In 2012, the USA’s Federal Trade Commission composed a report on some of Google’s more questionable business practices. However, in 2013, the FTC voted to end its investigation into the search engine giant, and the report remained unpublished for years. Now, however, the document has finally made it into the cold light of day, and it could severely damage Google.
As it transpires, the FTC investigation uncovered evidence that Google had deliberately distorted its own search results in order to push its services above those of its rivals.
While the FTC document suggests that Google’s practices “resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation”, there’s a compelling argument to be made that the company is well within its rights to promote its own products and services using its own search engine. However, regardless of where you stand on the ethics of Google’s behaviour, these practices undoubtedly represent an enormous marketing blunder for the company.
How could behind-the-scenes practices that we’re only learning of now be a marketing blunder? Because Google should have realised that its name would be permanently tarnished if the public ever learned it had been manipulating its search results. The web giant famously adopts “don’t be evil” as its company motto and promotes itself as a corporation with the highest ethical standards. Any practice that doesn’t live up to these standards is a marketing and public relations disaster waiting to happen and could demage Google’s entire public persona.
Already, the repercussions of Google’s actions are becoming apparent. The long-running campaign calling for the EU authorities to break Google’s monopoly over online searches in Europe has picked up the investigation’s findings as a powerful political weapon. The movement already had a significant degree of traction, and is likely to gain even more ground due to this development.
But what does all this mean for you and your business? In essence, it means you should start looking into optimising your web pages, content and online marketing for search engines other than Google. If the EU chooses to give credence to the anti-monopoly campaign in light of this report, search engines such as Yahoo and Bing could suddenly find themselves with a significantly greater share of the market. If that happens, your own marketing strategies will have to adapt accordingly. So start your research on how to achieve this now, because forewarned is forearmed and this controversy isn’t likely to fade quickly.