In the Academy Award-nominated film Food Inc, filmmaker Robert Kenner reveals how the varied choice of items we see on the shelves of supermarkets is actually a false presumption. Instead, that seemingly endless variety is actually controlled by just a handful of companies.
Today I’m going to reveal how the huge diversity we perceive in Google search results is once again a few large corporations controlling what we assume to be choice. More specifically I’ll reveal how just 16 core companies are dominating the most popular industries online and how that situation is going to get a whole lot worse.
To begin our journey down the rabbit hole together, I want to take you through a series of events which uncovered something I had never considered before about the industry in which I operate: Are the Google rankings I aim to get for myself and my clients actually controlled by just three hands full of companies?
Around two weeks ago I came across a post on Reddit about Hearst Media. I was unfamiliar with Hearst Media but very familiar with the brands they own such as Esquire, Elle and Cosmopolitan.
The Reddit outing, which was shared on a new account, claimed that Hearst were using their powerful brands to “game Google” and rank a new website of theirs very quickly, using slightly shady practices.
Being an inquisitive marketer I had to check it out for myself. The quick summary is that Hearst clearly were (and still are) using their authoritative brands to point links to their latest venture, BestProducts.com.
While I expected BestProducts.com to be receiving a lot of traffic from the brands linking to them – which also include Marie Claire and Woman’s Day – I didn’t expect Google to have taken such a huge liking to them. Especially when the site in question had zero reason prior to be ranking so well (it was owned previously then the domain dropped a few years ago).
To give an overview of what was happening for those who are skimming this article, the situation looks like this.