Google Gobbles Retailer Ad Power

Dennis Faas's picture

Google is the web's most powerful entity. That much is not in doubt. The search engine's popularity dwarfs competitors Yahoo or, and no one knows it more than retailers. A number of companies are now a bit worried Google is inching up on their territory, offering a service that steers consumers away from official retail web sites for an alternate page established by the search titan itself.

It works like this. A web user enters the typical, one-in-a-gazillion search on Google. Nothing new there. However, once the results are listed, a second box created by Google points those shoppers to a secondary site that displays its own ads. That alternative site is displayed above all others, with individual retailer pages -- those many stores heavily depend upon -- tucked away down below. (Source:

That wouldn't be such a problem were it not for one issue in particular: Google's special site often lists ads for companies that directly compete with the requested retailer. A query for "Best Buy" might return ads for local, small-town competitors.

Another problem with the idea, which is being trumpeted as a convenient 'search-within-search', is that it takes advertising dollars right out of others' hands. Google's new feature guides visitors into its own page instead of popular sites like the Washington Post or New York Times. Convenient for the user, who can now quickly scan through the said web site, but not for the newspaper that depends on advertising for revenue.

Thus, it's not just retailers who are feeling the pinch from Google.

And yet, retailers appear to be the most upset. "Google is showing a level of aggressiveness with this that's just not needed," said one former retail executive. "Eventually this could be a huge problem if Google starts throwing this out there to all brands," said another. (Source:

Some retailers are being provided the option of turning off Google's feature, including However, it remains to be seen whether less powerful merchants can make Google see their way.

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