Google’s ‘pay-per-click’ ad model makes it harder to find what you’re looking for

Over the past 25 years, the name “Google” has become synonymous with the idea of searching for anything online. In much the same way “to Hoover” means to use a vacuum cleaner, dictionaries have recognized “to Google” as meaning to undertake an online search using any available service.

Former competitors such as AltaVista and AskJeeves are long dead, and existing alternatives such as Bing and DuckDuckGo currently pose little threat to Google’s dominance. But shifting our web searching habits to a single supplier has significant risks.

Google also dominates in the web browser market (almost two-thirds of browsers are Chrome) and web advertising (Google Ads has an estimated 29% share of all digital advertising in 2021). This combination of browser, search and advertising has drawn considerable interest from competition and antitrust regulators around the world.

Leaving aside the commercial interests, is Google actually delivering when we Google? Are the search results (which clearly influence the content we consume) giving us the answers we want?

Advertising giant

More than 80% of Alphabet’s revenue comes fromGoogle advertising. At the same time, around 85% of the world’s search engine activity goes through Google.

Clearly, there is significant commercial advantage in selling advertising while at the same time controlling the results of most web searches undertaken around the globe.

This can be seen clearly in search results. Studies have shown internet users are less and less prepared to scroll down the page or spend less time on content below the “fold” (the limit of content on your screen). This makes the space at the top of the search results more and more valuable.

In the example below, you might have to scroll three screens down before you find actual search results rather than paid promotions.