Google is threatening to pull out of the Australian market amid a proposed media code that would require them to pay news media companies for displaying stories in Google news.

Google warned that they would be forced to withdraw from the Australian market if the new, proposed law passes.

With around 85% of Australian’s using search engines and 95% of them using Google as their primary search tool, the move would leave the Australian market in tatters. Small businesses that rely on Google search results for news would be forced to pivot their SEO marketing strategy towards Bing, Yahoo or Duck Duck Go. All of which have radically different approaches to ranking content.

So then, why would an SEO Agency that relies on Google search for its livelihood give light to this speculation? It’s fairly simple. We do not believe that the end result for this saga will leave Australia without Google.

There is too much at stake for news outlets and Google to exit the market.

How Did We Get Here?

2020 was a pivotal year for Google search. The tech giant held unprecedented power and access to information in a year when users were flocking to Google looking for answers that directly affected their livelihood. As we reported in the 2020 Google top searches recap, the most searched for phrases of 2020 were:

  1. Coronavirus
  2. Election results
  3. Kobe Bryant
  4. Zoom
  5. IPL

The top two of which delivered serious, life changing implications for most Google users. In essence, Google was tasked with delivering timely, accessible, user friendly information.

On the 14th of January, the Sydney Morning Herald (one of the Murdoch owned sites demanding remittance for their search engine visibility) reported that Google was removing some Australian news sites from search results. The move followed a government order to pay publishers for their content.

The Sydney Morning Herald spoke to a Google spokesperson who admitted that:

“We’re currently running a few experiments that will each reach about 1 per cent of Google Search users in Australia to measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other.

Google is expected to continue the experiment until the end of February. A move that the Australian government deemed to be disproportionately controlling of the local democratic landscape.

Why is this Happening?

The Murdoch media empire feel as though they should be fairly compensated the traffic that they receive through Google search.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Murdoch media feels that they should be paid for the traffic that Google provides them with. It seems backwards. It’s like the delivery driver paying you for the pleasure of delivering your dinner.

So, how did we get here? And do Newscorp (and other media publications) have a legitimate claim in seeking reimbursement for organic traffic that they receive?

Not according to Google.

Google vehemently deny that they should be forced to compensate media outlets for referral traffic. A 2018 projection estimated that Google provided publishers with more than $218-million in referral traffic value.

Is There a Precedent?

Sort of. But not in this exact scenario.

In 2010, Google effectively withdrew from the Chinese market after discovering that they have been the victim of a cyberattack from within China. More than ten years later, Google is all but inaccessible from mainland China. Baidu is the country’s leading provider of search with a 54.3% market share.

In 2014, Google removed the Google News functionality from Spain after the local government passed a law that forced news aggregating sites like Google to pay news publishers for their stories. Since 214, Google News has been missing from the search platform in Spain.

Three Different Outlooks From Three Different Sources

Mel Silva

Managing Director for Google Australia

Scott Morrison

Prime Minister of Australia

Kevin Rudd

Former Labor Prime Minister

What Now?

Google is keen to find a workable solution. On the 28th of January 2021, they have started to show the below message in Google search results stating: “You may have heard about a proposed law. We are willing to pay to support journalism.” The link then goes to the previously linked video with Mel Silva, Managing Director for Google Australia.

google search is in the news - media bargaining code

The proposed media bargaining code is still before the Australian Government. We expect that Google and local government will work together to find a solution that works for both parties.

Is Google Leaving Australia?

We don’t believe so. Not just because that would disrupt our business model as an SEO company, but because there is too much at stake. To many Australians, Google is the internet. Having free and easy access to information has become a public service that would be difficult to live without. Yes, there are other search engine options available, however, they are lightyears behind Google in terms of collating and delivering effective information.