The issue of Google Ads has been highlighted by Basecamp, a workflow solution, who exasperated by seeing competitor’s paid adverts appear ahead of them in search results decided to buy an ad themselves to make their point. Their ad called out that they have (as they rightly should) the number #1 position in search for their brand name but up to four competitors are routinely ahead of them in search results as they pay to be there.
Google’s rules say that you can’t include trademarked brand names in your paid ads, but they are perfectly willing to allow you to bid on competitor’s trademarks. These keywords are likely what people search for on Google and if you search for a trademark then any ads with that trademark as a keyword can appear ahead of the real brand in search.
When Google puts 4 paid ads ahead of the first organic result for your own brand name, you’re forced to pay up if you want to be found. It’s a shakedown. It’s ransom. But at least we can have fun with it. Search for Basecamp and you may see this attached ad. pic.twitter.com/c0oYaBuahL
— Jason Fried (@jasonfried) September 3, 2019
A common complaint is that ads today look very much like organic search results. Consumers may or may not see a small image or some greyed out text identifying a search result as an ad but this is easy to miss. It opens the question of trust as if someone can buy themselves to the top of search results is the site trustworthy?
Closer to home, we did an Google search for Linnworks and instantly saw two paid adverts above their organic search result:
Similarly another company operating in the marketplace world, Payoneer, shows a similar set of ads bidding on their brand name:
This is nothing new, it’s similar to marketplaces such as eBay with their Promoted Listings and Amazon with Sponsored Ads and Sponsored Brands. If someone is willing to pay then the can trump your position in search results.
There are some companies, PriceSearcher for instance, where bidding on competitor’s trademarks is simply not allowed. However if you’re looking for exposure on Google, eBay, Amazon or many other venues the only way to ensure that your product is at the top of search results is to do what Basecamp have done, open your wallet, and buy you way back to the top.