May 5th is set to be a watershed date in the UK internet arena but unfortunately not for a good reason in my opinion. Internet search goliath Google will be fundamentally changing its search engine paid ranking rules to bring them in line with its North American policy and the UK business community is not happy.
Google intends to allow open keyword bidding on trademarked terms for the first time in the UK, a move that will effectively allow any company to gatecrash the pay-per-click efforts of others under what I would consider false pretences.
Basically, the outgoing system ensures that if a searcher includes a trademarked term anywhere within their search criterion, the company holding the trademark will appear at the top of the sponsor links (if they have placed a bid). However, under the incoming system the highest bidder, regardless of whether they are the trademark owner or not, will come top.
For example, in theory if BMW top bid on the term ‘Audi’ it would appear top of a search for ‘Audi’, above its rival even though Audi’s name has been directly used in the search box. Google says its new rules will ensure that BMW could not quote Audi or Audi’s URL in its ad, instead it must quote the address the link goes to and that searchers will be able to discern the situation from this. However, I totally disagree.
My understanding of searcher behaviour is that they go to Google because they fundamentally trust the accuracy of its results. Because of this, I believe searchers will automatically click on top matches without appreciating the reason for their top listing.
And it is not just the searcher who is losing out. Online companies will also lose out because the top bidders will be effectively stealing their traffic, leaving them with the only option of handing over more pay-per-click cash to Google to keep on top.
Google has defended its policy change, saying that it will offer searchers more choice in the sponsors’ results section. However, cynics, including myself, aren’t buying this justification. The fact that this revenue driving change comes as Google has been experiencing a reduction in its Adword income for the first time is more than a coincidence in my opinion.
In fact, far from improving the choice available to customers, we at UKFast believe that search results will actually be compromised by the new rules, as searchers will be getting more generalised returns than before. They will actually be getting the returns the big spending advertisers want, while Google will be getting the financial returns it wants.
These new rules leave Google’s ethos, of delivering best quality search matches, in tatters.