Posted by James Lee on 27th December 2014

Google: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

There’s no denying that Google’s rise to power has been impressive. As someone who has been involved in online marketing for the past 10 years and has viewed the industry from different perspectives, I’ve watched them closely. I’ve seen them from the perspective of search advertiser, marketing agency and search ad application developer.  I think it is interesting to look at their performance and how they use their power from these different perspectives.

Google started as a socially responsible company. In their beginning, Google offered organic search results that were unbiased and informative. While organic search has evolved over the years, with many improvements and some drawbacks, it still remains essentially unbiased. As we all know, organic search results are critical to most businesses and with the rise of organic search unethical SEO tactics followed. Google has done a good job at detecting and mitigating these unethical practices.

In the area of paid search ads, Google was a boon to advertisers in the early days offering cost effective advertising with analytics and flexibility to make changes quickly. The not so good, more recently Google’s ad costs have been on the rise and flexibility and customization have decreased while there are more features.

From an agency perspective, Google has provided a significant opportunity for revenue generation as agencies manage Google advertising for their clients. In the beginning Google’s support for agencies was minimal but over the years this has expanded and improved to the point that it is pretty good.

Last but not least is my view of Google as an application tool vendor. In the early days there was a significant opportunity for third party tool vendors as Google’s tool offering was minimal. But, not surprising, as the market for third party tool vendors increased, Google saw this as an opportunity and another revenue stream for them. Google’s tool offering has been a win for consumers so even though it took business away from third party tool vendors, I cannot be too critical of this move.

Then there is Google’s RMF (required minimum functionality) policy. This is where I see the Ugly. Google’s RMF stipulates the requirements that application vendors must meet to gain API access and it has become extremely burdensome for application developers. In the beginning the RMF requirements were manageable but they have increased to the point that they now represent more than 50% of Google’s ad management features. This is placing a heavy burden on both small and large tool vendors. Making matters worse, many requirements are not based on consumer needs. Developers are forced to meet requirements that the end user has no use for.

I think this policy has become tantamount to unfair business practices for the following reasons.

  1. The requirements are not there to meet customer needs, wants or desires since customers use software tools as an alternative to what Google offers.
  2. The requirements hurt agencies and marketers as there are fewer alternatives to choose from and the alternatives that are available are more expensive.
  3. The requirements add significant risk to small business software vendors as they have to allocate their resources to keep up with Google’s demands and have less time to improve their core features that ARE based on customer needs.

I am glad Google has been a socially responsible company in many areas and it is very important for Google to remain as one in the future.  To do it, we, the industry insiders need to express our view to companies like Google.  Let us know how you would rate Google.

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