Google Controls the Fate of Small Publishers

Google holds the fate of tens of thousands — probably hundreds of thousands — of Internet publishing businesses in its hands. 

Being kicked out of Google’s search index for some infraction, real or suspected, can mean the difference between thriving, and struggling to stay alive.  The bigger and more dominant Google becomes, the more that Internet publishers are dependent on Google — and the more this is an issue.

Robin Good wrote this week about this very problem.  His Internet publishing business, Master New Media, was dropped from the Google search engine results.  Traffic — and associated advertising income — immediately plummeted. 

He writes compellingly about what it feels like as a business owner:

I have also already alerted most of my staff in a meeting yesterday, about how bad the situation is. Most of them have reacted with strong signals of support and desire to contribute even without being paid. “We have married your cause Robin,” one said, “and we will not let you down now that you need us most.“. That was an injection of love, thank you.

But evidently not everyone can be a martyr in this situation, and others, like me, will need to find a way to be able to pay their bills. So while I was greatly lifted by the positive moral support received I felt great respect for those who may need to take on other roads to compensate for this unexpected situation.

Being unexpectedly dumped by Google is an issue that hits small businesses particularly hard. That’s because the vast majority of Internet-only publishers are small businesses.

In the United States alone there are 20,733 Internet-only publishing businesses, according to the most recently available U.S. Census figures. 

Not only are most of them small businesses, they are very small.  Over 90% of Internet  publishing businesses — 18,858 of them — are single person businesses.   Another 1,452 have fewer than 10 employees.

Here’s the chart showing the breakdown of companies by employee size:

Majority of Internet Publishers are Small Businesses

And these statistics don’t count other types of Internet businesses.  E-commerce businesses, for instance, would be hit equally hard.

I don’t have statistics for the entire world, but of course Internet publishers operate worldwide.  Robin Good’s Master New Media, located in Italy, is one of them.

Small advertising-supported publishers don’t have the financial cushion to ride out the situation if it drags on. They can’t make up for the loss of revenue from other sources in the same way that large corporations do. They don’t have the same brand name recognition to draw in direct traffic, either.

The worst part is that publishers have no way to contact anyone at Google to figure out what, if anything, they may have done wrong to trigger being dropped from search results.  It would be a large and welcome gesture for Google to provide some kind of expedited appeal process for these situations. 

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.