Search Marketing's No Place for a Search Engine, Google

Danny Sullivan on Search Marketing

By Published on .

Want to rank better on Google? There's a company you might want to check out, since it might know a thing or two about that. It's called Google.

To be specific, it's called Performics, a division of DoubleClick, which you might recall was acquired by Google earlier this month. While all the attention on the DoubleClick purchase has been on whether it would make Google too dominant in the online-ad space, some search marketers have worried about a different issue: Is it right for Google to own a company that works for better placement on Google?

Danny Sullivan
Photo: Jason Meyer
Danny Sullivan has been covering the search-marketing industry for more than a decade and is editor in chief of SearchEngineLand.com.
Think about it. What if the New York Times Co. owned a PR firm that touted getting clients prominently positioned in The New York Times? More than a few eyebrows would rise. And that's exactly the situation with Performics and Google. It's a Google-owned business that aims to get clients better ranking in search engines, with the most important search engine being, of course, Google.

Google says it will run Performics as a "stand-alone business unit" and spend the next few months assessing it and all of DoubleClick's products and services before deciding on future plans. Me, I feel like it should have assessed from the start that operating its own search-engine-optimization firm wouldn't be compatible with maintaining the important trust consumers have in its flagship search engine. I still hope the company will quickly come up with a divestiture plan for Performics.

Let me stress that I have no beef with Performics. The company has been a leader in search marketing. It just doesn't belong in the Google family -- not if that family also contains the search results Performics works to influence.

Google's not alone in this tricky situation. When Microsoft bought aQuantive, it gained Avenue A/ Razorfish, which also does search-marketing work. Just like with Google-Performics, that doesn't sit well with me.

If Microsoft gains Yahoo, as many expect, it and Google will have the biggest shares of search inventory out there. It seems enough that they should earn directly by selling their own inventory. They don't need to also earn indirectly by selling services that place listings into those pages. Leave that to the third parties, avoid the conflict-of-interest perception and get out of the search-marketing business. It's no place for an actual search engine to be.
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