TL;DR — Google has created a racket where it is extorting billions of dollars from brands through sponsored listings tha…
|Scooped by WesleyBarnett|
How often do you open up your web browser and simply type in the name of the website you wish to visit? Then, Google presents you with a list of search results and you make another click to reach your intended destination. Though there are many ways to reach a website, I would venture a guess that this is a common use-case for many internet searchers.
From the searcher’s point of view, this process works great. I type in a simple word or phrase, I get the link to the website I have in mind (no matter how obscure its URL might be), and away I go. But website operators are getting robbed.Google puts paid links ahead of organic results
In this seemingly innocuous sequence of events, Google is profiting handsomely at others’ expense. Companies — advertisers on Google’s network who make up 90%+ of the company’s total revenue — have paid listings above their natural placement within the search results, and these ads blend in seamlessly with the other results. As such, a searcher is just as likely — if not more so — to click that primary, sponsored link instead of the free, natural listing right below it. (Note that this argument is valid even if it is clear to the searcher that these are ads, because it is costless and convenient to click the ad over the free link. However, it turns out many people don’t even know the difference.)
For instance, take a look at what Google shows you when you do a search for “hipmunk.” We see an ad for the company, followed by its organic listing atop the search results. Which one is more likely to be clicked? As a searcher, it makes no difference; either way I will get to Hipmunk’s website. The top result is more convenient and more eye-catching, so it will be clicked often. The other result will be clicked as well, but what is the net cost to Hipmunk? For traffic they should get naturally (here, almost all of it), they are paying Google each time someone clicks on the paid — and I contend, more enticing — sponsored link.
While there is no competition for the keyword “hipmunk”, Google presents an ad for the website before the organic result for the same destination.Competition breeds necessity
You might think that the brand itself is at fault. After all, why are they paying to put an ad up that is just competing with their free, organic listing in the normal search results? The answer is competition. Because any advertisers can use a brand’s name in their targeted keywords, companies have to advertise for their own brand in order to not be supplanted in the sponsored results. So, if I search for “salesforce” in an attempt to reach salesforce.com, I first have to wade through a number of ads. In my example, both Oracle and Zoho have chosen to advertise to anyone searching for “salesforce”, and to ensure they are not marginalized, Salesforce has done the same.
Searching for “salesforce” gives me three ads, including one for the namesake company itself, before the number one organic result, which is where I wanted to go.
In this case, I do not suggest that Google is unfairly profiting. There are companies who wish to compete for eyeballs and clicks, and the courts have upheld that using the brand name of competing firms is a fair practice. But when no competing sponsored results are listed, why would Google show an ad with the same target as the organic listing right below it, as we saw with Hipmunk? To make money each and every time it is clicked — naively, lazily, or randomly — instead of the identical, free link right below it.Let’s stop this madness
Remember, we are not talking about someone who is searching for generic keywords, like “hotel rooms” or “CRM companies,” and is legitimately searching for information. Rather, these are people who use Google’s web portal — be it Google.com, Chrome, or any other integration that originates a search — to get to specific websites, like those of Hipmunk and Salesforce.
When Google returns to me a search results page like the Hipmunk example, I almost always click the free link. But I am doing that consciously, because I have paid for Google Ad Words and I don’t want to cost that company — one I already knew about and meant to visit anyway — any money unnecessarily. But as I said, I almost always click the free link, and I am being mindful of it. Other, less sophisticated searchers are not so concerned with the financial ramifications of their click habits, and Google rakes in billions because of it.
I am by no means a Google basher. I am on Team Android, I use Google’s services all the time, and they provide great value to me. Usually, they provide great value to advertisers as well. But what I am suggesting is that Google implement algorithms so that results like the Hipmunk example do not occur. There is no reason Hipmunk, or any other website, should pay for my click in that case, and Google should make certain it in fact does not.