Is Google showing favoritism to their top advertisers?

Google makes 96% of their profits from Adwords and Adsense — selling advertising to publishers. Yes despite all of the fanfare around Google shopping, Google Play and Google travel, etc, their billions don’t come from those ventures.

Their revenue comes from selling advertising period.

Remember that in 2014 Google’s full year revenue was an astounding $66 billion, up 19% year to year….so Google made over 60 BILLION dollars from selling ads. (As a side note, interesting considering pay outs to publishers as in CPCs and CTRs have been crashing while Googles profits explode year after year–that’s what happens when you allow monopolies to emerge).

So is it really so far fetched to suggest that Google is abusing their enormous power and showing favoritism to the publishers paying them the most money?

As a small publisher that pays Google zero dollars to advertise I can tell you first hand that I have witnessed the big publishers out rank us again and again with our own content–both when they scrape their content directly from us and publish it weeks later and give us no credit and when they scrape the info from us and source us.

In fact I am writing this because yet AGAIN Wetpaint has outranked us with an article that we were ranked #1 with for some time (during which it received little search volume). Yes this certain term received enormous volume last night when “The Bachelor” premiered and suddenly despite being the primary source of the info Wetpaint was pushed to the #1 spot with an article that did a poor job of scraping all of the info we previously reported.

I have witnessed this phenomena again and again and again over the last 2 years. It’s like neither Wetpaint nor Google cares so long as the search term is not receiving that much volume, but as soon as the volume blows up Wetpaint or another top Google advertiser mysteriously becomes #1.

It’s almost as if it’s written in to the Google algorithm.

If a search term is getting low volume then Google allows the best source to be at the top (makes Google look legit, right?), but if a search term suddenly receives a surge in volume Google shuffles organic search results around to allow their top advertisers to enjoy that surge. After the surge ends everything shifts back to normal.

Well it might sound crazy if Google did not have a patent to facilitate such action.

Google denies that they base organic search results on who is paying them, but as usual their patents tell a different story.

I found this telling article.

“A patent was granted at the USPTO today that points to a different story.

As Matt Cutts noted in the not too distant past, just because Google has a patent on something doesn’t mean that they are currently using it. A patent was granted to Google today that seems to contradict that statement about site rankings and Google ads.

What if Google used information about the terms that a site was advertising on in search results to learn more about the site and what terms were important for it?

What if Google looked at the ads displayed on a site to better determine what it was about for purposes of search rankings?”

Yes what if Google looked at the advertising dollars plus the search terms a site wanted to rank for?

Intuitively this is what I have felt for some time because the quality of the content from sites like Wetpaint has been so poor—they get their facts wrong constantly and spend no time verifying anything. NTM they are not the first to publish stuff yet they outrank the sites who are.

From the Abstract of the patent:

“Systems and methods for improving search rankings using advertising data are disclosed.

In one embodiment, a search engine implements a method comprising receiving a search query, identifying a plurality of articles relevant the search query, determining advertising data associated with the search query, and ranking the articles based at least in part on the advertising data.”

“Advertising data” like advertising dollars and search terms.

The comments are great. Here is one..

“As I noted on G+, um, whoa. If Google is using (has used) paid search data to influence organic rankings, they may have finally opened search up to anti-trust claims. Not speaking as a lawyer, just someone who recognizes some major problems with this.

And of course, they’d also probably be violating all sorts of FTC disclosure regulations.

I simply can’t bring myself to believing that this is the case…”

And this one,

“Just having the patent registered, to my mind, is possible intent to use in future. Playing the constantly fluxing search engine guideline game is bad enough, without having cash influence a competitors result. I can’t say I blame a friend for leaving the SEO game – too many variables and it makes my head hurt.”

It sure is! Google would not spend time and money getting this patent unless they intended to use it.

Remember Google claims:

“Objectivity. We believe it is very important that the results users get from Google are produced with only their interests in mind. We do not accept money for search result ranking or inclusion. We do accept fees for advertising, but it does not influence how we generate our search results. The advertising is clearly marked and separated. This is similar to a newspaper, where the articles are independent of the advertising. Some of our competitors charge web sites for inclusion in their indices or for more frequent updating of pages. Inclusion and frequent updating in our index are open to all sites free of charge. We apply these principles to each of our products and services. We believe it is important for users to have access to the best available information and research, not just the information that someone pays for them to see.”

I can’t help but hear the phrase…”thou doth protest too much”.

What this statement means is ‘just because we can show favoritism to big advertisers don’t worry we won’t’. The question is why does Google get to hide behind this veil of secrecy in the first place?

Then there are countless claims like this from Adwords customers who claim Google reps hassle them to constantly to raise their bids, promising “more exposure”. (keep in mind the article is from Google shill Barry Schwartz, but the comments are telling.Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 12.59.56 AM

There are plenty of blogs out there that insist the Google pay to play theory is totally bogus, but you may want to take a closer look at who is writing those blog like this one by attorney Lee Rosen.

Rosen says,

“Cutting to the chase: buying ads from Google doesn’t improve organic ranking. It has no impact.”

Interestingly Lee’s son runs a “Google advertising business”.Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 12.05.43 AM

From his website,

“Since becoming a PPC manager and focusing on online advertising, I’ve not only gained professional ad certifications from Bing and become a Google Ads Certified Partner, but I’ve worked on developing a personalized PPC marketing system that we can quickly and easily implement to help quick start your business.”

So the son is even “certified” by Google!!! That appears to be how Google deals with the grey area of linking PPC to organic rank via “certified partners”…wink, wink, nudge, nudge. You need to hire a “certified partner” because they know the tricks.

You will find tons of blogs just like this by folks insisting Google is way above board–nothing to see here, move along, but again take a closer look at the writers and their vested interest in big G.

Google has crossed the line, but the FTC has shown their alliance with Google again and again. And before anyone can call for more regulation as the answer, I would point to how the FTC buried extensive evidence that Google was in fact a monopoly–discovered in Spring of 2015.

In fact regulation IS the problem. I would say this is an example of why we need to get rid of the FTC and other regulation agencies because they ALWAYS protect the monopolies and ignore the law.

Instead Google needs to be broken up in accordance with the law that already prohibits this behavior. I can only hope that some big guns out there with some big attorneys will find a creative way to force Google to stop this illegal and unethical behavior.

PS, don’t forget the Google whistleblower from 2014 and his/her claims about how Google was grossly abusing their monopoly power and was playing favorites with publishers even creating a “VIP list”. Google does not exactly have a rep for not being “evil”.

BTW: Here is a good article on the BIG problem with Google being the arbiter and disseminator of ALL the worlds information.

UPDATE 4/19/2016

Check out this guy selling do follow links on some of Googles biggest advertisers. He is doing it to this very day. This is allegedly highly unethical in Google’s eyes yet these big sites do it blatantly out in the open with no consequences.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 11.07.17 PM

See the rules only apply if you are not paying Google big bucks via Adwords.



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