Recently, Answers.com reported a 28% drop in traffic to their site. Answers places the blame squarely on Google for recent changes in their search algorithm. In a press release issued to the public today, Answers.com criticized Google for making the change and assured investors that they are working hard to resolve the issue.
For Answers, this crisis could not have come at a worse time. The company is trying to raise 100 million dollars for a buyout of Dictionary.com. CEO, Bob Rosenschein said,
“This change only demonstrates the sound business rationale behind our agreement to purchase Dictionary.com, because it underscores a primary motivation for the deal: to secure a steady source of direct traffic and mitigate our current dependence on search engine algorithms.”
Many reports confirm that Google’s algorithmic adjustment caused the drop in traffic for Answers.com, prompting search professionals to criticize Answers for relying too heavily on Google. Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land writes,
“Indeed, algorithms do change all the time. That’s why it has never been a good idea for any business to be so heavily dependent on search traffic, in case they lose listings driving visitors. Many site owners learned this painful lesson during the Google “Florida” update of 2003 — but even then, many of them should have already known better. Answers.com belatedly understanding it needs to diversify is almost inexcusable.”
Though it is easy to fault Answer.com for their over-dependence on Google traffic, it’s also difficult to find viable alternatives in a Google-dominated search market place. As eBay demonstrated in June, the cost of “boycotting” Google by shifting resources to other engines (in advertising dollars, and otherwise) doesn’t outweigh the benefits.
By virtue of the performance gap between Google and its closest competitors (Yahoo and MSN), it seems that all major websites have an over-dependence on Google. As Om Malik points out, this is yet another red flag that raises questions about Google’s power.