Google's Conflicting Push to Move Beyond Search

As Google has looked to increase revenues and move beyond being "just a search engine" they have put themselves at the top of the food chain in multiple categories. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, etc. ;)

If you search for books their book search is the result in natural search and when you search for movies they push their iGoogle application in paid search. Every holiday season Google tries to make further inroads in ecommerce by doing things like offering free Checkout services (at launch of Google Checkout), integrating Google Checkout with AdWords ads (and claiming this increases ad CTR by ~ 10%), and promoting Google Base / Google Product Search more aggressively in their navigation and organic search results. Some early Google Checkout users also got free links.

As Google dives into music services a new one-box with links to selected partners will appear at the top of the search results. And as Google makes tie-ins with more software providers you can look for Google to promote Google pack and other such offerings across the spectrum of search results.

Google has tested creating a mortgage marketplace in the UK and LendingTree is suing a business partner because they heard that the company might sell data to Google.

Everything is a beta and everything is a test. And then one day a new competitor appears from nowhere.

At times Google seems unbelievably savvy, but at times they seem unbelievably conflicted. Google claims that searchers are expecting more for advertisers and that advertisers need to start acting more like magazine publishers who publish (and advertise) great featured content. Sounds good, maybe. But then Google launches an AdWords ad translation kit. It is pretty safe to say that if a machine translates your ads in a competitive marketplace you are wasting an awful lot of profit margin.

Google claims to like brands, that brands are how you sort out the cesspool, and to show brands for generic keywords to increase user satisfaction.

But lets look at a recent search result for the eBay brand. Google knows that gets a 90%+++ CTR, that the keyword is a trademark, that the keyword is navigational, etc etc etc. And in spite of eBay even bidding on their own brand, this is perhaps the first time Google takes a valuable partner hostage.

If Google claims that they need to show brands on generic search queries to increase user satisfaction then why do they pollute the associated brand search results with irrelevant nonsense? Navigational searches are the easiest ones in the world to get right, and if a site has historically got a 90%+++ click-through rate for a keyword, why would it ever make sense to risk putting a universal search result or a marginally relevant ad above the obvious #1 result?

If people are looking specifically for news when entering a branded 1 word trademarked keyword then surely they would skip past the #1 result for the official site. Sure there is money in promoting apps for eBay, but it seems so counter to Google's messaging when justifying their algorithmic editorial philosophy elsewhere.

Published: October 28, 2009 by Aaron Wall in google


October 28, 2009 - 10:28pm

What would you promote if you owned the first result for every search phrase imaginable? The power... the absolute power! I'd obviously push v1agra, alcai-berry diet ebooks and porn, seeing as how I'm a low-brow publisher not among the oligopoly, failing to have registered an official business, filed for copyrights to my content, and neglecting to list myself in InfoUSA. I am not a brand.

October 30, 2009 - 3:24pm

At some point Google are going to get slapped back down to earth.
Probably in the EU before anywhere else.

You can't keep exploiting a dominating market position into new markets without the world pulling you into line.

Touching on finance will upset a few pretty big a cash rich players who may start to lean on the politicians and get their own PR machine rolling

October 30, 2009 - 4:06pm

They are already in the mortgage affiliate business, what is to stop them from jumping into credit cards next?

October 30, 2009 - 4:24pm

Yup. They are going to keep trying to jump into the big money markets. And as long as QuinStreet has hundreds of millions of Dollars in revenues you can bet Google will keep moving downstream with more ad products to try to claw back a bit more of the revenues that the traditional AdWords product missed.

November 16, 2009 - 9:51pm

Not to worry, Google's brand extension is the exact thing that will undo their current advantage. Eventually, they will discover their "New Coke".

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