Anyone that has had a conversation with me about Google in the past few years is surely aware of my paranoia that they want a direct advertising relationship for all marketing that occurs on Google in the coming years. In other words, affiliate marketers and lead generators should be weary of what Google is up to. Even service resellers should be concerned.
I first observed Google’s attitude toward affiliate marketers in 2006. There were rumors in the discussion forums that they were penalizing sites with affiliate links from the obvious hubs such as CJ and LinkShare. Then came the issue of bridge pages on the AdWords platform, which penalizes websites for reselling the same product that another website is already selling. Then maybe a year ago i saw this for the first time when I Google’d for “mortgage rates”:
It seems Google is already competing directly now (against leadgen resellers), in most major areas of finance. Well, given that advertising is significantly less expensive for them, they automatically get top placement, and they can leverage significantly better commissions than others, I’d say its safe to say this is a tough position for a leadgen company to be in; how do you compete?
Now look a little closer at their title. Notice it is “Google Advice”. That is nice and broad and suggests a proclivity to review and comparison marketing of many other projects. I’d be weary if I were Capterra, SoftwareAdvice.com, or NextAdvisor.com. Too bad because I rather admired SoftweAdvice as a business model, in particular.
So perhaps Google wants to stay in the information and search space and won’t venture beyond that, right? I recently came across a post on SEOBook talking about a new site that Google owns called Prizes.org, which they are promoting in top positions for the Making Money Online space. And if that weren’t curious enough, the post points out the hippocracy that two sites owned by Google in this case are allowed in the same search terms, whereas generally it is not allowed per AdWords TOS. Can you spot the other one below? Actually, at the time I took this snapshot, you can see Prizes.org and the Google Adwords Express ad at the top, but there is yet a third at for YouTube (also Google owned) on the right.
Other things I have been noticing lately involve the local space. Google recently launched local listings with a massive map and local search results that push down the traditional organic results “below the fold” on any local searches such as “Portland attorneys”. This is heavily promoting their Google Places product, which is their answer to the Yellow Pages, that no one uses any more.
Shortly after they introduced AdWords Express, intended to make it simpler for a small business (SMB) to list themselves. And just last week they announced businesses no longer need to create their own Google Places listing for it to exist; they’ll create it for you. And finally worth mentioning on this topic, I was in Portland over the Summer and observed a massive advertising push for Google Local (google.com/city/Portland). It is a city guide with local deals similar to those of Group or LivingSocial.
It seems to me they are in the process of creating the building blocks for a massive local search platform. If I were a local search marketing firm, I’d be quaking in my boots right now! Companies like eGumball should already be highly concerned at the announcement that Google Places no longer requires their services (they’re purely about NAP (name, address, place) citations now), and ReachLocal should be seeing the writing on the wall that their primary channel provider is about to become a direct competitor and introduce a massive local marketing platform in the coming year or so, by my guess.
And so where is all of this ultimately going? I believe Google wants to have a direct relationship with businesses for all advertising and lead generation solutions. They want to remove any middle men that they regard as polluting their marketplace and eating their lunch. Thus as an entrepreneur, I’d be inclined to avoid building a business around offering any sort of solutions that involve arbitraging or repackaging search solutions for my clients, as that is precisely who Google will compete against. It will be interesting to see just how far they can get in closing the loop with online advertising dominance before the FTC inevitably steps in.