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Look around: Google's your biggest competitor

Published: August 1, 2012

Author: Sean Marshall

Last week, Google released a calculator tool that could be used directly in SERPs. Sucker that I am, I just had to try it. When I saw it loaded, I was struck by something. It wasn’t the features of the calculator but that organic results were barely visible above the fold.
Google calculator
It’s no secret that Google is waging war on organic listings (see this great infographic from Wordstream), but putting itself above all others is something entirely different.
As a paid search marketer, I have no qualms with Google making paid inventory more prominent. (Can you find the long organic listing below?) More paid clicks means more spend to manage, and for an agency, that’s good for business. Facebook should probably take a few lessons in how to gradually integrate more ad inventory into the user experience without ruining it (either that or start pushing manufacturers to start making bigger cell phones). What I don’t like is Google inserting itself everywhere.

Google SERPs
Quick, find the (one) organic listing.

Look, advertisers have been “competing” with content publishers forever. TV networks run promos for their shows between commercials; magazines push for subscriptions within their own pages. The major difference is that advertisers in these mediums aren’t directly competing with the publisher. You could make a case that everyone is competing for time and attention, but the relationship between a promo for the top-rated sitcom and a pint of ice cream is more symbiotic than it is contentious.
While Google has scaled back some of their search buys (home loans, anyone?), they continue to dominate on their own display network. Given the massive overlap (thanks, audiences!) in targeting methods, we are all Google competitors. It’s one thing to drive up the cost of advertising with arbitrary quality scores; it’s another to insert yourself as a key competitor to every one of your customers.
As I mentioned above, Facebook should take note of what Google has done with their core product over the years and continue to slowly integrate more ad inventory in the user experience. They should also take heed not to make themselves the center of attention.
Google’s dilemma isn’t so much a user experience (you’re still searching and still getting relevant info) but more of a credibility issue. You just can’t be the best choice for everything I’m looking for on your platform. (That’s Wikipedia’s job.)
Sean Marshall, Director of Client Services

1 S Wacker Drive
Suite 2250

Chicago, IL 60606(650) 539-4124


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