Ahrefs Search Engine – an analysis of the sensational idea of the creator of Ahrefs

A couple of months ago (April 2019, to be more specific), the creator and CEO of Ahrefs, the most powerful and beloved SEO harvester of all – Dmitry Gerasimenko – announced on Twitter his intention to create his own independent search engine.

This caused quite an uproar, but since a six-month silence followed, I considered it a not very funny joke. However, no. Here we have official confirmation of these plans.

If you would like to rate and, most importantly, review Ahrefs, feel free to do so here: Ahrefs reviews.

Search engines are created every year in abundance, but here the case is unique. It is important to realize that attention, attention: crawler Ahrefs is the second most active robot on the web after Google.

Since I wrote about Big Data in SEO (in November 2018), the number of pages and keywords indexed by Ahrefs has increased even more. Currently, the Ahrefs database is approx. 54 petabytes spread over 2,100 servers. Each day 1,800,000 pages are added to the index, and statistics are updated for 72,000,000.

And it is the fast-growing Big Data giant, or more specifically, its CEO, who announces that Google is a greedy monster, and that the only legitimate search engine concept is one that will share advertising earnings with site developers.

The question is: is Dmitry Gerasimenko a madman or a genius? I will try to analyze this in the heat of the moment, in a few points.

First of all: what was it that Dmitry Gerasimenko announced?

The post announcing the new creation is quite long, but it is certainly worth reading in full. If you don’t have time for it, the announcement itself is at the end of this post.

Why Google is bad

The first, very long part is meant to convince us how far Google has strayed from the path the company once took, which is to provide the user with access to information, and only secondarily to make money. Google’s Don’t be evil slogan has become very outdated, and with the rebranding to Alphabet, it was even officially abandoned.

It is impossible to disagree with many of the arguments. For example: snippets that display directly in search results. Google scrapes our data, “sells” it to users, and does not repay us – the creators – in any way, the best proof of which is the declining CTR for queries with Featured Snippets.

Google like a Janusz newspaper

I like the comparison of SERPs to a daily newspaper. This is how search results work: content creators are like journalists writing articles for Google’s newspaper. The difference is that these journalists don’t get a broken penny for it (in my opinion, they do – but less and less and disproportionate to the work they put in). As a result, more and more often the newspaper publishes only mediocre articles in which someone wants to sell us something.

This would still be acceptable; after all, unpaid interns, or simply authors wanting to make a name for themselves, also write for newspapers. But something starts to gnash when we realize that this newspaper earns billions of dollars from our texts and turns 85% of the money gobbled up on online advertising. And it is thanks to our articles that it has become such a giant.

YouTube as a model

At the same time, Gerasimenko notes that Google has a product in its portfolio that has a fairer collaboration model, and asks the question:

Why didn’t Google ever embrace YouTube’s business model after acquiring the company in 2006?

The profit-share model on which YouTube is based inspires the creation of high-quality content for which creators are paid their due, Google takes its cut, and the viewer enjoys a high-quality video. Everyone is happy. Why can’t this be the case in Search?

The 90/10 model, or making money from organic

And this is where Ahrefs’ CEO gets to the point – he proposes a 90/10 billing model, where 90% of ad earnings would go back to the creators, and 10% would go to the search engine owner. Simple in theory.

The plans are not particularly developed – the first point is to popularize the idea itself, and only then to start work. At the same time, Dmitry contradicts himself, because writing the first serious post on the subject, he admits that work on the search engine has already begun. Will he succeed? He answers himself:

Honestly, we’re not sure. But we won’t know until we try.

Why it could work

The obvious answer is: because Ahrefs has the means to do so. It has the know-how and equipment facilities to embrace this. But let’s move on to the less obvious answers.

Database not only about sites

Ahrefs’ database is superior to its Google counterpart in at least one respect. It contains not only data on pages, number and type of links, canonicals, redirects and so on. It’s also a huge database of keywords and search results for them not only on Google, but also on YouTube, Yahoo, Amazon, Bing, Yandex, Naver, Seznam, Baidu or Daum, monitored for 171 languages.

Ahrefs search engines

Such a database is a huge potential and learning material for a learning algorithm based on artificial intelligence.

It would take about 128,000,000 pages to list all the monitored keywords for all these search engines in a book.

Seers served as if on a platter

Ahrefs has an easy task when it comes to chiseling out the seers and their activities.

You can play around with learning algorithms. Complex typing and manual analysis mechanisms can be developed. You can do a lot to invent, target and take away the relevance of links coming from the exchange system, from private backlinks, etc.

You can also (being Ahrefs) make a list of all the sites that block Ahrefs robot access and 99% of them will be backlinks 🙂

Internet without marketing where it’s not needed

Typing into Google a request for any advice, we are unlikely to get honest and reliable help, but only an attempt to push something on us. If, for example, we are looking for a “cheap smartphone for taking pictures,” we will probably get a page of a smartphone retailer trying to sell us what is backlogged on the shelves. Alternatively, it will be the site of an “independent” service about equipment, sub-linked, however, with numerous links to affiliate programs. In the world of Top 10 Google AD 2019, nothing is free.

Ahrefs search engine running on the 90/10 model could change this somewhat. Perhaps someone with extensive knowledge of technology and photography would create an honest article on the subject, not guided by the profitability of selling a product, but only by his experience, hoping that honesty would be rewarded by the search engine with a high ranking. And if there were 10 or maybe 100 such people, they would compete with each other in quality. Perhaps that would be the case.

This model also works on a smaller scale

Dmitry Gerasimenko published his announcement on Medium.com, which also operates on a similar basis itself. Authors of selected popular texts receive a portion of the earnings Medium makes from selling paid memberships to the portal. Previously, a similar cooperation model was introduced by the defunct Examiner and several similar sites.

A slightly different example, but also an Internet search engine, is Ecosia. It is a search engine that allocates 80% of its advertising profits to reforestation, or tree planting. Also, there is some kind of payment, although not to the creators, but to nature.

Ecosia’s example also shows that search engines with an original idea for themselves stand a chance of making a living. Like, for example. Duck Duck Go, which offers us full protection of our privacy. They are not giants of the market, but the original idea is what makes them able to stay in the market. Perhaps the same will happen with Ahrefs’ search engine.

Why it won’t work, though

We’ve been poking at what would happen if grandma had a mustache, but now let’s come down to earth.

Even if a genius, however, naive

The CEO of Ahrefs has some very astute observations, and in terms of principle, I think it’s impossible to disagree with him. At the same time, at times he seems to be a naive man, not even to say – ignorant.

This is how he writes about Microsoft:

In case you didn’t know, the tech giant owns the less-frequently-used search engine Bing.

Considering the platform only generates a fraction of the company’s $120 billion revenue, the organization could easily revamp Bing under a profit-share model.

Yes. The author has just suggested that since Bing brings Microsoft “only” $7 billion a year (2017 figures), the Redmond giant is surely eager to put everything on the line and turn the business upside down.

Earlier, as evidence of Google’s unbridled greed, Dmitry pasted a statement from a random Reddit user, supposedly a “finance student.” If someone tries to convince us that corporations should stop after reaching a certain level and share their surplus wealth instead of continuing to grow, then unfortunately they cannot be taken seriously. It is worth talking only about viable solutions.

No action will go unanswered by the monopolist

Unfortunately, the free market brings not only opportunities, but also serious risks, one of which is monopoly. Google is so powerful at this point that it is not enough to offer a better product.

When Richard Branson launched the Virgin Cola drink in 1994, popularity in the UK exceeded all expectations. The goal was simple: to promote the Virgin brand and fight for a place in the market with the biggest: Coca Cola and Pepsi.

Unfortunately, fighting the giant is not easy, and despite Virgin’s initial success, Coca Cola has offered distributors lucrative exclusive contracts. The reaction of the American manufacturer of oversweetened carbonated water to the new competition was instantaneous, and by the end of 2000 Virgin Cola had virtually ceased to exist in wide distribution.

While it’s hard to predict exactly how this could play out, here, too, the reaction of monopoly Google could be instantaneous. Ultimately, even in the event of Ahrefs’ success, Google might even be tempted to take over the proposed model, which, all in all, wouldn’t be so bad (but hardly realistic).

SPAM, blackhaters, all evil seed

The new form of earning proposed by Ahrefs, in the form of search engine earnings sharing, would attract a whole host of “smart people” who are slowly fading away in the Google environment. The new form of earning, is also a new opportunity for small, minor or major scams. Add to that a young algorithm that would have to learn everything from scratch – it doesn’t look good.

Besides – will earning for being in the organic results actually increase the quality of content? Affiliate links will disappear, but will quality content appear? Let’s take a look at Youtube and a whole host of patostreamers – when looking for a cheap smartphone, wouldn’t we start coming across very cliched but useless instructions on how to make a smartphone out of a potato?

The most important sin of this plan – zero added value

However, burn the above complaints. In order for a plan to develop such a search engine to succeed, the most important thing is one thing that Ahrefs’ CEO seems to have completely failed to think about.

Users need to be convinced to use such a search engine.

Gierasimenko focuses on the makers and the evil Google. It does not take users into account, and they should be the basis of any such plan.

What will users receive from Ahrefs Search Engine? Nothing. The results will probably be at an acceptable level. But this is already offered by the mass of Google’s competitors, with Bing in the lead.

I have written before about the fact that perhaps the quality of content will increase, thanks to the fact that the hard work of the creator will be properly rewarded. But after all, it is inconceivable that a creator who takes the time to create content will not publish it (or, for example, prohibit indexing) on Google. So if the quality of the content rises – this will also happen in Google. The end user still has no incentive to move to the new search engine. In contrast, any attempt to take on exclusive content only would completely hermetize the project, and at best, it would become a second a’la Medium.com – on which, ironically, all its ideas were dissected by Gerasimenko himself.

Let’s observe, without high hopes

One thing Ahrefs’ CEO cannot be denied – conviction on ideas and persistence.

We would be thrilled for any major provider to “run with our idea,” but we aren’t counting on it. Which is why Ahrefs has already begun developing a new search engine with profit-sharing capabilities behind the scenes.

As we can see, work has already begun. All that remains is to wait. Frankly speaking, even if this search engine does not succeed – which, unfortunately, I augur for it – it will certainly be an interesting case to analyze and a field for the creativity of the creators of the best SEO combo in the history of the universe. And this one has managed to amaze more than once.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *