Yes you read that right. It seems like Google might withdraw from Australia.
Just when you thought that the prime search engine was going to take over the world with its mammoth market share, it looks like disputes with the government might force Google to leave Australia.
With Facebook banning Australian users from sharing news stories, is Google next?
And more importantly, will Google leave Australia for good?
Why Would Google Leave Australia?
For many people across the globe, particularly in Singapore & Australia, Google is synonymous with the internet.
It’s not just a utility, it’s an essential.
In fact, it’s more than a search engine – it’s how we find our way around foreign places, where we shop, and how we get the scoop.
So why on earth would Google leave Australia?
Well, it looks like the spark might have been the Australian government’s proposed digital media code about having Big Techs pay news providers for their content. Since the code was announced in mid-January this year, Google has since threatened to pull the plug and back its bags, with Managing Director Mel Silva calling the terms of the code “unworkable” and “unreasonable”. Plus, it seems like discussions have been ongoing for almost a month.
Google isn’t the only Big Tech to encounter increasing scrutiny from governments over their growing market dominance. In fact, Facebook, too was entangled in landmark media laws in Australia and the European Union last year.
Why Are These Laws Being Imposed?
Now, I know you might be thinking…
“If Google exits, does this means I have to use a street directory to get around?”
“How will my business become visible in the digital space without Google?”
Before we get down to what will happen to Australian should Google leave Australia for good, I want to backtrack just a little to make sense of what’s going on.
For one, did you know that Google owns a whopping 94% of Australia’s search market?
If you’ve tuned in to our podcast episodes (hit play on the video below if you haven’t), you’d know that Big Tech companies are steadily gaining ground in various aspects of life from commerce to free speech and even politics.
Today, information is perhaps one of the most valuable assets for businesses, individuals and governments, alike. And yet, the access to such information begs the question about whether information should be free.
With these landmark media laws, Google would essentially have to pay news publishers for the information and the right to share it on the search engine.
A “Scary” Time for Businesses in Australia
Like I said earlier, Google is a necessity for today’s mobile generation. Should Google leave Australia, the average Australian would probably have to turn to other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. They might even need to plan their route in advance instead of relying on Google Maps’ GPS function.
And unfortunately, the impact might be far scarier for business who rely heavily on digital marketing.
As any marketer knows, Google is the globe’s most widely-used search engine. With the possibility of it exiting, the consequences could look pretty dire for businesses.
It will send Australia back 20 years if Google leave Australia. Not to mention all the small businesses that would suffer who rely on search and have invested into Google advertising. Google but should not have to pay for the inability of News to monetize their digital offering
— Scott Lawton (@im_dsgnr) January 29, 2021
A Bleak Future for Businesses
Small business owners in Australia are concerned that should Google leave Australia, they will lose tons of opportunities for business growth. ABC NEWS highlighted that a small business could get as many as 90% of their referrals solely from Google with the rest coming from word-of-the-mouth marketing.
With search engine optimisation (SEO) being a fairly economical and useful digital marketing technique for businesses of any size, Google’s exit could be problematic for businesses with constricted marketing budgets.
Should Google leave Australia, businesses would have to start from square one again with a new search engine and revised marketing strategy optimised for that specific search engine. But bear in mind that these shifts cost both time and money, some businesses might not be able to keep up.
Not to mention, it will probably take a long while before another search engine matches up to Google.
Will it Affect Businesses in Singapore?
“It doesn’t affect my business because I am based in Singapore, so I shouldn’t worry about these threats.”
Well, it is true that Google is here to stay in Singapore. But Google’s departure from Australia could threaten opportunities for business growth and traffic from Down Under.
If your business relies on traffic from Australia, do brace yourself for some changes in your marketing analytics should Google leave Australia. You might also want to look into expanding your digital presence on other search engines in Australia to keep the traffic coming.
In the digital space, we are all connected. Singaporean businesses might not face the same impact as Australian ones, but the effects of a withdrawal remains to be seen.
The Future of Search in Australia
To be frank, I was expecting many people to be begging Google not to depart from Australia. So I was surprised to find these tweets:
I almost think Australia should let Google leave. What if there was some intense Australian competitor to Google, that would be good for everyone, no? https://t.co/xnZgIego1D
— nilay patel (@reckless) January 22, 2021
Hey #Google leave Australia I dare you!!!!
— Glen (@gpz329) January 24, 2021
God, I so much want Google to leave Australia. I can’t wait to see the reaction of regular Aussies when they find out they can’t Google things because Morrison tried to do a favour for News Corp!
— Paul White (@PaulWhi70455586) January 22, 2021
It would be interesting to observe how Google’s departure would impact the digital landscape in Australia. Would Microsoft be the next Google? Will other search engines like Baidu or DuckDuckGo take over?
Until Google and the Australian government conclude their negotiations, we probably won’t be able to make a worthwhile judgement call about what Australia’s digital landscape will look like in the next 10 years.