Jon’s In Waikiki (AKA The Waikiki Marketer)

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Google: You Gotta Keep Em Separated!

July 16th, 2007 · No Comments

Google, or at least its Australian brand/version, is being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The allegation being made is that Google is not making the distinction between paid listings and organic listings clear enough. This will be interesting to watch as it could affect the entire industry, advertisers included.

This isn’t the first time this has been noted. Ask was notorious for piling up their paid listings before the searcher got to see the first organic one. They took the path that said the best thing to encourage the sale of search ads was to put them in pole position. Forget down the right side – on top of the listings is where it’s at!

Though Ask has backed off from that policy, Google went the other way, though not to the extreme of the former. Before, Google placed their ads exclusively down the right side. This was all part of their famous ‘Don’t Be Evil’ motto. That motto has been taking a beating lately, what with Google’s adherence to demands from the Chinese government and other transgressions.

The placement of 2 paid search ads directly above the organic listings has been going on for a little while now. True, they do put the in a shaded box, which may represent the gray areas they now dwell in instead of the Black & White ‘Don’t Be Evil’ ones they once claimed.

With Australia’s move to sue them, this could be the end of the 2 ads above structure. Even if it is only in Australia where that takes place initially, it could spread, prompting the same change worldwide.

It isn’t clear exactly how much more valuable the real estate is above the organic listings, as opposed to the lots to the right of them. Still, the advantages of that placement are clear. If those 2 places are lost to Google through legal/government intervention, will that depress prices? Businesses probably won’t pay the same highg bid prices if the standard gain from being #1 or #2 is lost. Then again, maybe they will if the profits still come in from AdWords advertising.

Either way, it’s something to keep an eye on. Who knows – maybe your click bid price will be coming down. But your click-thru rate might come down with it.

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