Google Is Blackmail
by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) The way I see it, Google is a brilliantly executed extortion racket.
The key concept to understand is that Google makes its money through misdirection.
They get nothing for directing you to the most accurate search result. They get paid to artfully direct you away from the most accurate search result.
Natural (free) search takes you to the most likely thing you’re searching for, according to their algorithms. Paid search takes you to the person who was willing to pay the most for the term you are searching. It is misdirection.
They are very clever about this. If the misdirection is too obvious or egregious, you’ll lose confidence in them and search elsewhere. They walk a fine line, and are careful about just how much misdirection is acceptable.
Of course, they would disagree. They would tell you that natural search is “search” and paid search is “advertising.” That may be technically true, but from a consumer’s point of view it is essentially a distinction without a difference.
Here’s where the blackmail comes in.
Let’s say you own a Ford dealership. When someone in your area Googles “Ford” or “Focus” or “F-150” naturally you’d expect your dealership to pop up pretty close to the top in the results.
But it might not. If a Chevy dealer in your neighborhood bid on the term “F-150” and you didn’t, his listing would appear in the paid search area of the page on top of yours. His link might misdirect a searcher to an offer on a Silverado. So someone shopping for a Ford truck winds up looking at an ad for a Chevy truck.
What’s the consequence of this? You need to protect your turf. So you wind up paying for the term “F-150” that should rightfully be yours.
They get you to pay for what’s yours by the implicit threat of selling it to someone else. It’s blackmail, and it’s brilliant.
– The Ad Contrarian is Bob Hoffman, ceo of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St. Louis. Hoffman is the author of The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. Reprinted from his blog The Ad Contrarian.