Is Google Manipulating Adwords? | SEMimpact

Is Google Manipulating Adwords?

While my experience pales in comparison to some of the SEM guru’s and evangelists of our industry, I’ve been around long enough (I think) to have formed my own inherent intuition when it comes to paid search.  And it’s that intuition that has led me to channel my inner muckraker and raise an eyebrow at Google’s own use of Adwords.

While performing searches for most generic “search engine marketing” or “advertising” terms, we’ve noticed that Google seems to have a stranglehold on the top right chunk of SERP (Search Engine Results Page) real estate. Note I don’t necessarily mean position 1, as they’re quite consistently being outranked by other advertisers in the space.  What I mean is that the top ad on the right hand side is almost always owned by “google.com/adwords” for most SEM related queries.  If you’ve got a spare minute, give it a shot – try and duplicate some of the examples provided below and I bet you’ll see the same thing I’m seeing: As other advertisers shuffle positions, Google remains the perennial ‘king of the hill’ on the right hand side of the SERP.

Why is that?

Now I don’t presume to have an explanation for this anomaly and what research we’ve done has yielded little information.  However, it seems far-fetched that Google somehow maintains the perfect balance of bid and Quality Score on such a wide array of keywords to be able to so consistently dominate this ad space.  Given the complexity of Quality Score and the ad rank formula, as well as the ever-changing, competitive landscape of the advertising vertical, Google’s use of adwords defies the conventional wisdom of PPC advertising.

I’m not trying to bite the hand that feeds me (being a Search marketer and all), but these findings definitely raise some questions.  Is Google purposely giving up the top 3 spots? If so, is there some new and untold benefit to owning the top right position? Does Google have some new bid-to-position algorithm that allows them to own SERP ad space? Or (more likely) is this some extemporized conspiracy theory conjured up by some coffee-addicted, semi-delirious Search Marketers?  Whatever the answer, we at SEMimpact welcome your hunches, best guesses, and 6th sense gut feelings. Search marketers of the world, the floor is yours.

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