There has been a recent Twitter storm, highlighting how Google allows brands to bid on other brands names and even include their brand name in their adverts. This tactic is a deliberate act to mislead consumers, sabotaging their genuine search for a company that is not you. If the consumer wanted choice they would search for a sector, a product or a generic term but when their search is for a particular company, showing other results above (especially ones which are designed to look like that company) is confusing and quite simply, wrong. I can’t actually think of another service like it because it’s such a poor experience. I have never walked into a cinema and asked for a ticket to a certain film only to be handed tickets for something completely different because that studio has lots of money to pay off the cinema. That would be outrageous.
Who wins? Google!
With anyone being able to bid on any company names, Google has created an ecosystem where small businesses need to pay them ‘protection money’ even to be shown when a consumer has made it perfectly clear what they are looking for. Who wins with this tactic? Google and larger /well-funded businesses certainly do, but, we believe, small companies trying to breakthrough or disrupt do not. My last article mentioned how we are not a ‘grow at all costs’ business and ‘killing off’ the competition is not a path we will ever go down. Would we feel good if the way we were growing involved tricking new customers into thinking they have clicked on something else? Absolutely not. Would we feel like we had done a good job and our product was the best in the market if we could only get new customers by (out) bidding on others’ names? Nope. If referrals from happy hiyacar members is not our number one marketing channel then we have failed to build a solution that best meets demand.
Be proud of your choices…
For full transparency, we are not perfect and we (or one of our agencies) have in the past used similar tactics, however, once this was made known to us, we had the opportunity, together with other providers, to make another beautiful choice. We were not comfortable with acquiring new customers using this method as it felt like we were being introduced to them on a lie. In-person, we would never introduce ourselves to anyone on a lie, especially a person who is looking to pay their hard-earned money to use our service, so why do it online? It just didn’t sit right with us, so we stopped while agreeing with others in our sector to do the same as the only thing it was achieving was customer confusion and filling Google’s pockets further. We can see that others have made the conscious decision to carry on this practice because it gets them clicks and that is their choice. But even though we see it, we will not do the same in return. When choices like this present themselves it is what you do that defines your values and your culture, not what might be written in a document or pinned on your wall. Be proud of your choices. I often ask myself when it comes to making choices of this nature: ‘would my daughters be proud of me’. If I told them we were hijacking a customer and stifling another business in the process, I don’t think they would be.
We are making a stand against unsustainable and aggressive behaviours that have been dominating the tech sector for so long and want to take the chance to remind those whose morals are slipping, probably because they have unattainable, arbitrary targets to hit whichever way they can, that there is a better way. I know we will get the argument of ‘but it is allowed’ and ‘others are doing it’. Does that make it right? We believe it doesn’t, and even more so as it often doesn’t make commercial sense….unless you are Google.