Advertising can be a "sneaky dude" as the animated image shows when you click on it. When Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google Founders) were at Stanford University they wrote "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine". Near the bottom of this college paper that presents a prototype picture of Google is Section "8 Appendix A: Advertising and Mixed Motives".
Sergey and Larry say: "Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users." They go on to say: "..we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers." While I'm taking these quotes a little out of context (please read the entire section), and I don't think they were promoting or condoning this potential probability, they do provide their opinions about advertising on search engines.
The next paragraph in "Section 8" shows how search engine advertising can be a "sneaky dude". The Google founders then say: "Since it is very difficult even for experts to evaluate search engines, search engine bias is particularly insidious." Their following example of this premise is probably why Google still doesn't do "paid inclusion" as Yahoo does. But, further along they say something very truthful and amazing, in my opinion: "In general, it could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want." So, why increase the number of PPC ads at the top of the SERP?
Wow, have things changed from their college days! Recently, Kevin Lee wrote "And Then There Were Three: Google Ad Display Increases". With Google increasing the number of "top of the page" PPC ads, one could argue that Sergey and Larry are not considering the consumer's point of view as much as their ever increasing pressure to keep increasing advertising revenue. Hopefully, they will always have as their primary goal being a better or best search engine, so that consumers can find what they want quickly. But, consumers are also continually getting more savvy about recognizing pressure to become a "conversion to sale" statistic through a persuasive web site architecture. The old school sales people would probably call this a path of "trial closes" along the way to making an online sale. This is fine, if the search engine user wants to be sold at that time. Otherwise, it's not. My opinion is this: there are more of those kinds of "pressure" web sites in the PPC ad listings, than in the natural, organic listings.
Also, Google still hasn't made a "hot link" to a disclaimer-educational page for the text "Sponsored Links" on the far right top of the SERP, and that same text is still a "hot link" in the center top of the SERP that goes to the first PPC advertiser's web site (this must annoy users who have to click back to the SERP!). Yet, the last sentence of "Section 8" says: "But we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm." Maybe I'm reading that wrong, but it sure sounds like Sergey and Larry would want to make the above two changes.
In the transcripts from the Consumer Reports WebWatch 6/9/05 Conference on "How Failure to Disclose Ad Relationships Threatens to Burst the Search Bubble", the Google Guy, Matt Cutts said: " It’s just they (Sergey & Larry) want them also to be clearly marked, so people know what they’re clicking on." "Clearly marked" was discussed at that conference, and Matt followed with " So the person who would be in charge of making sponsored links darker or making it a hyperlink, to have a more full disclosure so that more people can know, she was actually out of the country this week. I’ll certainly take that back as feedback, but at least that’s a couple of places where we can put it as prominently as possible, not just in quotes or talking to people, but hopefully people can find that information at least with Google, a little more easily."
Matt Cutts, I'm sure, does not make the final decision on these things, but one can only assume that after FIVE MONTHS has passed, and nothing has changed, the decision was either "No" or it was not made a priority to be followed through on? What do you think?
Animated image courtesy of www.artie.com.