The Default For Getting Your Small Business To The Top Search Results
You’ve no doubt heard of the Google Antitrust Lawsuit, the landmark case brought by the U.S. Justice Department that alleges Google uses underhanded tactics to maintain its virtual monopoly as the default search engine, making it nearly impossible for other search engines to compete (yes, unlike Santa Claus, other search engines do exist). As well as, making it a necessary evil if you want your small business to succeed in today’s digital world.
Look, we’re not here to bash Google or take sides on who should win this antitrust lawsuit. What we are here to do is help better market your small business and, as the saying goes, get the most bang for your buck. Like it or not, Google is currently the de facto search engine and the best way to advertise and reach customers. And any rulings on whether Google is, in fact, a monopoly and what steps might follow aren’t expected until next year.
So, let’s look at the practices Google employs (revealed during the antitrust lawsuit) and what that means for marketing and SEO’ing your business.
Google Search Engine Dominance
The search engine giant enjoys a 90% market share. Google argues in the antitrust lawsuit that its near monopoly status is because it makes a superior product. It’s also the case that phone service providers and computer manufacturers get a share of revenues when users click on Google ads. Google spent more than $10 billion a year on Apple and other brands to maintain Google as the default search engine on their products.
Those revenues are more likely guaranteed, as Antonio Rangel, a California Institute of Technology economist, testified in the DOJ case because Google’s defaults discourage users from switching to other search engines. According to Rangel, the process to replace Google with Bing on an Android 12 phone took 10 steps.
Apple allegedly didn’t want a default search engine, they intended to provide users with a choice to select their own. However, Google allegedly rejected this proposal stating no default placement, no revenue share, and alluded to even getting fewer clicks to their websites if they don’t accept the deal.
Potential Anti-Competitive Conduct—Raising Ad Prices
Google has admitted to raising its ad pricing “frequently” by 5% and sometimes by as much as 10% without informing advertisers to meet revenue targets. Note that the word “frequently” is not defined as of yet. Does that mean daily, monthly, or quarterly? There’s more light to be shed on this in the near future as the Google Antitrust Lawsuit continues. According to testimony in the DOJ case, more than 60% of Google’s total revenue is generated by search ads. In 2020, search ads earned the company more than $100 billion.
Key to the Justice Department’s argument is not that Google is anti-competitive because of its search engine dominance because Google search is a free product. However, what is anti-competitive is that because of its search engine dominance, Google can indiscriminately raise ad prices because there is no competitive alternative for advertisers.
Google Ad Manipulation
Getting charged more, and without knowing you are getting charged, isn’t the only issue for marketers and small businesses. As it was pointed out during the antitrust lawsuit, Google employs deceptive and manipulative design tactics in its Google Ads interface to not only get you to pay more through unintended purchases but also boost vanity metrics.
Preset targeting defaults erect deliberate obstacles to perform specific tasks that are not in your best interests (and budget!) but are in Google’s favor. In order to turn off these presets, you must jump through hoops and go searching for their location in the Google Ad interface—some as many as 10+ steps to toggle a preset off.
This is neither simple nor intuitively obvious. And there are other tasks you can’t complete in the interface, requiring calls to Google to complete. If you’ve ever tried contacting Google about anything, you’ll know this is typically a frustrating experience. All of this leads many users to just leave the defaults in place rather than other choices in their best interests.
Another example of this is how Google scores ad strength. Naturally, you want a high score, right? The trouble is how Google scores ad strength and the factors that go into determining that strength are not necessarily aimed at benefiting advertisers but Google. What’s the expression? There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. In my profession, I call them “vanity metrics.”
The Importance Of Clicks
Obviously, you want to increase clicks for your ads, but paid clicks also determine your overall organic (non-paid) search results ranking. According to testimony by a former Google employee, click data is used in determining organic ranking as well, though the weight for which it is used is unclear, and tools such as AI and machine learning may render clicks less important.
However, the reason why Google is somewhat vague about what role user data plays in search results ranking is “not wanting people to think that paid clicks could be used to manipulate organic search results.”
The DOJ argument during the antitrust lawsuit is that Google is purposely favoring paid advertising over organic links, which makes it harder to craft relevant SEO content, forcing brands to use paid Google ads to boost their search results.
What All This Revealed During Antitrust Lawsuit Means To You
If it turns out that Google is ruled anti-competitive, it provides you with more potentially useful advertising channels and in a more competitive marketplace, likely resulting in lower pricing. It may also force Google to change its advertising model, making it easier for small businesses not only to advertise but also gain a better advertising impact for their SEO and ad spend. There may very well need to be very different SEO strategies depending on different search engines that become more widely available should Google no longer be the standard default.
This, of course, all remains speculative in what is likely a lengthy legal clash. We at Tag Marketing continue to monitor developments in the Google antitrust lawsuit and prepare for any rulings that impact SEO and PPC advertising.
In the meantime, however, we can help small- and medium-sized businesses properly navigate the confusing labyrinth of Google ads and search results to ensure you are getting the best possible results to market your business, and not for the benefit of Google. We employ six proven ways to decrease wasted ad spend that help business owners significantly as we work for YOU, NOT Google.
We apply affordable, creative, growth-driven online marketing strategies for small to mid-sized B2Bs and B2Cs to attract new leads, close new customers, nurture your contacts, and increase revenue… all while being completely transparent with you (unlike the Google behemoth).