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The $1B Google Bomb

Google’s recent changes to its search algorithm, affecting 12 percent of Google queries, shifted $1 billion in annual revenue from sites that lost in the rankings to those who gained, according to the Online Publishers Association. That’s because “the stakes are high in the Google placement game,” CNN reports, noting that the top spot on a search page generates 20-30 percent of the clicks. CNN reporter David Goldman’s conclusion: “That means that positioning in Google’s search results can be a life-or-death issue for a business.”

Google called this billion-dollar change “a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking” – but I guess that depends on whether your site ended up gaining or losing in the rankings. Just ask educational video site Mahalo, which cut 10 percent of its staff after the change.

So, how much of the $1 billion shift in annual revenue did Google swing to its own coffers? We’ll never know.

Google explains that the changes its engineers made to the algorithm lowered rankings for sites that “copy content from other websites.” So, sites that don’t create original content, but gather others’ content (often without their permission) and repackage it for their own use.

Weird right? Because that sounds a lot like Google News, Google Books, Google Places…

Cade Metz, based in San Francisco for The Register newspaper, recently opined, “Google built a multi-billion-dollar advertising empire atop a service that does little more than copy information from other sources.” Google is after all the world’s largest ‘content farm,’ and it seems its goal is to eliminate competition from any other site that tries to organize the world’s information for consumers. That’s one reason why it’s so important the the Justice Department prevent Google from using ITA Software to hurt competitors and consolidate the online travel search market for itself.