ad revenue was over 95% of their total earnings. By 2012 new Google services include Gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Docs, Google Play, Google Calendar, Google +1 and of course the purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion that has created very little revenue so far. Sounds like they've been hard at work but in 2012 97% of Google's earnings were still through Ad revenue. So was there even a reason for Google to do all of that work for what seems to be nothing additional in revenue? If they wanted to somehow promote something to their massive user base that costs money it would be understandable but it doesn't seem like that's going to happen. The Google +1 feature allows someone who is signed in to recommend a website as one that should be moved up in search rankings. However, more people would use this feature if they didn't have to sign into Google and it could be tracked by IP address to be sure website owners can't promote their own site. This should be a big part of the Ad Free search engine. Again, with the help of Angie's list they can put together millions of reviews and rank websites based on the percentage of positive comments. Or Google can list their top ten results as always and list the "top ten Angie's picks" along the side in place of where the Ads used to be located. Angie's list currently gets over 44,000 reviews per month that they could use towards the code.

The network effects of an exclusive relationship between Google and Angie's list together would be huge because of how Angie's list currently operates. Many website owners will soon take their online business model of charging a monthly fee to use their information because it's very hard to make money online with advertisements alone. Something like that could crush Google's entire existence along with many of third party advertisement firms such as www.CJ.com (Commission Junction). With 500,000 comments per year on Angie's list and the algorithm that Google has created the two could conceivably have the absolute best possible way for the searcher to find what they need whether it's a product or information.

The best part is that they don't need to share code or put anything together. Instead, a standard Google search can be performed and Angie's list will pull the top 10 results from Google's top 30. Therefore, if your website is in the top 30 results (top 3 pages) of Google then it has a chance of being on the first page of the Ad free search engine. The way of getting there is to please your customers enough to leave a positive comment on Angie's list. Your customers are either reading your informational website or buying products from your company, either way you'll want to create an inviting experience without advertisements that will keep your customers there and coming back for more. EBay currently works off of positive comments but they don't improve rankings because of it. It's there for the customers to use in order to see how many people approve or disapprove of this particular vendor. Each time a transaction is done the customer and vendor have the opportunity to leave "feedback" for each other. That way, after a year of being an eBay supplier, new customers using the website can see how reputable the person or company is that's selling the product you would like to buy. As long as the transaction goes smooth both seem to leave very positive feedback for each other. Negative feedback needs to go through a process that eBay has to approve to be sure competitors aren't bad mouthing each other and that one sour customer doesn't leave multiple negative comments about one vendor. Most top eBay sellers stay within the 95% to 99% range whereas anything less than that usually seems sketchy to most customers.

Ebay has a very good formula as it pushes sellers to be more user friendly, helpful and of course to comply with all of the information stated in their listing. Otherwise they risk the negative feedback which will highly impact future eBay sales. Google and Angie's list can come up with a formula similar to eBay's to use the positive reviews of companies in order to increase search engine rankings. After typing in a search and seeing the top ten results most people start qualifying each website in their own way. Wouldn't it be great to see the amount, or percentage, of positive comments in the results next to each link? In fact, the algorithm should automatically pull up all ten results that have 95% or better feedback. There is no reason to rank a website with poor reviews because no one will want to buy from them. If your company has fallen below 95% you'll need to improve or start from scratch with a new customer relationship process in order to attempt to show up again.

Market Share


Google needs to seriously think about a secondary source of revenue because they currently have all of their eggs in one basket. They have most definitely been at the top of the search engine industry for years and very close to the top of the technology industry however it's obvious that things change. In the past many different search engines have been at the top including AOL (America Online), MSN (now Bing) and a few others which proves that Google may not sit atop the industry forever. As it is they hold 66% of all searches conducted online meaning they can only gain another 34% if everyone in the world conducts all searches, via all devices, through Google only. On the other hand, when something new and improved comes out Google could drop like a brick because advertising dollars will drop to zero if the bulk of searchers take another route. MySpace is a prime example of what could happen to Google as Facebook took over the industry faster than most imagined. However, Facebook is quite similar to Google because they already have a huge market share limiting the amount of possible growth. The only growth potential for both is in new areas other than advertisements. The average consumer is getting much more intelligent as technology advances which means they may not click advertisements as often due to the online virus spreaders out there.

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A great example of a company that excels in many areas is Amazon. They offer millions of products in many different categories, some of which are their own products and most of which are third party sales. They're taking big strides with the Kindle offering it at low margins, however low margins are better and the many free offerings of Google. When companies only offer one thing they're bound to drop at some point as another company comes in with something slightly newer and more interesting to the consumer. The Advertisement free search engine will be a large stride in the right direction for Google because people already love commercial free radio and commercial free On Demand shows. There's no doubt that businesses need and want to put their name out their but it doesn't have to clutter the world. There are business names on websites, televisions, radios, products, packaging, clothes and cars. Not to mention the different annoyances of pop ups, pop unders, moving ads, blinking ads, video ads and even text link ads in the middle of websites when you're trusting that company not to send you elsewhere. Google even spend $213 million on advertising itself throughout its own advertisement model on other websites and in its search engine results. It's only a matter of time before something comes out to cure the annoyance of ads that jump out at you when you constantly. It will be very easy for Google to implement because they can keep the same algorithm and simply eliminate the ads from the side of the search results.

Conclusion


Once logged in, the user can utilize all of Google's services including searching ad free, images, videos via YouTube (also ad free), maps, documents, Google+ and much more. Then they can work on getting the client base to use much more than just a search engine without having to clutter every search and website with more ads. At this point it's hard to imagine all of those things not being free but what if Google hadn't created the search engine first? Would they have just created Google Earth and placed it on Bing free of charge or would they have tried to sell it in some way? Just because a company is making money in one area doesn't mean they should offer every other product or service for free. It's a set up for catastrophe as someone will come along to take the market share from Google. If the search industry doesn't have a big change anytime soon Bing will continue pecking away at the market share a few percent at a time. If Google continues to drop its market share the investors will pull back too, dropping the value of the publically traded company even faster.

If Google is the company to offer an Ad free search engine the 66% of loyal customers will believe in it right away. If they had to switch to another layout or another form of results they may not be as likely to switch. The search engine will be compiled of ten search results as usual along with the Angie's List percentages of positive feedback next to each link. Then when the user ends up on the website page they will see the list of positive or negative comments for that particular company without any ads on their website at all. Honest companies will love this idea and not so honest companies will be the ones complaining about not showing up in the results. Consumers will absolutely fall in love with the idea because the comments are through a third party source proving their accuracy rather than the testimonials companies include in their website that some feel are fake comments posted by the company itself. It will open up a large group of online shoppers that were once too scared to catch a virus by shopping online due to their lack of knowledge on the Internet.


References:


Philipp Lenssen (October, 2005). Is Google Web 2.0?. Retrieved from:
http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2005-10-02-n31.html

Larry Kim (July, 2011). The Most Expensive Words in Google Adwords. Retrieved from :
http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2011/07/18/most-expensive-google-adwords-keywords

Greg Sterling (May, 2009). Microsoft to Spend $80 Million Advertising New "Bing" Search Engine. Retrieved from:
http://searchengineland.com/will-advertising-get-users-to-try-bing-19744

Greg Sterling (March, 2012). Bing and Google Gain Market Share While Yahoo Drops. Retrieved from:
http://searchengineland.com/bing-and-google-gain-market-share-while-yahoo-drops-114140

Kirt (April, 2009). How Much Did Google Pay for YouTube and When?. Retrieved from:
http://kirklindstrom.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-much-did-google-pay-for-youtube.html

IBJ Staff (February, 2012). Soaring Revenue at Angie's List Impresses Analysts. Retreived from:
http://www.ibj.com/angies-lists-soaring-revenue-impresses-analysts/PARAMS/article/32828

Tom Spring (May, 2009). Bing vs. Yahoo vs. Google: Feature Smackdown. Retrieved from:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/165749/bing_vs_google_vs_yahoo_feature_smackdown.html