- On August 19, 2013
- By Martin MacDonald
#GoogleGate – Can you Trust Google?
Google have done an incredible job of portraying itself as a friendly, warm & fuzzy. A kind of anti-corporation if you will.
From their regular Google Doodles through to hollywood family comedies, it’s marketing and PR departments have really sold us the idea that it can “Do No Evil”.
The problem is, now more than ever there is a changing attitude in Mountain View towards innovation, ethics and profitability. It was founded on principles of trust, the search engine that couldn’t be gamed, the one that was ethical and spam free.
Those days are firmly behind us.
The Misconception of Account Managers
Time and time again, I have conversations with small business owners.
Big enough to be assigned a Google Account Manager, but not big enough to have in-house marketing resources.
These companies place their trust in Google, after all, an “Account Manager” is meant to help you make the right decision for your business, right?
Let’s be clear, that is not their job.
Google account managers exist to maximise your spend
– even if that is done at the expense of your profitability.
The Enhanced Campaign Swindle
A few months ago, this sound clip was brought to my attention. It’s a recording left on an advertiser’s voicemail, by his Google Account Manager.
He did not however realise he was leaving a voicemail, and is heard talking to a colleague about the account in question:
press play to hear the recording
here is a transcript:
(background talking, and phone covered by something…..)
“Im gonna go go…. (singing trails off)… Cough, cough….
“Shut your…. Oh What the F…..
Why did you upgrade your account without talking to me…. You….
They went to enhanced campaigns and did not talk to me, I’m pissed off….
…You said what?….
…Yeah I know….
This would have been easier….
Now I gotta like pitch Call Extensions, and Sitelinks…. and THEN leave….
Yeah, there you go, Grant knows about them Sitelinks! he he he he he….. (cough).
….Yeah, some kind of water pure… portable water purifier….
….Those bridge pages or parked domains…
They’re pretty bad… I dont even care, Im not calling them, I don’t wanna get….
I just want to get uhmmm, I dont care, I dont want to spend more than ten minutes
Im gonna do, all I want to do is enhanced, then Im going to get the F**K out,
thats all I want to do………
….NO! I will never stop being angry… That’s what I am…. When you see Russell here next time
ask him what my gamer tag used to be…………. (blah blah blah….)
Our learnings from this message:
Google Account Managers get paid to up-sell new products to advertisers.
The caller’s objective is to up-sell enhanced campaigns, but as that is no longer possible he will instead try to sell Call Extensions and Sitelinks.
That’s not a recommendation for the good of the client, that’s simply getting a sale chalked up.
Google Account Managers are also comfortable breaking their own Terms of Service. The caller clearly talks about those “bridge pages” being bad, but that he doesn’t care.
This is in direct violation of their own rules, and should have resulted in the account being banned.
The advertiser after all is spamming, with the knowledge and consent of Google.
We shouldn’t be surprised
Google posted lower than expected growth in their Q2 2013 results, citing low mobile CPC’s, (40% lower than desktop), as the main culprit.
Google Enhanced Campaigns were introduced specifically to combat this, forcing advertisers to bid on all devices, thereby increasing competition for the ad spots and artificially driving their cost per click upwards.
Just how important ad sales on Google Search properties are to their core business is clear:
Maximising ad distribution across all devices, and driving up advertisers cost per click is the single biggest thing that Google can do to ensure continued growth.
The Account Optimisation Swindle
Back in my days at Seatwave our objective was to sell tickets for concerts, sporting events, theatre performances and so on.
It is clear therefore that PPC keywords that worked well might have been:
“tickets“, broad but sent some conversions,
“Lady GaGa Tickets“, less broad & higher conversion,
“o2 Arena Lady GaGa Tickets November 17th“, granular & great conversions.
Keywords we were advised to use (or as our account managers defined them: “opportunities”) were conceived with the intent of increasing our spend, with no thought about suitability for our business.
They included the likes of:
“Lady GaGa Torrent“,
“Lady GaGa Download” etc.
Keywords like this are highly unlikely to ever result in us making a sale of a ticket, but that is not Google’s concern – they were more interested in making sure we spent more money, despite it being bad for our business.
At the time I put it down to a lack of understanding and naivety from our Google advisors. Now I’m not so sure.
This practice is still rife with Adwords reps…
Every few weeks I get a query regarding PPC campaigns in travel, and the keywords that their account managers suggest generally include the likes of:
“Directions to Hotel XYZ“
“Hotel XYZ address”
These are not isolated occurrences, I very rarely hear advice from account reps that are obviously for the good of the advertiser. The only times I’ve seen good advice tended to be when coincidentally it also benefited Google themselves.
Its time to treat Google for what they are
Google have become over the last decade something unexpected. Growing from “just a search engine” it has become the world’s largest media owner.
They drive an overwhelming amount of business in this online world, yet manage to operate with impunity, compared to regulated press and media outlets, who are their only competition in selling ad space.
They scrape (almost) every site on the web, charge companies for sending visitors following a navigational search & if you opt out of advertising for your brand name, they punish you by allowing your competitors to bid against your brand keywords.
Not all Googlers are like this
This is of course true, I have lots of friends that work for the search giant – and all of them are fantastic at their jobs and great sources of knowledge, ethical, and highly experienced.
However, the rank and file google account managers that deal with less informed “long tail” accounts are more likely to be volume driven. Its their accounts that would be most likely to accept their recommendations blindly.
As with any sales org, when a culture of self-interest and commission hunting takes hold, its normally at the expense of the consumer.
Perhaps we shouldn’t blame the staff themselves, considering Google have just posted their first ever quarter with a significant cut in staff numbers.
The recent news that Google are removing the 20% free time for “innovation” products, which brought us genuinely life changing projects like Google Maps, last weeks court filings where Google made it clear that people sending messages to Gmail users could not reasonably expect privacy, combined with this sales driven focus is perhaps a clear indicator of a change in mindset for the tech giant.
My message is clear:
If Google were regulated in the same way as the mainstream press, this kind of behaviour could be monitored and controlled.
Is it time for search engines to be subject to regulation?
Have your say below in the comments section!