Posted by: Laura Phillips Garner | February 7, 2010

Oh Google! Please Stop.

Google should stop and think about how paid inclusion could hurt its reputation.

Everyday, I fire up my computer and hop on Google, ready to search the Internet for the information I need. I’ve always had confidence in my searches, knowing that the folks at Google and their nifty algorithm were giving me most the relevant search engine results available.

Now, I’ve learned that Google is considering a version of paid inclusion. Paid inclusion, in its most basic form, allows marketers to buy a place for their Web sites in the results of a search engine. In the past, Google has made it clear that it would not consider paid inclusion because it is an unfair, deceptive practice. Search engines with paid inclusion schemes rarely label the links that resulted as advertising.

Now, we all know that Google has to make money, and that means selling advertising on its search results pages. As a marketer, I have a great appreciation for the value of advertising, especially on search engines where, relatively speaking, ads are less expensive and quite effective. That’s fine. Like everyone else, I like being able to hop on Google and find whatever I want whenever I want for free.

I don’t mind Google’s sponsored links in the shaded yellow box at the top or Google ads on the right side that result from companies bidding on keywords to get the space. I really don’t care if ads show up in my links as long as they are relevant to my search, and I know they are ads.

In fact, I like a good ad. In the commercial world called the Internet, ads are the road signs along the way. I just want my road signs clearly marked. So, Google, if you move forward with you paid inclusion plans, please make sure that I know that the links that result are ads.

I want to be able to trust you.

–Laura Phillips Garner


  1. I agree, paid inclusion is jst not playing fair on the part of a search engine, and is particularly bothersome when connected to a company with a squeeky clean image like google.

    However…. As a marketer, I do have to wonder how we could ethically accomodate those advertisers who want to spend a set, limited amount per month, would like some level of awareness, but for a variety of reasons don’t want to be at the top of a search, even occasionally. (Such marketers would be companies looking for a steady stream of prospects for extended periods of time, as opposed to someone who wants to hit a gusher).

    We (meaning search gurus) need to figure a search algorithm that fits their business model (ethically) also if we also want their money. Not everyone is convinced that SEO works for them in this regard.

    Great post,and timely too, considering the new entry of Google Real-Time

    • As long as the paid inclusion search is marked as an ad–wherever it is in the listing–I think it would be okay. It’s those pesky links that have been paid for but not marked that bother me. Let’s face it. As marketers, we need all the tools at our disposal, but it doesn’t hurt to tell people they are being marketed to. They are smart and know it anyway. Transparency is a good thing. Thanks for the comment, Mark. I appreciate hearing what you have to say!


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