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Is FairSearch.org Just A Bunch of Whiners?




Have you ever been in situation, be it business or personal, where you just got your butt kicked? A time when a competitor cleaned your clock and you walked away wounded because simply had your “you know what handed to you”? I suspect we all have if we are really in business.

How you respond in those situations are insights into your character.

Did you:

1. Slither into a corner or put your tail between your legs to lick your wounds?

2. Accept the defeat, learn from it, go back to the drawing board and figure how to prevent it from happening again?

3. Whine to everybody that you lost because it “wasn’t fair”?

The best way to handle this is the second option with the first one being a very distant second if you couldn’t “nut up” and fight. The third option, the whiner option, is one that should never be used but unfortunately in the entitlement mindset we have in today’s world it is the go to for many players. Even big ones.

The latest example comes from the organization FairSearch.org. I’ll be honest, I have not paid much attention to this group but what they are up to and who is really behind it, just doesn’t seem right. Fortunately though we have a free market so they have a voice and that’s still a good thing whether I agree or not.

First, to be fair about FairSearch.org, let’s look at the group’s stated objective on their website.

FairSearch.org is a group of businesses and organizations united to promote a healthy Internet future, where economic growth is driven by competition, transparency and innovation in search verticals and online services. We believe in enforcement of existing laws to prevent dominant companies from engaging in anticompetitive behavior and to protect investment and choice across the Internet ecosystem.

Translation: We don’t’ like Google and what they do.

OK, so you don’t like Google. That’s fine. You’re not alone. Now look at a partial member list:

Microsoft
Hotwire
Trip Advisor
Expedia
Foundem

This list is primarily travel related sites but notice the bookends. The perennial search also ran yet incredibly powerful company, Microsoft, and the poster child for using whining as your primary inbound marketing technique, Foundem.

So why point this out? Well, the group is pointing itself at Google and essentially trying to get any government that will listen (and for political reasons they all do) to try to build an anti-trust / monopoly argument against Google.

Why are they doing this? Because they are what I will call for this post “Option 3 players”. In other words, rather than standing up to fight and trying to do better than Google, they have chosen to whine about their poor, poor situation and they want a regulatory body to bring Google down a few pegs.

Their latest effort was released last Friday. Interestingly enough, I wouldn’t have even paid attention other than being alerted by a Google contact about the document and that Google had a response.

If you want to get a taste of where the group is coming from all you need to read is the following two paragraphs from the introduction.

While offering extraordinary opportunities, the scope of the Internet is also daunting for both users and web developers. There are currently more than 312 million websites and more appear every day. Internet users navigate this vast array of information through search engines – principally through a single dominant search engine: Google. Indeed, Americans “Google” so frequently and ubiquitously that the company’s name has virtually become a generic verb that means to search the Internet.

As a result Google has obtained unprecedented economic power over what users find, who is found, and what businesses must pay to be found on the Internet. More troubling, Google has used and continues to use this power to reinforce and expand its dominance through a pattern of exclusionary acts.

Wow. Personally, I use Google because it works and I haven’t found anything that currently works better.

The paper goes on in this “cry me a river” format for a while and essentially looks like a front for Microsoft to somehow make Google stub its big Internet toe on something to slow them down.

Google has responded with a post of its own which is formatted to take several points from the FairSearch argument and answer them. Here’s a sample.

Microsoft/FairSearch Claim: “A website‘s ability to compete depends largely on whether it appears on search results pages in response to users‘ queries and, more importantly, on where it appears within those results.”

Fact: We built Google search for consumers, not websites, and consumers don’t need Google to access the web. Google serves more like a GPS on the Internet highway—not an on-ramp. It helps people get around, but it’s not necessary. If someone knows where he wants to go, he can navigate to those destinations directly, whether it’s Craigslist, the New York Times websites, or icanhascheezburger.com. Search engines are popular and useful, but they’re just one of many ways to navigate the web. For example, according to Compete.com, NYTimes.com receives only 18% of its traffic from Google, while TMZ.com receives more traffic from Facebook than from Google, and Politico.com receives more traffic from the Drudge Report than Google.

Microsoft/FairSearch Claim: “As a result of its dominance in search and search advertising, Google can control where users go and what sites they find.”

Fact: Using Google is a choice, and there are lots of other choices available to you for getting information: other general-interest search engines, specialized search engines, direct navigation to websites, mobile applications, social networks, and more.

You get the drift. There are many more question and response entries on the post so check them out.

Of course, Microsoft has even bigger competitive worries from Google as more and more people realize that they use Google Docs pretty effectively thus avoiding buying Microsoft’s services. Oh there’s also that whole Chrome thing and much much more.

In the end though, I think it’s time to ask people that are actually at the receiving end of all of this how they feel. Do you, for instance, consider Google’s market dominance a hindrance to your business or your ability to get information from the Internet? Are you concerned that Google’s version of a better mousetrap is limiting your ability to compete in business or restrict you from finding information?

I realize this is a longer than usual post but I for one would just like to see the whining end and the serious competing to commence. I am more than willing to switch allegiances even if it creates some discomfort for me as long as I can see the benefit.

In fact, that is one reason why I am more seriously considering Google+ over Facebook. Ooops. Wait, I thought Facebook was invincible and no one could challenge their position in social media? Oh, that’s right, a different product with some attractive features came along to compete with them. I forgot that’s how business works.

If you went to the Microsoft School of Competition, however, rather than getting a textbook you are handed a diaper and a pacifier since all you would learn there is how to cry until you get what you want.

Your thoughts?

  • http://www.crossingmarketingandit.com Elmer Boutin

    If Microsoft, et al were to build a better mousetrap they would be able to cut into Google’s search business quite well. The same goes for Facebook and Twitter (versus Google+) and the myriad of other businesses competing against Google in various arenas.

    Give me a better product and I’ll switch – it’s as simple as that.

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      Amen, Elmer. It’s called the free market where the better mousetrap is determined by the users of the service. Calling on government to step so that more revenue can flow to offerings that people have a choice about is just pathetic.

  • http://www.greatwebsitesblog.com Barry Adams

    Sorry but I respectfully disagree. I think corporations with near-monopolies – like Google – do require some form of regulation to enable a fair and level playing field.

    Google is obviously aiming at the travel market for a new revenue source, complete with booking forms integrated in the SERPs. To maximise that potential it’s downgrading sites like TripAdvisor in its SERPs in various contexts.

    You say people have a choice in using Google. Free market and all that. But we all know the free market mechanism is a myth – users do not make informed choices, and users do not (and often cannot) know which service is better for them. Marketing spin and advertising manipulation make independently formed choices nearly impossible.

    If the free market worked, Microsoft would never have become as large as it is. If the free market worked, we’d all pay a dime for 100mb mobile broadband downloads. If the free market worked, the financial industry would never have collapsed.

    The sad fact is that corporations will do whatever they must to maximise profits, and consumers will buy it whole. I’m no fan of big governments either, but some steps must be taken to protect consumers and facilitate competition.

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      @Barrry Respectfully disagreeing is a good thing!

      Google’s dominance in search, however, is not comparable to Microsoft’s desktop monopoly. Oh and monopolies can exist. The definition is if the power wielded restricts or in some way harms the consumer. Maybe that’s the beauty of Google because even if people are doing it out of habit it costs them ZERO to use it and they have complete freedom to use something else like Microsoft’s Bing.

      As for marketing spin? Google is not exactly a marketing giant. In fact, they are awful so saying marketing spin from Google has done this is a bit off the mark.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation. As I said, RESPECTFULLY disagreeing is a very good thing!

      • http://www.greatwebsitesblog.com Barry Adams

        I think Google is actually very good at marketing, but goes about it in a different way. Google influences the influencers, who then serve as brand ambassadors. (For example, every webmaster video is a marketing message.)

        Another thing to realise is that because of Google’s perceived strength (i.e. brand power), SERPs that have the Google logo are perceived to be of better quality than SERPs with different or no logos. See this research here: http://bada.ms/btw (PDF file).

        And Google’s monopoly is very real, especially in Europe where their market share in many countries well exceeds 90%.

        I have little doubt that most of what Google does carries the best of intentions. But that doesn’t mean that it’s right for the consumer. The road to hell, and all that. :)

        • http://www.arcanasphere.com MrAndrewJ

          I’m sorry, I’m going to have to hit this “what’s right for the consumer” matter right where it hurts.

          “Fact: Using Google is a choice, and there are lots of other choices available to you for getting information.”

          So let’s call this what it is: Companies attempting to strong-arm their name in front of clients through the use of government regulation. That’s Bing, and that’s every webmaster who signs on to this. That’s not fair. That’s not healthy. That’s not in the customer’s best interest.

          The customers know that more search options exist. They simply don’t want them.

        • http://www.greatwebsitesblog.com Barry Adams

          “They simply don’t want them.” – that is exactly the point I’m trying to make: consumers don’t know what they want. Consumers use what they’re used to, not what is best for them.

          In the study I referred to, many users actually preferred Bing’s results when SERPs were shown unbranded – but they always opted for Google’s results when the Google brand was present. That’s brand power at work right there.

          I also find it somewhat ironic you have no problem deriding Microsoft for its dominant position – reached purely on the back of flawed market mechanisms and ‘users having a choice’ – but have no problem with Google doing the same.

        • http://www.arcanasphere.com MrAndrewJ

          You just said something nearly perfect.

          “Consumers use what they’re used to.”

          Yes. YES. That goes for the people selling things online even more than the search engines they use. If we really want people to trust us with their credit card information then we better have more to offer than a number one spot in the search engine. In this case, it IS good for them. Customers have a strong reason to believe that Mega Retailer, Inc. or even Little Guy With A Big Name, Inc. will deliver the goods and will not abuse their financial information.

          So, why do we act like prime search engine rankings and “what they’re used to” are the same thing?”

          I disagree almost entirely on the legal front exactly because I do agree with that one statement you made. Yes, they want what they’re used to. No, we’re not giving it to them by worrying about a search engine. Legislation feels like chasing the wrong problem, IMO.

          It’s been great to see a lively conversation here and I wish you the best in your ventures.

  • http://www.arcanasphere.com MrAndrewJ

    “We built Google search for consumers, not websites.”

    I am so tempted to quote that on my resume. Below it: “If the above statement from Google seems alien or contradictory to your marketing efforts then please destroy all copies of this document.”

    On that note, no. I don’t blame Google. I work in web design and I blame short-sighted third rate hucksters who honestly believe that #1 search engine rankings are all that drive sales. I’ve done enough personal research to disprove so much ranking mythology that I want to call BS on MS as well.

    “Whiners” isn’t even close to strong enough. This is dangerous. These are grown-ups who should know better attempting to turn the rest of us into collateral damage for their own failures.

    Thankfully, Microsoft in particular should be disqualified from this scheme by virtue of being the gargantuan Microsoft: Windows, X-Box, Internet Explorer plus their “of death” family of red ring and blue screen products, to name a few. They’re not starving for money and hopefully won’t be fooling anyone, either.

  • http://www.theuniversalmathematics.com/ DIESEL

    Google simply is a better run company, I don’t think Facebook will be able to keep up with them.

  • akljdfkad

    You’re a bit of a google shill aren’t ya? Your reasoning is incorrect. Take your example about top search results not being the same as what people want /are used to/will do business with for example.

    Ask yourself how many times exactly you personally, or anyone you know, has done business with a link on the second to tenth page of search results? Or is it more likely going to be found within the top five links?

    Ah. You seem to also overlook that google has done whinning aplenty of their own where MS is concerned. It’s a part of their toolkit, and if anyone has, it is google that taught MS these uses of it. Don’t be such a fanboy.

    • http://www.localbasix.com Frank Reed

      @akljdkad – Might I suggest that if you want to challenge someone about being a fanboy at least have the stones to use your own name on your comment.

  • Bay

    All wounded businesses will fight tooth and nail before dying. That when they’re the most dangerous and will stop at nothing for a last breath of economic life. No different today in the fast passed technical world. If it takes a lot of crying to damage your opponent…so be it.

  • oboe

    “They simply don’t want them.” – that is exactly the point I’m trying to make: consumers don’t know what they want. Consumers use what they’re used to, not what is best for them.

    Couldn’t agree more. I run a small soft drink manufacturing company that competes with Coke and Pepsi. We’re in the process of suing the two dominant players because of their unfair brand recognition. It’s outrageous that they’re taking advantage of consumers who don’t know what they want, and are merely using what they’re used to, not what is best for them.

    I’m hoping we can convince the US government to break up this unfair duopoly. Stupid consumers deserve the right to be forced to buy our soft drink product. After all, it’s much tastier.

  • Dorian Harris

    It’s not really about Microsoft is it? More about the biilionaire’s boys club of Expedia and Friends behind it. Pity they weren’t more fairersearch.org