Google Should Stick To Its Search Principles

And tell Amazon to shove it

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Please welcome Google to the damned-if-I-do-damned-if-don’t club. The superiority of search results is what led to Google’s dominance, and investors have pressured the company to get back to its core competency while raising revenue. As soon as they do, though, retailers pitch a fit because things become too fair.

Tell Amazon to shove it

At the heart of this latest controversy is an option that has been there all along being made more readily available: The ability to search within a site. Google brought this option to the forefront by adding a second search box within results for site-specific searches. Alongside the results found within those specific sites are sponsored results, often for retail competitors.

And the retail world pitched a royal hissy fit, fearful of having searchers detoured to competitor sites. Amazon made enough of a stink that Google acquiesced, removing the second search box instead of standing on its serving the end-user principles.

That begs the question: Can any retailer, or just mammoths like Amazon, dictate to Google what can appear in its search results? And there you have the second, larger heart of the issue. Google wasn’t willing to compromise about paid links, a tactic more commonly used by smaller retailers and/or publishers to game the search results and get traffic. It was a matter of principle then, Google said, our search results are for the end-user, not for the sellers.

But Amazon complains and things are different?

Well, while Amazon and other big retailers are complaining that there might be some competition in the search results, let’s examine what’s really going on.

Telling Google What Google Can Do With Google

Would you let some other company, with an obvious stake in the outcome, tell you what to do with your website? I would hope not. Google has every right, de facto monopoly or not, to do what it will with its site, so long as aggregating information on the web is legal, and has every right to place ads alongside that information. That’s the business model.

The additional search ads serve a dual purpose for Google, of course: Increase opportunities for clicks while reminding searchers why they loved Google in the first place. But Google isn’t changing what’s on the destination sites, themselves, just the information that appears on Google’s own site. It’s sad they let Amazon tell them what to do. Would Amazon change its search deal with Microsoft to make Google happy? Not without some cash, I’d imagine.

Okay, could retailers tell a billboard owner what he can’t put on his billboard? Perhaps if there’s a contract. Are they allowed to limit the potential competition broadcasters can broadcast? Again, with an exclusivity deal, perhaps, but not without some kind of monetary exchange.  

Fighting Just To Be Fighting

Business is ugly. Fighting is a necessary part of the game. Company’s fight for deals, for exposure, for advantages in the market and with the government. They fight against trademark dilution and copyright infringement, against anything they feel could potentially damage their place in the market. It’s not about right and wrong. It’s about winning, an amoral enterprise that slips to the dark side of the line from time to time to achieve a specific end-goal. Retailers, especially the large ones, are upset that Google makes it easier to find competition and are busy crying about it. Google shouldn’t give in. Competition is good for the market and good for the end user, and ultimately:

Competition Is Good for Small Businesses

So you sell TVs, but nobody’s ever heard of your store, not because you’re not a great retailer, but because you just got started. You’re finding it hard to compete with BestBuy, though, because many consumers type in BestBuy directly, instead of a specific keyword you’ve targeted, even if you’ve targeted "BestBuy." No way you can outbid them on their own brand name, right? And probably, in that extremely competitive arena, you can’t outbid Circuit City for more generic keywords.

Ads on Google’s search within the site feature gives you a second opportunity to pull those would-be BestBuy shoppers away from BestBuy. BestBuy might respond with lowering prices farther than you can, as often happens with big retailers, but the market is ultimately served better and Best Buy can’t leverage its dominant brand as well. At least the smaller retailer has a better chance at competing.

This is especially important during a time of search ad inflation. Google is selling less ad real estate at higher cost-per-click. That automatically gives big retailers with bigger budgets an advantage. Let’s not forget also that even in organic results, there is potentially less competition as the larger companies sometimes buy up the sites that already rank well for specific keywords, a luxury smaller sites likely won’t have.

But competitor ads on searches within a site could help balance things out, especially as large, essential ebusiness sites get larger, more dominant, and more beholden to shareholders demanding them to leverage their positions with ever more acuity. EBay did this recently by nickel-and-diming sellers to near death with newly imposed fees at every stage. Now Google’s doing it via search ad inflation. Small businesses are being better-dealed every time a new venture reaches critical, dominant mass.

At least competitor ads could add some balance to the force as it becomes increasingly difficult for small businesses to get noticed in a sea of Internet behemoths.

Sorry for mixing my metaphors.

The point is: Giving in to angry giant retailers like Amazon lets everybody down because they don’t show the same courtesy to small retailers. Damned if Google gives in, damned if it doesn’t, but if the do-no-evil philosophy is a real one, they’ll stick to their guns.

Sorry again for mixing my metaphors.

Google Should Stick To Its Search Principles
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  • Guest

    is the existing feature you mention the "more results from xxxxxxxx" link. I not sure, but I thought they did not show ads on those "more reslts from " pages, didn’t they? if they used to not and now they do then it is a change

    also. I thought adwords blocked people from buying trademarked keywords….maybe I am wrong there too. At least I think for keywords like "ebay" and "amazon" those ads or blocked.

    sooo. if ebay and amazon were successful in the past getting google to block ads for their specific keywords and the "more results from" did not show ads as well…then more interesting questions for me are:

    Why did amazon and ebay get preferential treatment in the first place? was it contractual? and Was Google’s search box thing an attempt to get around those agreeements to get ads out there?  





    • Guest

      also, isn’t it curious that amazon doesn’t advertise for ebay keywords and ebay doesn’t advertize for amazon’s? is some collusion going on there? 

      • Jason Lee Miller

        Sorry I wasn’t clear. No, the new feature isn’t the “more results” feature but an automatic version of the site: operator that allowed searchers to search within a specific website.

        Out of the big three, Google, Yahoo, and MSN, Google is the only one that allows competitor keyword bidding. It’s hard to tell if that will remain in place as the practice is continually challenged in court as “use in commerce.” So far, most courts have not considered as use in commerce, but you know how appeals processes go.

        I don’t know if Google blocks bidding on ebay and amazon keywords, but that would be very interesting if they did, and very telling.

        I have no evidence of any collusion between amazon and ebay. If you have some, email me at jmiller at webpronews.com

        • http://www.haveinc.com Kevbo

          I’ve not found any instances where using the second search box on Google resulted in sponsored ads appearing on the right.   I’ve read so many posts today about this new Google feature raising hackles, but don’t see the ads!  Do you have an example of one?

        • http://www.google.co.uk Jenny Gavin-Wear

          "Out of the big three, Google, Yahoo, and MSN, Google is the only one that allows competitor keyword bidding. "

          If this is truly the case then Google has definitely shifted their policy.  As an Adwords Campaign manager who has had quite a few advert submissions  rejected by Google specifically because they felt we were "stealing" competitor keywords.

          If other advetiserrs have not seen this restriction, then perhaps this is an area where Google have different rules depending how much money you spend with them 😉


    • http://www.2bjewelled.com/index.html Guest

      Maybe things are different in the US, but my understanding of UK law is that company names like "Amazon" and "Ebay " cannot be trademarked. As a matter of interest, one of my most successful Adwords keywords is the name of a tv shopping channel – Google have yet to suggest there is any problem with it.

  • Guest

    Your logic is flawed. An advertiser is buying a click. The click represents a click-through to the advertiser’s website, where the advertiser owns the click until the clicker has chosen to click away. The click is an exclusive ownership between the viewer and advertiser. Google serves the ad and does not own the viewer once the viewer clicks the ad. Once the click happens, the customer is passed off to the advertiser. For Google to keep the viewer on their own site is a direct violation of the agreement Google has in place with all advertisers.

    Imagine if you will, you are watching a show on NBC, and a commercial for Budweiser comes on. While you are watching the commercial, the screen splits and another commercial comes on for Coors, then the screen splits again and a commercial from Heineken comes on. Do you really think the Budweiser will continue to buy advertising? Are you really saying that NBC is doing nothing wrong?

    When you advertise you are paying to attract traffic to your brand/site/product, regardless of medium. For the medium to have its cake and eat it too is a major threat to their revenue stream.

    My opinion is that it could possibly work for non e-commerce sites where their is value for searching content. But to do that to an e-com site is clearly abusing the relationship


  • http://brandnameshoppingmall.com Rusty Rose

    If that second box for searching is utilizing the websites search engine, then Google has no business advertising on someone else’s search engine.  It seems to me that that would be illegal unless they’re paying the website for the use of advertising on their search engine.

  • http://www.merchantanywhere.com Guest

    If Google wants e-retailers to use them, they have to respect their wishes.  If Google starts offering competitor ads on site searches, these retailers will respond by pulling their AdWords and AdSense campaigns from Google, and that is where it will really hurt. 

  • http://www.kenivey.com Ken Ivey, Murfreesboro’s Web Design Guy

    I think something that no one’s discussed is that Google’s new feature presents a huge problem in wasted effort and cash.

    If we follow the rules to optimize our sites as Google recommends, with the motive of ranking higher for given keywords in Google’s search results, our investment in Google’s SEO strategies is lost when a competitor can, for a measly 75 cents, be placed right next to our website link. 

    They didn’t invest in SEO, and in fact purchased the opportunity to be listed next to my hard work.

    IMHO, Google needs to keep sponsored links where they belong, or ultimately ALL Google results will end up as sponsored – good for them, but bad for the consumer.

    What do you think?


  • http://www.2bjewelled.com/index.html tony

    Amazon were right to get the site search removed, I would not want this appearing on the search results for my site (and I speak as an Adwords subscriber).

    The site search box only seems to appear if you search for the site itself, ie. "Amazon". As a site owner, if someone seaches for my site I want them to come to the site not spend their time on Google.

    It just seems Google are giving themselves a second chance of "a bite of the cherry" whilst giving little of benefit to the searcher (IMHO) and making life even harder for smaller websites – it is difficult enough getting traffic in a competitive market, if this became standardized I can see traffic to smaller sites drying up (although, I am prepared to concede that it might lead to  better quality traffic and even possibly higher conversion rates).







  • http://www.seowebdesignfirm.com/seo-web-design.htm seo web design syracuse

    I do think that when Google starts infringing on internal search for a site they have gone to far.

  • http://www.moovinonup.com/ SEO

    do we have any privacy left?

  • http://travel-guide2india.blogspot.com Famous places in India

    I think you are right , Google should stick to its search principles but I think , presenly it is somewhat deviating from the principles which were once made by Google

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