Dmitry Gerasimenko is one of the men who knows the most about SEO in the world. He founded Ahrefs in 2011 and is currently one of the most important search engine positioning consultants, so it could be said that he has lived for eight years understanding Google and helping his clients do it too.
A few weeks ago he started a controversial thread in his personal Twitter account in which he left Google almost like a parasite that profits from the creators of content and does not fairly share the income with them. Of course, he took advantage of the media attention and the excitement to announce that Ahrefs is working on a competitor to the Google search engine.
We have been talking with him to delve into the problems he thinks Google has and how he sees the future of searches.
The two big problems of Google
Dmitry believes that Google has two major problems: privacy and revenue sharing. On privacy, it is a good time to remember that Google stores all your activity related to your services. In fact, you can consult it in the section dedicated to it and perhaps you will be surprised by everything the company knows about you.
The founder of Ahrefs is right in this: “it is unnecessary for Google to store so much information from its users”. And adds:
“Google is everywhere: it has ads that monitor you on the websites you visit (DoubleClick), it’s in your pocket (Android), it knows where you’re going (Google Maps), it knows what you’re talking about (Gmail). it is used to provide better search results, but it also assumes that they are collecting a huge behavioral profile and that they have to store it somewhere.Google is free to do this.Many people voluntarily provide that information without knowing it. it bothers her and maybe she would be willing to have more privacy and search results a bit worse. “
Does it mean then that there is a risk that there is a “Cambridge Analytica” that we do not know about today but with Google as the protagonist? “Bad practices can happen,” he says cautiously, and at the same time returns several questions: “Can you post deceptive articles and then buy targeted ads to impact specific groups of people in AdWords? Yes, you can.” And concludes with two other issues on the air: “How do we balance and let everyone have freedom of expression and avoid misleading content? What happens if a content is deceptive for Americans but true for Chinese?”.
“Google is everywhere: it has ads that monitor you on the websites you visit (DoubleClick), it’s in your pocket (Android), it knows where you’re going (Google Maps), it knows what you’re talking about (Gmail)”
The other big problem of Google for Dmitry is that they do not want to apply a similar model of retribution like they have on YouTube with the creators, but in the search results:
“Imagine that Google realized that paying content creators for the ads shown in the search results has the same sense as paying creators on YouTube, and starts distributing 90% of the ad revenue with them. That same day Google’s search revenue would fall around ten times and drastically lower the company’s valuation, investors would not allow this to happen. “
Here Dmitry believes that Google is tied up by its origin and that’s why it does not think it will change in the short term: “As with any other company invested by venture capital, they are pressured to increase revenues constantly and increase the value of the company.”
Finally, although it focuses mainly on these two problems, it points out a risk for Google and is how the famous Article 11 will be carried out in the European Union, although it does not dare to venture anything because there is nothing definite yet.
He did not hesitate when asked if he thinks Google is being unfair to his business model in the search engine:
“Google is like a parasite in a certain way, tracking the best of the web, ordering it and building search results around that content and then taking all the revenue in. The only thing you can do is block the Google bot in your But then nobody will find you, so content creators have two options: let Google crawl its content and sell ads around it, or not get search engine visits. “
And this is where a third way is clear: “let content index in search engines and that the authors of that content be compensated at the same time”. On this idea pivots its alternative proposal to the Google search engine.
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“Google will continue to ignore the interests of content creators”
Taking as reference the two problems that Google points out (privacy and income sharing), Dmitry has several proposals in which he is already working from Ahrefs. On privacy, he tells us that they are looking to “eliminate the identifiable personal data of the process and not maintain long-term records”. In this way, he believes that users can be sure that “what they are looking for will not be stored forever or bite them years later”.
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What do you propose then? It states that they will need limited time records (one day, for example) and that they would not enable tracking cookies or share what users seek with third parties. “Your searches will be ephemeral, which eliminates many risks for the business on our part and will help us keep things simple and direct.”
However, its emphasis is on the search engine monetization model. If we look at the latest accounts published by Google in 2018, the advertising revenue section amounts to 32,635 million dollars. To give it a dimension, this means that Google entered, only in the last three months of 2018, about 15 million dollars per hour thanks to the ads. In the results of the first quarter of 2019 the results are not very different: 30,720 million dollars of advertising revenue (just over 14 million dollars per hour).
Dmitry’s proposal is that 90% of the revenue generated by advertising go to the creators of content, while the remaining 10% would go to cover expenses and get benefits for your company. With the numbers of Google, it would translate into more than 29,000 million dollars that would go directly to the content providers of search engines, that is, media, blogs, websites, etc.
Of course, only Google is getting those billing numbers and Ahrefs has just over 40 workers (compared to more than 90,000 from Google ). “Of course it is an ambitious project,” he confesses, “and although my tweet has received many positive responses, I know there is a lot of skepticism towards this idea.” So, why do you think your project can be more successful than Bing or Yahoo?
“Google is under pressure from investors to grow at any cost, so they will be more and more aggressive in how they show content and how they monetize it.” I do not think that will change, Google will continue to ignore the interests of Content creators With a revenue sharing model, we hope to get the support of publishers, which can make a big difference to Bing or Yahoo. “
No need to read between the lines to see who asks for support for your project. It proposes a win-win situation in which, nevertheless, the media that decide to bet on its search engine run the risk of losing a lot of traffic and, therefore, money.
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Last February, Google published the conclusions of an experiment in the search results in which they measured what would happen if only URLs, small fragments of headlines and no image were shown (they did it as an illustrative example of the implications of the famous Article 11 of the EU). The consequence? A fall of up to 45% of traffic in websites and news media.
“There will be means that will activate a wall of payment for the users that come from Google and that will deactivate it for those that come from a search engine with distribution of income”
According to data from ChartBeat and Parse.ly, two of the tools used to monitor the most used audience, around 20% of the media traffic they work with comes from Google searches. Being an average means that there will be those who exceed that percentage and who do not arrive, but gives a perspective of the dependency generated by the search engine.
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With that context, why does Dmitry believe that a medium may not want to index content in Google to focus on its project? He acknowledges that most of the media “would not risk doing so”, but believes that the distribution of income would be attractive enough for anyone to decide to promote their alternative. Moreover, he thinks that “there will be means that will activate a payment wall for users who come from Google and who will deactivate it for those who come from a search engine with income distribution” like theirs.
The challenges of competing with Google
Apart from getting support from those who generate the content to snatch market position from Google, there is another challenge: build a search engine at least as effective as Google’s.
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Undoubtedly, in Ahrefs, whose main tool is a link tracker and web positioning, they know how crawlers work or how to index content, but, according to Dmitry, the most complicated thing for any self-respecting Google competitor is to achieve relevant results:
“From a technical point of view, the relevance is complicated, we have been tracking and indexing for years, but producing relevant search results of hundreds of billions of pages and displaying them on a cover is the most difficult part. ‘bad’ to ‘mediocre’, but going from ‘good’ to ‘perfect’ is exponentially more difficult.
Other SEO experts have also shown their doubts with the Ahrefs project. Ryan Jones, market analyst and editor of WTFSEO, believes that a search engine should be focused on people, not the media. In particular, he thinks that “the problem that must be solved is not the publishers, but how to make people not use Google”.
A similar approach has Jon Henshaw , SEO analyst at CBS Interactive, who believes that giving 90% of the income to creators does not “motivate 99% of the remaining users who want to find fast relevant answers.” And he concludes by saying: “The only thing that will compete with Google is a search engine that offers better results than Google.”
“The web is always a balance between publishers and consumers, one can not exist without the other, and now the media is unattended.”
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What does Dmitry have to say about this? That the web is always “in a balance between publishers and consumers, one can not exist without the other,” and that publishers are now “unattended.” He believes that an income distribution model is going to be a “tectonic movement” that will improve the user experience because “it will increase the incentives for content creators to make their work more accessible”:
“Imagine that there are no intrusive payment walls, advertisements or marketing campaigns.” Currently, when a medium wants to earn revenue, it has to treat each visitor as a possible lead and try to capture their attention or offer their presence for a certain content (sponsored). That explains the popups, the messages to get subscriptions by mail, walls of payment … all these barriers, and this is perfectly understandable because offering good content is not enough by itself to make money, it is just what we want to change. We take care of getting income for the media and the media do what they know, and everyone will have a better experience at the end. “
There is another challenge: that of spammers and content scrappers, those who take advantage of the content of others to try to climb positions in the search rankings, with more reason in a revenue distribution model. Dmitry recognizes that it can be a problem and that it should be fought “as all seekers do”. He sees it as an advantage because, according to him, “you can cheat a lot of people for a short time, or a person for a long time, but you can not cheat a lot of people for a long time.”
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It gives us an example: “each search engine has the risk of finding duplicate content before finding the original and can even show it first, but as time progresses and we track more data it becomes easier for us to identify the real author and reclassify the content” scrapeado ‘, making its value zero and transferring all the credit to the original source “.
Finally, there is another fact that we have already pointed out: the size and resources that Ahrefs can allocate in comparison with all the millions in investment and development, market position, experience and mere brute force of Google do not promise a battle in equality of conditions, precisely. If Bing has not succeeded and has Microsoft behind, what awaits Dmitry and his family will not be a bed of roses.