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As recently reported by Search Engine Journal, there is an ad campaign currently running to target Google employees with the aim to convince them to advocate unbiased search results. The campaign, titled “Focus on the User” has been put together by a collection of companies which is being led by Yelp. The consortium is fed up of Google prioritising it’s own features over others. In their opinion this takes the focus away from the user, damages businesses looking to surface their content, and ultimately only favours Google.


What’s the campaign about?

The argument is that as Google continues to evolve, it’s becoming less about what the user wants to see, and more about what Google wants the user to see

Google used to be about delivering the most specific results to the user through Organic Search results and the ‘Answer Box’ (also known as One Box, or Knowledge Graph). They believe that this offered users an unbiased and valuable experience for the user, giving people factual answers for their search queries.

The consortium thinks that Google is now pumping too much subjective information high up the search engine results page

This would be fine if the information was sourced using Google’s organic search algorithms, but Google has been boosting some of it’s own content in an attempt to boost it’s popularity; for example, Google Plus posts etc. The issue is particularly apparent for searches with Local intent, which no takes a large chunk of the overall search traffic. Some of the information that’s surfaced on the results page is still the helpful content users want, but sometimes you’ll get mostly what Google wants you to see.

What are their thoughts on Paid Search?

The campaign is definitely coming from the point of view of a publisher who feels threatened by the growth in Paid Search advertising and the power that Google has in surfacing content across the web.

There is definitely a point in the video (around 2 min 10secs) where there is a dig at Paid Search and how the ad format is now barely distinguishable from Organic results. Results that are surfaced here do not necessarily have to go through the same algorithm as the Organic results. This discourages the innovation of those providing good information, according to the campaign.

What’s their solution?

If the results are getting less useful for the user, then who is it valuable for?

Users, institutions, business that have come to depend on Google are now being threatened. To solve this, the campaign suggests that;

  • Google needs to remember how to be Google; focus on the user.
  • Properly credit content and ensure that there is healthy click through to the site, and therefore revenue for the publisher.
  • Re-index Google owned content so that it competes fairly with others
  • Raise it at TGIF and with your Google colleagues

What about from a Paid Search perspective?

The campaign ignores the fact that Paid Search works with Quality Scores and Ad Rank. It’s not in an advertisers interest to deliberately waste money on irrelevant traffic

Not all ads are bad, and this campaign assumes that all paid search is biased whereas organic is factual. Any good Paid Search professional will be looking to focus their campaigns on the users that matter most. The only way to do this is to drive maximum relevance and to ultimately give users the answers they are looking for. The best performance comes from those who are focusing on the user and driving the best experience.

The continued investment into Paid Search from both advertisers and Google is concerning for Organic results. But this also creates opportunity for new areas of growth

The rise in voice search and digital assistants means that organic results are in prime position to drive the most relevant results. Yes this does mean a continued decline in traffic to site, but these new technologies could open up new revenue streams for publishers and content providers.

Paid Search and Organic Results need to stop fighting against each other and working together

There has always been rivalry between these two, but let’s stop it. If there are areas of decline for Organic, then Paid Search can be a quick win to help push this back up to ensure traffic continues to come smoothly to the site. Google aren’t going to do anything to dampen the growth in PPC, their key revenue driver. So you’ll need to have a good paid vs organic strategy. You can use Paid vs Organic reports in AdWords to help you work this out.

Why should I have to pay more through Paid Search to help compensate for the decline in Organic results?

I think this is probably a fair point. But from any paid vs organic testing i’ve done, i’ve always seen a negative impact on performance overall for search marketing; even on Brand terms. Happy to be proven wrong here though if you show me the results.


What about from Google’s perspective?

Ultimately they are a business, and can do what they want with their search results. But with great power comes great responsibility, and you could argue they are pushing the boundaries too hard

Google are a business, let’s not forget that. Yes they have become invaluable to everyone in our day to day lives, but could you argue that some of this is our fault too? We know what Google stand for; they aim to organise all of the world’s information. We’ll go to them with questions and expect answers. But they are under no obligation to do anything more than that.

Could you argue that Google is “stealing” publisher content and branding it up as a Google answer?

Possible yeah I can understand this point of view. I can understand if publishers feel as though they may be being plagiarised by Google in some form. Most of the time though, publishers are properly credited. However, this debate will become a lot more interesting in the future with the rise in digital assistants and voice search.


What will the campaign achieve?

It at least opens up the conversation again

I think it’s really healthy to be questioning Google’s position here. They are integral to a lot of businesses and publishers revenue streams, and any change Google make to the SERP could have a big impact on others. It at least opens up the discussions again and keeps it at the forefront of Googler’s minds in meetings.

Dan Roberts
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Dan Roberts

Founder & Author at PPC hubbub
Dan has worked in agencies for over 5 years and was awarded Rising Star at The Drum Search Awards for the work delivered for his clients and wider industry. Dan founded PPC hubbub after becoming frustrated with the lack of actionable insight from blogs.

LinkedIn - https://uk.linkedin.com/in/siondanielroberts
Dan Roberts
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