Google & Facebook are killing your business

When companies are valued by their “stickiness” such as frequency and duration of app usage, this breeds an alarming tendency for tech giants to tighten their chokehold on user’s attention. The pressure from shareholders to continually deliver increasing growth rates and revenues have caused many Tech companies to exhibit monopolistic behaviours - including Facebook (and Instagram), Google (and Youtube), Reddit, Linkedin, Amazon and Apple News. This is widespread across the tech industry, and has severe implications for small businesses trying to direct traffic away from their social media platforms and into their online shop. Have you ever wondered why you get excessive and pointless notifications from Instagram and Snapchat forcing you to check the app? This is an example of a growth hack used by these companies -- purely to report that users spend X minutes more in app and check it twice as much. As their valuations and KPIs are primarily based on how much time people spend on their app -- these companies will naturally try to mitigate outbound links as low as possible. They punish publishers who direct traffic outside of the app by making their content appear lower in the algorithm. The behaviours of these monopolies come at a severe disservice to online shops.

Here’s the phenomenon in action:

  • 50.3% of Google searches result in no-clicks, meaning that Google’s role as a search engine is rapidly changing to refer searches to its own products such as Maps and YouTube, thereby keeping traffic within the Google ecosystem

    • Google Hotel Ads is an insult against the companies that helped grow the hospitality business area for them with billions of dollars in advertising -, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Trivago. You would think supporting MetaSearches you allows the conversion to be done on your site, but wait, they are looking to finish the conversion right there on Google as well

    • In Google’s future strategy paper, Improving Search for the Next 20 Years, they make alarming promises of the way search will change: 

      • Google will answer people’s searches in their results, rather than sending them to other websites

      • Google will predict people’s needs before they have them, mitigating the need to search in the first place

      • Google will solve more searches with visual content - thereby removing traffic as well as credit from the original publisher

  • The organic reach of Facebook has dropped dramatically over the past few years, from an average of 5.4% per post in 2015 to 1.2% per post in 2018, instead favouring those with the highest bid

  • Traffic referrals from Reddit have declined dramatically in the past few years, with the general manager stating “we’re not in the business of sending traffic to publishers”

  • Amazon is continually dominating the online retail landscape and encouraging ever more web players to simply sell via its platform (and buy ads in Amazon’s own product searches) rather than attempt to compete against the eCommerce giant for traffic

  • Apple News is keeping users within the Apple News app by limiting outlinks

  • Linkedin is beginning to favour posts without links

  • YouTube is shortening video descriptions just before the link would appear

  • Twitter’s algorithm is favouring tweets that don’t contain links 

In the last five years, there has not been a single major website or dominant web property that has embraced, rewarded, or significantly grown their outlinking. We’ve reached an era of a less-connected web, a web focused on retaining users rather than sharing content. With the rise of voice answers and branded devices (Google Home, Alexa, etc), the future of referral traffic looks grim. But the good news is - there are ways around this. As brands, one option we have is to embrace these monopolies and build exclusively on these platforms, relying on Instagram and Facebook’s shopping features rather than our online shops. Another option is to accept the dwindling reach of these platforms and continue to use them as traffic referral sources anyway. Or perhaps we could reject these platforms altogether and build our online shops in a way that favours direct visitors. 

One clear solution is this: in the wake of platforms’ vampiric grip on referral traffic, brands will need to maximise every opportunity to capture a website visitor and convert them. At Groupify we provide social shopping technologies to online shops which drive customer engagement & retention. Groupify acts as an integrated social shopping layer that brings the conversation to your store, instead of relying on monopolies. There is a clear shift occurring in the digital landscape, and our services are one way to mitigate this. 

Ultimately, it depends on your brand and the habits of your customer. It’s completely plausible that an apparel company could wholeheartedly rely on Instagram’s shopping functions, or that a photography studio can survive off Google Maps. There are no right or wrong answers - however, it would be a fallacy to ignore this change happening in the tech sector, and not make a strategic, intentional decision as an online shop.