This recent comment on Search Engine Journal made a good analogy for how search advertising currently works. It describes a scenario where you go to a garage to fill up, only to be told that you have to bid against the drivers at the adjacent pumps. Worse, you have to declare how much money is in your budget for petrol this month, before the garage decides what the price per litre is for the winner. Hard luck if you don’t want 50 litres; the garage may well give you that much anyway. Oh, and there’s nowhere else selling petrol.
Of course you don’t have to buy anything. You can get yourself an electric car, or go by bus. But it turns out that the petrol option is the easiest and most cost-effective way of getting around, even if the garage does set the price and the amount you get. No wonder you pay someone to go and sort things out with the garage.
Google is constantly tweaking the process through which its customers pay for its services to make more income, albeit (it would claim) in exchange for an even better results. As a consequence, its advertising revenue is greater then the GDP of two-thirds of the countries in the world; it has the top 50, starting with New Zealand, in its sights. But we keep coming back because it’s the only game in town, and we’re happy that despite the lack of transparency, the product works and the value is there.
Should we continue to trust Google? The article above which I’m summarising here concludes that if we do, “then we haven’t read enough history.” If Google wants to prove its credentials, then it needs to provide us with more open and transparent data, not less, as is currently happening. For years, I’ve been a tiny customer voice (amongst many) telling the company that it needs to treat us like grown-ups, not as a commodity. Unfortunately, like many tech companies, it has little empathy and – as an entity – no social skills whatsoever. It needs to be careful, as even the US government is starting to take notice.
Mind you, have you ever trusted anyone selling advertising?