Thursday, September 5, 2019

Search Ads for Competing Products

Jason Fried:

When Google puts 4 paid ads ahead of the first organic result for your own brand name, you’re forced to pay up if you want to be found. It’s a shakedown. It’s ransom.

Tobi Lütke:

It’s totally crazy for google to get away with charging what’s basically protection money on your own brand name. “Nice high intend traffic you got there, would be a shame if something were to happen to it”

John Gruber:

And of course, Google doesn’t let you target any of their own trademarks this way, and won’t even let you mention “Google” in your ad text. And Google no longer visually styles paid results distinctively from actual search results — just the little “Ad” icon before the result URL.

I think it’s useful to be able to find out about related products through ads. What feels wrong is that the ads don’t really look like ads. It looks like a list of results where the organic one, which is almost certainly what the person wants, is never at the top. So, (a) you have to pay to be where you should have been anyway, and (b) some customers will click the first result and end up somewhere unexpected.

Pieter Gunst:

Lots of misleading ads also...

Jason Snell:

See also App Store ads

Dominik Wagner:

E.g. search for Things, then the first and full scale entry is a competitor that paid.

Paul Haddad:

Apple sure is better than Google.

At least Apple uses a different color for the ad.

Sascha Rucks:

We even got a call from an Apple sales rep who made clear that we need to bid on our own keywords/brand name to make sure that we are at first place and not one of our competitors…

For once, maybe it’s good that the Mac App Store doesn’t have feature parity.

Cale Guthrie Weissman:

Data from Jumpshot says that more than 50% of Google searches in June didn’t result in a click. The results show that organic search clicks are going down even as paid Google search clicks are going up, as are searches to result in no clicks whatsoever. For brands, businesses and marketers who rely on organic Google search results to drive commerce, this means recalibrating how they think of Google in their plans.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Google is slowly but surely choking the web. This is what monopoly power inevitably leads to. The noblest of founding intentions is no match for the imperative.

Juli Clover:

For basic searches like “maps,” Apple’s apps ranked first more than 60 percent of the time in the WSJ’s testing. Apps that generate revenue like Music or Books showed up first in 95 percent of related searches.


Apple says that it uses an algorithm that uses machine learning and past consumer preferences, leading to app rankings that often fluctuate. Apple suggested that its apps ranked first in the WSJ’s testing because those apps are popular with consumers. Apple says that all apps are subjected to the same search algorithm, including its own.


Update (2019-09-06): Kyle Howells:

It’s shameful how Google has regressed from clearly showing ads, to gradually trying to hide them and trick people into thinking they are the search results.

Update (2019-11-27): David Heinemeier Hansson:

This is frustrating. We’d so much rather spend our money providing Basecamp for free for personal use than pay the Google tax to defend against predatory, VC-boosted ads squatting on our brand. *sigh*

Especially from company that’s on that growth-uber-alles path with no need to turn a profit. I mean when you’ve raised over $200,000,000, you’re not exactly bound by the same laws of business as the rest of us.

And Google of course does nothing. We filed for trademark protection three months ago, which they granted (so ads can’t use our TM in their ad text), but they simply refuse to enforce their own policy. Of course. Because they make more money doing nothing!

Brent Simmons:

They do the same thing to OmniFocus — and they don’t even get the capitalization right. I don’t expect better from them, but I’d like better from Google.

Wil Shipley:

I continue to be impressed with how incredibly useful and user-friendly ads in the App Store are. Such a good idea!

Update (2019-12-20): Marco Arment:

App Store search results for “podcast”:

[Ad] Podbean Podcast App
Your podcast app for iPhone

Apple Podcasts

The Podcast App
Podcast App for iPhone

The Podcast App Premium
for The Podcast App

Award-winning podcast player

The Podcast Player
Podcast app by Castbox

Update (2021-05-06): Tom Warren:

Tim Sweeney getting angry at Apple in 2018 over Fortnite not being the number 1 result in the App Store. All because Microsoft, PUBG, and others kept buying ads in the App Store for search results

Both Apple and Google apps appeared at the top of the list when searching for “Dropbox”, and the Dropbox app wasn’t even on the first page.

Update (2021-10-28): Sebastiaan de With:

Here’s me searching for the name of my app. Lightroom is the top result and almost all of my screen.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

Google is undermining their own value by accepting ads that usurp the rightful top search results.

I use google less and less these days as there are so many categories where another website will be more useful.

For general information Wikipedia

For general shopping eBay or Amazon

For specialist shopping sites that specialise in those categories.

Once you spot that a search company is open to having it's top results swayed by payment from 3rd parties, it's time to give up on the search company.

And yeah, the same goes for Apple's app store searches which are near useless but no-doubt bring in an infinitesimal amount of money to compensate for the devaluing of the service.

Why are their so many muppets running / ruining things in tech?

@Niall Yeah, it really seems penny wise, pound foolish.

From Juli Clover: “Apple says that it uses an algorithm that uses machine learning and past consumer preferences, leading to app rankings that often fluctuate. Apple suggested that its apps ranked first in the WSJ’s testing because those apps are popular with consumers. Apple says that all apps are subjected to the same search algorithm, including its own.“
I’d be interested in knowing if Apple’s algos weigh “number of purchases”, because that has been an Apple-App Store problem for a long while. Apple was including their bundled apps in the various list rankings, which, of course, is a thoroughly unfair thing to do to developers who don’t share the position. To the point of unethical. It lead to products like iWork dominating the top 5 spots consistently, to the point of absurdity. The worst offense, which I flogged to death personally, tweeting at Phil Schiller and John Gruber likely to the point of annoyance, was the listing of FaceTime in the Top 10. FaceTime, as some may recall, was initially a for-pay upgrade to Mac OS X 10.6, iirc; so it was in the App Store. Clearly, as time progressed, there was ZERO CHANCE there were still that many Mac OS X 10.6 users still around paying $1.99 to push it up the rankings, so it became obvious that Apple was counting the number of bundled-installations the App Store saw on Macs as “purchases”, boosting the FaceTime numbers. That should never have happened to begin with. But it stayed like that for 3 years, or more! You’d have thought that the powers that be at Apple would have noticed FaceTime on the Top 10 when they curated their Top 10 lists and asked questions. Which means they either didn’t actually curate their lists, were really dumb, or maliciously allowed a faulty algo to continue to push a competitor app off the Top 10 (because FaceTime was wrongly taking a spot). Worse, the reviews of the FaceTime app reflected that users of later versions of a Mac OS X where FaceTime -was- bundled were still trying to buy it! Likely because, after Apple removed the FaceTime app from the Dock by default, neophyte users were ignorant about how to find it and thought they needed to buy it to communicate with other new-to-iPhone users (esp after Apple began to advertise FaceTime on tv adverts). Again, these reviews persisted for YEARS. It was an inexcusable scenario, and really destroyed my faith in Apple’s narrative that they were diligently curating the App Store; and all of the App Store snafus since have done nothing to restore my confidence. IMHO, there needs to be a significant shake-up at the Exec Team level, too obvious that several employees at that level are either far too overextended, maliciously not fit for their positions, or have become so wealthy/elitist they don’t care about Apple’s community anymore.

[…] Search Ads for Competing Products ➝ […]

following up on
> Dominik Wagner:
> E.g. search for Things, then the first and full scale entry is a competitor that paid.

Sales of mySleepButton® took a hit when Apple introduced in-app advertising. We had had a great year. But our well-funded competitors capitalized on our brand in App Store. Yet *we* at CogSci Apps Corp. do fundamental research (we're not just selling old style meditations).

Furthermore, mySleepButton is a trademark. Apple and their competitors are not legally allowed to make use of our trademark in their ad database. Yet they do. I don't know if anyone has challenged Apple legally about use of trademarks in their App Store ad database. Same principle presumably applies to Google.

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