What will happen to your search engine ranking if Google stops providing search in Australia?

With Google threatening to withdraw search in Australia, many businesses are understandably concerned about the impact this may have on their website's search rankings. Here's what you can do to mitigate the risk.

Emmanual Tissera

By Emmanuel Tissera, 6 minute read

Imagine searching for the opening hours for your local dry-cleaner on Google and being faced with an error message like this: 

This site can't be reached

With Google threatening to stop providing search in Australia if the News Media Bargaining Code becomes law, this could be a reality. If Google does stop providing search in Australia, what will happen to your search ranking across other search providers? And what best practices you should be implementing now?

Search engine market share

According to StatCounter, Google holds over 94 percent of search engine market share in Australia (as of January 2021). 

Here is a full view of the market:

Search engine market share - Australia

Each of these search engine providers have their market share for specific reasons and target different demographics.

Google started out in 1998 with the motto of ‘Don’t be evil’ and has changed the way we look and interact with search on a daily basis. Its personalised and location-based search provides users with exactly what they are looking for.

Microsoft’s search engine Bing powers the majority of Yahoo! searches. Microsoft also has been very vocal in supporting the Australian Government with its News Media Bargaining Code. With searches done on MSN (owned by Microsoft) redirected to Bing, it has the largest market share in Australia after Google. 

While DuckDuckGo focuses on user privacy, Ecosia plants trees using ad revenue. Meanwhile, Norton Safe Web by Symantec Corporation is designed to help users identify and avoid malicious websites.

Baidu, Yandex.ru and Naver are search engines in Chinese, Russian and South Korean languages respectively.

SEO = Google?

Google is so synonymous with ‘search’ that even our vocabulary has changed to say “Google XYZ” rather than “Search for XYZ”. “Bing XYZ” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

In a similar vein, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has largely concentrated on making sure that Google is aware of your site and it is indexed by the GoogleBot. Content and underlying technology is tweaked to cater to Google recommended practices. We also use tools such as Google Search Console to help measure a site's search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make the site shine in Google search results.

Even with our own website, luminary.com, we have always tried to please the GoogleBot. 

A weighted search experiment

As a test, we decided to use the search term “headless cms luminary” across all the search engines listed above. This was not a totally organic search as we weighted it with the word ‘Luminary’ so that we could concentrate on the resulting links and the order they appeared.

Google search of Headless CMS

Google brought in the following organic search results after four advertisements.

  1. Is a Headless CMS good or bad for SEO? — Luminary
  2. Serving content to IoT devices with a headless CMS — Luminary
  3. Getting your head around headless content ... - Luminary


Bing Search Results

Bing brought in the same results in a slightly different order after two advertisements.

  1. Serving content to IoT devices with a headless CMS — Luminary
  2. Is a Headless CMS good or bad for SEO? — Luminary
  3. Getting your head around headless content ... - Luminary

The other providers displayed the search results in the same order as Bing. Only the number of advertisements differed across each search engine provider.

  • Yahoo - results in the same order after three advertisements
  • DuckDuckGo - results in the same order after a single advertisement
  • Ecosia - results in the same order after three advertisements
  • Norton Safe Search - results in the same order after seven advertisements
  • MSN - redirects to Bing, results in the same order after a single advertisement

With the non-English search engines Baidu, Yandex RU and Naver, there was a single link in the top three results pointing to Luminary. But it did not match Google or Bing search results.

SEO best practices

We have not tweaked our own website in any way for search engines other than Google. But our little experiment indicates that other search engines are aware of our content and rank them in a similar way to Google. There is, of course, a caveat on the non-English search engines. So let’s have a look at some of the SEO practices implemented on luminary.com.

Content 

The old adage of ‘Content is king’ is still relevant today. Content that is well written, has substance, is sensibly optimised for relevant keywords and phrases, is engaging to users, and talks about fresh topics, ticks all the boxes for on-page SEO.

Looking at our search results for “headless CMS”, you can see how we have achieved this with original and engaging content.

Markup

HTML which is structured correctly, has relevant title tags, and has meta tags populated with the correct keywords gets extra points for on-page SEO. The proper use of relevant keywords in heading tags – from H1 to H6 – also helps.

For example, in our first result from Bing, we can see the following:

  • <h1>Serving content to IoT devices with a headless CMS</h1>
  • <h2>Content Management Systems: A timeline</h2>
  • <h3>Traditional CMS</h3>
  • <h3>Decoupled CMS</h3>
  • <h3>Headless CMS</h3>

Site architecture 

A site that can be crawled easily gets top marks from all search engine bots. This would include having internal links, no dead-end pages, a Robots.txt and an XML sitemap.

Again, luminary.com has achieved this via good Information Architecture (IA) on the website, a Robots.txt file (https://www.luminary.com/robots.txt) and an XML sitemap listing all the pages we want indexed (https://www.luminary.com/sitemap.xml).

Speed 

Site speed is another important factor which needs to be considered. On the Luminary website we have optimised how our server delivers each page and added a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to serve static assets to the end user.

URLs

Another factor which acts in our favour is that our URLs are short and contain keywords like this example for  `/blog/headless-cms-seo’.

Off-page SEO

Other factors which influence your SEO success are somewhat controlled by readers, visitors and external publishers:

  • Links from trusted external websites – the number of them and which keywords are used in the link text
  • Links to your website shared on social channels by respected/influential individuals
  • The history and authority of your website – with a new domain after our name and branding changed to Luminary, we did influence this by having a migration strategy and appropriate redirects from our old site
  • The personal information of visitors such as country, locality, browsing history and social interactions.

Avoiding violations

If your content is not substantial or is of low quality, this could lead to strikes from search engines. Stuffing pages with keywords, hiding those keywords by design, or even serving different content to search engine bots could land you in trouble. You can also get in trouble for purchasing links or spamming forums and blogs with links to your content. 

Good SEO ≠ Google

If you have stuck to the SEO best practices outlined above, you should not have to worry about your SEO ranking if Google search stops working in Australia. You would still retain your SEO ranking across other search providers such as Bing, Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Norton Safe Search and MSN. If your product or service has an audience outside Australia, these search engines have got your back. Also, if the GoogleBot doesn’t stop indexing Australian content, even Google search has got you covered outside Australia.

Also, you would still be able to find the opening times for your local dry-cleaner with an alternate search engine! 

Google Search Dry Cleaner Result

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