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Google is making it harder for vertical search engines September 24, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, arbitrage, business models, google, Lead gen, Search.

DavidZHawk asks, “What if Google Declared War on Comparison Shopping Engines and No One Noticed?” and points to an Inside Adwords blog post (my bolding):

The following types of websites are likely to merit low landing page quality scores and may be difficult to advertise affordably. In addition, it’s important for advertisers of these types of websites to adhere to our landing page quality guidelines regarding unique content.

* eBook sites that show frequent ads
* ‘Get rich quick’ sites
* Comparison shopping sites
* Travel aggregators

* Affiliates that don’t comply with our affiliate guidelines

Comparison shopping sites and travel aggregators are just two classes of the many flavors of vertical search engine, although they monetize better than most because of the high proportion of transactional search queries. As a result they have been able to afford to buy traffic through Seach Engine Marketing (SEM) where other vertical search engines have not been able to afford to due to lower monetization rates.

When you combine this move to send less traffic to vertical search engines with Google’s more aggressive inclusion of “One Box” search results from Froogle and their other owned vertical search efforts, you start to wonder if Google is looking to keep more of its traffic recirculating within its own properties. iGoogle and Gmail were the first signs that Google might aspire to keep control of more of the traffic that starts there.


1. pwb - September 25, 2007

If Google took into account what searchers actually click on (it’s insane that this most critical piece of data is disregarded), comparison shopping sites would naturally drift down in the results.

2. Ethan Stock - September 25, 2007

PWB, whatever makes you think that Google ignores “this most critical piece of data”? They don’t. They factor user clicks into Adwords placement, and they factor them into search relevance. As you say, they’d be insane not to.

3. gwhiz - September 25, 2007

Mr. Liew –

Actually, I think Judy at Inside Adwords may have done us CSE’s and VSE’s a service (as have you and DavidZHawk) by shining some light on the subject and probably just HELPED us more than hurt us. Yeah, I’d say the net net is a positive.

Gerald Buckley

4. Joe Suh - September 25, 2007

pwb – Google does take into account the CTR’s of Adwords advertisers. It’s all baked into that mysterious Quality Score, where Rank = CPC * QS

But if you’re commenting about the natural organic search results – I don’t believe Google takes clicks into account.

5. kid mercury - September 25, 2007

IMO google is actually making vertical search easier via its custom search engine. they know the game is going niche, and are helping people play accordingly.

6. Scott Lawton (Blogcosm) - September 25, 2007

Good move by Google — and consistent with their earlier announcement that mere search results aren’t good candidates to be indexed. (I hope that gets enforced; I’ve seen plenty of exceptions.)

If I want to comparison shop (or any other vertical search), I should go to that site. When I search Google for a product, I want product info (especially reviews).

Andy - October 21, 2009

Scott – I don’t think you’ve thought this through. It’s flawed logic like this that has allowed Google to get away with nonsense like this for so long.

You say that you are ALWAYS looking for product info especially reviews when you search Google for a product. Really? Even if you type something like “best price make model” or “compare prices make model”. What might you be looking for then?

More importantly, you could apply this same twisted logic to all websites that a user might justifiably expect Google to return when relevent to their query. Why not also block all manufacturer websites. If I want them, I should just go their site. Right? Similarly, why list any stores? If I want one of those I should just visit their site. Right?

…In fact, why should Google list anything. Why don’t we all just visit the sites we’re after directly?

The saddest part? You are a million miles from alone in your illogical view…People just don’t think these things through.

7. Dan Blank: Publishing, Innovation & the Web » Blog Archive » Google Makes it Harder for Vertical Search Engines - September 26, 2007

[…] Liew takes a brief look at how Google is penalizing some vertical search engines within Google search results, and making it harder for them to survive: “When you combine […]

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