Rumor has it that eBay just bought the web 2.0 toolbar company StumbleUpon, which helps users stumble into new and interesting pages based on the votes of friends and others with similar interests. THE SAME DAY that rumor came out Google added a toolbar feature which recommends websites you might be interested in based on your recent search queries.
Competitive Intelligence & AdSense Funded Startups
Google's biggest advantage over their competitors may not even be the cheap computer cycles. It is probably consumer trust. StumbleUpon only had to raise $1.5 million in funding before being bought out, largely due to low cost structure, but also because they turned stumbles into unmarked ads, offered a sponsorship based model, and published AdSense ads on their site.
Google can buy out or clone any service that threatens their ad market and media dominance.
Asset Pricing & Public Relations
Since StumbleUpon was an AdSense publisher, Google saw their growth rate, and had better market data as to their value than eBay possibly could have. As soon as they started talking about sales, Google could make the best offer, or decide if it was just cheaper to clone something in-house, then overshadow competing news by adding the feature to the Google suite ahead of the buyout news.
Advertising leads to exposure, which leads to more exposure, which leads to market dominance. Now Google is recommending content. Maybe those same content sites chose to advertise with Google from time to time, or maybe they syndicate Google's ads and convert well. If you were Google, and you were recommending ads and content based on earnings wouldn't that lead to recommending biased content that converts?
Trademarks & the Sketchiness of Relevant Recommendations
"The large number of businesses and users affected by Google's AdWords program indicates that a significant public interest exists in determining whether the AdWords program violates trademark law," Fogel wrote in his decision.
Maybe they are legal, but when you get to content websites or contextually targeted ads you can't be certain why Google is displaying an ad. Is it site targeted? Page targeted? Geographically targeted? Automated based on a keyword and trademark in the page title, or personal character flaws, or conversion data?
Arbitraging Your Brand One Click at a Time
With pay per action ads Google turned the link into a virtually unmarked ad unit. They will likely control distribution based on how much revenue an ad makes Google. If you buy distribution from lead aggregators, and they buy Google CPA ads, their ads may be automatically targeted by Google against any media mentioning your company, at first you will think these aggregators are doing a great job, and you might even pay them a higher commission. But then you may start to notice fewer direct inquiries.
Upon further inspection some of these lead aggregators use domain names similar to your brand, like VillanovaU.com, and their ads appear on just about any content related to Villanova. Eventually you realize that you are best off brokering a deal directly with Google, so you do.
Introducing Google Tax
This is how Google will kill many mid market players and get a piece of the action for most large businesses. They will keep automating recommendations and arbitraging against your brands and trademarks until you decide to broker an ad deal directly with Google, and if you don't give Google a big enough cut they will just recommend an arbitrager, some high converting currently hot scam, or a competitor of some sort.
Affiliate marketers funded search and showed business the value of search before getting pushed around by ad quality scores. The lead aggregators will show businesses that they can just work directly with Google. Off the start the numbers will look great, and they will keep doing well until direct inquiries gradually decline as the Google Tax is applied.
I think Werty was the person who coined Google Tax, while he was between paintings, working on his garden.
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