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  • Meerelle Cruz

Google’s Pay-per-Click Ad Model Makes it Harder to Find What You’re Looking For

The term "Google" has grown synonymous with the concept of searching for anything on the internet during the last 25 years. In the same way that "to Hoover" refers to vacuuming, dictionaries have defined "to Google" as conducting an online search using any accessible service. Former competitors like AltaVista and AskJeeves are long gone, and existing alternatives like Bing and DuckDuckGo don't pose much of a threat to Google's supremacy right now. However, switching our web browsing habits to a single provider has substantial hazards.

Google also dominates the web browser market (Chrome is used by nearly two-thirds of browsers) and web advertising (Google Ads has an estimated 29 percent share of all digital advertising in 2021). Competition and antitrust regulators around the world are very interested in this combination of browser, search, and advertising. Is Google genuinely delivering when we Google, putting commercial considerations aside? Are we getting the answers we desire from the search results (which influence the content we consume)?

Google advertising accounts for more than 80% of Alphabet's revenue. At the same time, Google accounts for over 85% of all global search engine activity. There is a tremendous business benefit in selling advertising while also controlling the results of the vast majority of web searches conducted around the world.

This is seen in the search results. According to studies, internet users are becoming less and less willing to scroll down the page or spend time on the stuff below the "fold" (the limit of content on your screen). As a result, the top spot in the search results is becoming increasingly important. You might have to navigate three screens down in the example below to find true search results rather than paid advertisements.

While Google (and many users) may argue that the results are still useful and save time, it's evident that the page's appearance and the prominence given to paid advertisements will have an impact on user behavior. All of this is bolstered by the adoption of a pay-per-click advertising model based on persuading people to click on advertisements.

Google's influence extends beyond the results of web searches. YouTube, which is owned by Google, is used by over 2 billion people each month (only counting logged-in users), and it is often regarded as the most popular platform for online advertising. Even though YouTube is as ubiquitous in video sharing as Google is in search, YouTube viewers have the option of paying for a premium subscription to prevent commercials. However, only a small percentage of people choose the paid alternative.

By our reliance on technology, the complexity (and expectations) of search engines has grown over time. For example, someone looking to learn more about a tourist site would Google "What should I do in the Simpsons Gap?"

The Google search result will show several results, however, the content is spread across numerous sites from the user's perspective. Users must visit several websites to receive the needed information.

Google is striving to bring all of this data together. Instead of just examining strings of text, the search engine now employs advanced “natural language processing” software called BERT, which was developed in 2018 and aims to determine the intent behind a search. In 1997, AskJeeves did something similar, but technology has progressed since then.

BERT will be replaced by MUM (Multitask Unified Model) shortly, which aims to grasp the context of a search and deliver more nuanced replies. MUM, according to Google, is maybe 1000 times more powerful than BERT and provides the kind of guidance that a human expert would for queries that don't have a direct answer.

Are we now completely reliant on Google? It may seem tough to imagine alternatives given Google's market position and importance in our daily lives. Google, on the other hand, isn't the only show in town. In the United States, Microsoft's Bing search engine has a modest level of popularity, albeit it will struggle to transcend the Microsoft brand.

DuckDuckGo, another option that purports to be ad-free and secure, has witnessed a surge in popularity, possibly aided by its involvement with the TOR browser project. While Google is best known for its search engine, it also has interests in artificial intelligence, healthcare, autonomous vehicles, cloud computing, computing devices, and a slew of home automation gadgets. Even if we can escape Google's clutches in our online browsing activities, customers will face a new set of issues in the future.

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