Google is again accused of promoting its products in its own search engine
Google Corporation, which is now part of Alphabet Inc. holding, is today the owner of the world's largest advertising business. And this business brings Google income not only because tens and hundreds of thousands of companies cooperate with the corporation. The fact is that the company itself is not averse to using its own search service to promote its products.
Now the list of various devices manufactured by Google has grown significantly. This Pixel smartphone and thermostats Nest, not to mention the other gadgets. The company advertises these devices in the top search results, so that millions of people see it. According to the Wall Street Journal, the vast majority of advertising, which appears on the very first page of search results and is related to Google, is placed either by the company or its divisions.
The analysis showed that when searching for Google products, 91% of the advertisements appearing in search engine search for 25,000 queries placed in the specified location belong to the corporation or its affiliated companies.
The analysis was performed using SEMrush . The specialists of this company used Google search to search 25 different terms, from “laptops” and “speakers” to “carbon monoxide detectors”. For each term, 1000 search queries were performed on a desktop computer. At the same time, the search history was blocked so that Google’s algorithms did not take into account previously entered queries with adaptation of the search results.
Yes, the Nest thermostat is one of Google’s products that is often found in search results.
After processing the results of requests, it became clear that Google uses its search service in order to stimulate and develop its other activities. And, often, preference was given to their own products as opposed to the products of other companies, many of which are the largest partners of the Google advertising network.
After contacting Google to clarify the situation, company representatives said that the marketing strategy was created in such a way as not to harm other advertisers and their activities.
According to the WSJ, this is not entirely true, but Google is not the only telecommunications giant that uses its own services to promote its products. Facebook is doing the same with Microsoft, which competes with their own clients for priority advertising space.
As for Google, here the search for the term “phones” almost always led (when specialists from the WSJ worked) to the appearance of three advertising banners advertising Google Pixel smartphones. All a thousand queries on the word "laptops" led to the emergence of Chromebook ads at the top of the page. The query "watches" led to the main search results advertising watches on Android. The phrase "smoke detector" led to the display of advertising IoT sensors from Nest, the company, which is now part of the holding Alphabet.
Interestingly, almost immediately after the WSJ published the results of its observations, the overwhelming majority of such advertisements simply disappeared, it was replaced by partner materials, this happened on December 15th. A repeated analysis conducted by the company on December 22 showed that the share of advertising from Google or Nest in top places appeared only in 19% of search queries for the same keywords that were mentioned earlier.
It is worth noting that the company does not practice such methods for the first time. Relatively recently, the corporation was even fined - this was done by EU officials, who saw how Google gives an advantage in search results to its own partners.
In the very practice of using its own assets to advertise their products there is nothing shameful. This ad, for example, to subscribe, is hosted by the WSJ. But, as a rule, its advertising is placed in the unused space of the paper page or electronic sheet. In most cases, the media give priority to their customers and partners. But Google does a little differently, preferring to use the issuance of its search service to promote their products. And this is done to the detriment of the interests of the partners of the corporation's advertising network.
In the Google Media Network, advertisers pay for advertisements on an auction basis. Network partners choose the appropriate rate and conditions for placing their advertising materials. Algorithms of the corporation, whose work is not disclosed, rank advertising and requests, depending on many factors. Google claims that when a company places its own advertising, other advertisers do not have to participate in an advertising auction with Google materials. That is, corporation advertising does not affect the pricing in its network.
The company claims that its advertising takes priority places only because the company is willing to pay for it. Nevertheless, representatives of online advertising business argue that the placement of Google materials in priority places still affects pricing in the advertising network, the placement of materials and the display of advertising partners. Since the choice of profitable advertising space is limited on many pages, some advertisers may decide to raise their bids and pay more for advertising in a better location. Even if the decision is not made, the limited amount of advertising space left can lead to significant competition between participants in the Google advertising network. And this, again, will lead to an increase in their advertising budgets.
“This is definitely a problem,” says Aj Kohn, head of Blind Five Year Old. "You must accept the words of Google on faith."
In addition to other results, the WSJ investigation showed that the Best Buy Co. promotional materials ranked high on Google search engine. For some reason, this company Google prefers. The retailer has already stated that it appreciates the “Google tools used to promote our products and services.”
According to eMarketer, Google occupies a third of the online advertising market. Facebook, the owner of the second largest advertising network in the world, says it participates in its own advertising network along with other companies. In particular, network advertising materials are placed in the news flow of users. And Facebook invests tens of millions of US dollars in it.
In May 2016, according to information provided by SEMrush, Google participated in auctions for 2.7 million search queries per month. True, the company itself declined to comment on the results of the SEMrush analysis. According to representatives of the corporation, now the share of advertising products in the company in the total amount of advertising is lower than in 2010.
Some large companies complain that Google places their advertising materials in not very profitable places of search results at a high price. The corporation Bitrix Inc. considers itself a corporation that suffered from such actions. In 2015, everything was fine; Bitrix ads appeared in well-visible places in about 24% of search cases for terms related to the CRM industry. Then Google did not place its own advertising in the issuance of such requests.
But that all changed in August 2016, when the corporation began to place its materials in 70% of the issue for similar requests. Correspondingly, Google is the most placed advertiser in search results on a CRM topic. Google does not have CRM software, the corporation displays ads for its cloud services. Bitrix’s share dropped to 14%, plus the company now has to pay Google 26% more than in January 2015.
Representatives of the corporation answered the question about the current situation, saying that the reason for the price increase is competition from other advertisers and Google has nothing to do with it. Other competitors include Saleforce.com Inc. and Microsoft. Advertising of these companies is now shown more often than last year, therefore, according to Google, this is exactly the root of the problem for Bitrix.
Google sees nothing wrong with advertising its products. Back in 2010, the corporation stated the following : “Newspapers place their advertisements on their pages that encourage readers to subscribe to the publication. Television companies also promote their own programs and shows. And the search engine also uses similar methods in order to inform users about the services provided. ”
Google Corporation is not the first time accused of not being the most fair game with partners. So, in 2015, the European Union conducted an antitrust investigation into the behavior of Google in the market. Then the company was accused of using unfair promotion of its own services, distorting the search results. As part of the investigation, representatives of the European Commission sent out to the participants of the European online advertising market a questionnaire asking for the opinion of respondents about changes in corporate policies from 2010. Also in the questionnaire requested copies of their agreements on advertising with the corporation concluded over the past four years.
According to the regulator , while Google could also copy images and other types of competitor content. So according toSome participants in the process, publishers have borne the cost of creating content, while Google was making money by copying and using this content in their own services.
The corporation was also accused of violating European antitrust laws by distributing Android OS with special conditions, using its dominant market position. According to representatives of the European Commission, such actions by Google are detrimental to consumers, destroying competition and restricting innovation in the industry. So, according to European officials, the corporation obliged its partners to pre-install their other services along with the Google Play store. The company also required manufacturers to install their own search engine and default browser.
“We fear that Google, by requiring manufacturers to pre-install their applications on devices, does not allow them to decide which applications to install,” said European Commissioner for Competition at the European Commission, Margaret Vestager. “And with this, Google is actually blocking the main way that application developers can get users attention.”
Then, regulators drew attention to the principles of Google with Android after it was filed several complaints from manufacturers of smartphones and tablets. The company Yandex, which acted as a witness and then the plaintiff , became one of the prosecutors .