What do you do when Google breaks it’s own rules? You adapt!
I have been reading about the notion that Google was breaking it’s paid search arbitrage rules as far back as the Fall of 2012. We noticed some unusual activity around the prominence of Ask.com listings throughout the paid search results that in essence created an opportunity for Google to double-serve ads and control more of that very valuable “above the fold” shelf space. A good article about it appeared in SearchEngineLand http://searchengineland.com/is-ask-com-continuing-to-play-the-google-arbitrage-game-137278 that spoke to this topic.
At the time, I felt the concern was perhaps a bit overstated and the notion that Google was going to influence results for one of their search partners seemed a bit far fetched. Flash forward to May of 2013 and we are seeing this sort of activity intensify to a grander scale. If you read through the Google terms and conditions related to this sort of activity, it clearly violates their own language around this sort of practice.
What can be done? Essentially nothing that will rectify any sort of immediate resolution and the best course of action is to adapt to this change. We have begun to adjust many accounts away from the partner network on paid search in hopes to keep more of a focused scenario on Google’s main driver of their own search engine. People have become all up in arms in the past over the Panda and Penguin updates but at the end of the day, Google controls the search space and we as a digital agency and businesses that survive via Google, need to understand that Google has the ability to change the game to their liking. Never before has there been a platform that is so valuable to so many from a monetary perspective. Businesses often live and die by their rankings either natural or paid on Google. You can’t beat the system in this case, you need to revise your strategy.
Google is under intense pressure to increase profits and grow revenue. By serving up Ask.com ads that just re-direct to the Ask.com search results Google can “double dip” and increase revenues. Ask.com is one of the largest ad purchasers on Google (next to the University of Phoenix..which also seems to do well in this new process, ironically) and likely Google is working to leverage this relationship a bit more. Google tests concepts and idea quite often and I would not be surprised to see a quick pull back of these efforts or a much more intensified listing of ads in the near future. One never knows….
Regardless of what happens in this scenario, the key is to be ever diligent in observing the trends that are revolving around your business. Sudden drops in traffic or spikes in traffic are often indicative of larger things in motion. Google will continue to evolve, test and work off a playbook that none of us will ever get to see. Smart businesses adapt and in the day and age we all live in, that adaption needs to be days not weeks if you want to survive.