The REAL Cost of Search

The REAL Cost of Search

It’s pretty easy to put a price on your own SEO services. You’ve got the cost of article writing, the cost of syndication etc (assuming you don’t do all these tasks yourself). But what about the cost of search? By that I mean the cost of providing a search engine service for us to use. Well there are some interesting facts and figures here and you might be even more surprised to learn that there’s more to Google’s own algo updates than meets the eye.
 
Let’s start with Googleplex, that 47,000 square meters of sprawling set of offices and data centers in Mountain View, California that Google calls home. Now that they own it (the used to rent it from Silicon Graphics) they’ve made some changes. As part of their green initiative, they installed solar panels on the roof tops, have extensive lawns mowed not by machine but by herds of goats, invested in wind farms….you get the picture. But, whilst all this carbon offsetting is great, there is a cost. According to the big G, each search uses about 0.0003 kWh of energy to perform. Let’s multiply that our by the 400 million questions we ask them each day and what are we left with?
 
120,000 kWh of electricity at $0.20 per kWh = $24,000 per day!
 
Ok so that doesn’t take into account that electricity costs different amount at their different locations around the world, or the amount of energy they get back from their solar panels (though these panels tend to cost more than they save for the first couple of years anyway). But even with all this taken into account, we’re talking about a BIG energy bill. On top of that they have staffing, maintenance and a whole host of other factors to take into account before we can calculate the specific cost of each search.
 
What can Google do about this? Well, one of the major tasks Google undertakes is crawling and cataloguing all that data they find around the web. For years, they would have just taken it for granted that this is what they do. Unfortunately as we are all painfully aware, this is 2014 and there is a lot of junk out there these days. Probably billions of pages of low quality or ‘thin’ content clogging up the hard discs of Google servers, with no real value to the searcher whatsoever. So what do they do about it?
 
Panda. Never before has such a simple word with cute connotations been used to refer to a game changer in the search landscape. On February 23rd 20121, Google rolled out one of its biggest changes yet to its search algorithm. This was a bold move that was widely met with surprise by the SEO community and some big businesses who had no idea that this was going to impact them. When I say impact them, I mean practically take them off the web for a few months, sometimes never to return. The main aim of this change was to take down spammy sites with excessive advertising, websites full of content copied from other sites and general junk sites that we all loath.
 
Again in March 2014, Panda 3.3 rolled out. And when I say rolled out, I mean steamrolled sites that were, in Google’s words ‘over optimised’. The target here was sites that were using unnatural, mass link building systems based on private blog networks and sites that were stuffed with keywords in a poor attempt to trick Google’s clever computers.
 
It would seem like this was done entirely in our best interests, but with the kind of cost incurred by Google to crawl through all this junk, there was likely to be more to their motives than was announced. But with carbon offsetting target and soaring energy costs, can we really blame them?

Comments are closed.