Google Comparison Ads … How Much Is Too Much?
Google in their seemingly never-ending quest to conquer every possible monetisable element of the internet, have added yet another featured box to their search results, above those returned organically.
A search for ‘credit cards’ reveals Google’s latest addition, Google Comparison Ads:
Note the second coloured box above the number one natural result, entitled ‘Compare Credit Cards’. Not only does this box move more organic results below the fold line (meaning you now see only three organically returned singular website results without scrolling), but the top three results are all comparison sites, who make a good deal of their money from comparing credit cards.
What Google has essentially done is leveraged their dominance in the search market to increase their own growth in other monetisable areas; they’ve given themselves the number one spot instantaneously, ultimately lessening the traffic likely to be recieved by lower placed page one results.
This isn’t the first time Google have utilised this approach to push an additional platform (look at YouTube or Google Maps for example) and it won’t be the last either – see my previous post on Google’s social media war with Facebook. But usually these results are placed in the organic results, albeit as an additional type of result (videos, news, local, etc), but this is the first time I’ve seen Google actively using their own sponsored ad layout to push a new service.
I can’t image any of those top 3 organic results being particularly happy about Google’s addition to the SERP’s either, seeing as it’s almost certainly going to have an impact on one of their most profitable areas of income. It isn’t likely to stop there either; if Google are happy to move into credit card comparisons, how long before they’re offering a similar service for car insurance, home insurance, mortgages, bank accounts, electricity providers – the potential list goes on and on.
But is there anything necessarily wrong with this? Numerous other companies would have no hesitation in leveraging market dominance in one area to increase market share in another (look at Rupert Murdoch or Virgin for example), so why shouldn’t Google?
On the other hand, Google’s advice to other companies wanting to rank well in their search engine is the much repeated ‘content is king’. Essentially Google wants you chasing a romantised Fields Of Dream-esque ‘build it and they will come’ approach, rather than trying to manipulate their algorithmic approach to ranking websites. But Google don’t really follow this themselves, as their comparison service so far looks rather basic:
It will be interesting to see how popular Google’s comparison service becomes, as the subsequent popularity of this service will be a fairly good indication of consumers’ level of trust in Google, and how this trust in their search results translates into other market areas.
I shall be keeping my eye on how Google’s comparison service progresses; searches for ‘car insurance’ and ‘mortgages’ don’t return similar results yet, but I’ve got no doubt they will within the next few weeks. In fact, I’ve just searched for ‘Google comparison ads’ and found this:
So Google’s mortgage comparison service is in fact already available in the US, so it’s only a matter of time before we have similarly returned results in the UK.