Earlier this month, Isaac Garcia, the CEO of Central Desktop, set off a mini-kerfuffle when he charged Google with rigging ad placements to favor its own ads. On his blog, he listed a long series of common keywords, from spreadsheet to calendar to blog, that featured an ad for a Google service at the top of the results page. “What this tells me,” he wrote, “is if you are trying to advertise a product that is competitive to Google, then you’ll never be able to receive the Top Ad Position, no matter how much money you bid and spend.”
Garcia’s angry post got Google’s dander up. A Google marketer known only as Walter H defended Google’s practices, explaining on the company’s AdWords blog that Google’s ads are treated no differently from anyone else’s:
our ads are created and managed under the exact same guidelines, principles, practices and algorithms as the ads of any other advertiser. Likewise, we use the very same tools and account interface … the potential to show up in the top spots above the search results is the same for Google’s ads as it is for any other. We rely on the AdWords system to let relevancy and usefulness to our users be the driving force behind our ad placement. As such, we do not intentionally try to secure a top position. In fact, we generally aim for a more ‘conservative’ position.
Google’s Matt Cutts chimed in, ridiculing Garcia on his blog. “Case closed,” Cutts declared.
Today, less than two weeks after Google’s display of high-horsemanship, Philipp Lenssen reports that the search giant has begun running, at the top of its results list for any search containing the word “blog” or “calendar,” a promotional tag line “pimping” (to use Lenssen’s term) its Blogger and Calendar products. (For an example, google “yahoo calendar.”) These ads, which are not running through the AdWords system and which Google coyly calls “tips,” appear in the same spot that top-ranked AdWords ads appear. Says Lenssen:
Teehee. Google recently emphasized they need to pay the same budgets as everyone else to advertise on Google using AdWords. What they might not have told us is that Google might simply not use AdWords in the first place … and instead, display a graphical “tip” Onebox on top of the organic results.
So much for the pristine integrity of the search results page. And so much for Walter H’s earnest assertion that “our ads are created and managed under the exact same guidelines, principles, practices and algorithms as the ads of any other advertiser. Likewise, we use the very same tools and account interface.”
I’m eagerly awaiting a further clarification from Mr. H.