Don't Get Scroogled This Christmas

Scroogled Google PLAsBing is declaring war on Google this holiday season, with messages aimed at holiday shoppers calling Google’s management out on the new paid ad Google Shopping results and showcasing Bing as the new ideal for “honest” search results.

The campaign, cheekily nicknamed “Don’t Get Scroogled” comes with a video and even its own website to go along with the press release from the 28th November which accuses Google of providing falsified search results in the new pay-to-rank scheme on Google Shopping. The basis of the argument is Google’s somewhat subtle announcement of a “purely commercial model” which delivers product listings based purely on bid price. Bing says this has turned Google Shopping from a true search engine into nothing but a list of targeted ads which masquerades as search results, deceiving shoppers and users.

Bing’s aim – other than to drum up publicity and support – is to raise consumer awareness of the new model and encourage people to be wary of Google Shopping search results, especially during the high-pressure sales situation of Christmas shopping.

Originally an organic search tool designed specifically for products, Google Shopping has been around for years. Google very discreetly announced in May 2012 that there would be a new paid model for product searches which requires merchants to set up product listing ads (PLAs) and bid to be included in product comparison lists. According to Bing, this model presents results not based on quality or relevance but purely on bid price, turning what should be a neutral shopping comparison tool into nothing but a giant list of paid advertisements which is pretending to be authoritative.

Bing wants to call on Google to stop this practice of paid inclusion, calling it an abuse of consumer trust, and is backing up its argument with quotes from Google’s own staff which scroll regularly atop the website – quotes which commonly feature Google’s founders explaining how paid ads bias search results and other such statements supporting the popular “don’t be evil” policies of the early company. Most of these position statements now ring hollow and even look completely reversed when compared against the new Google Shopping product. Bing claims that the new, overly commercial approach is throwing Google’s trusted brand “down the chimney.”

Interesting stuff. Should search positions be shown just by the highest bidder? Are Google compromising their founding values by not making it clear which results are natural and which are paid, potentially conning Google Shopping users searching for products on their so-called comparison service? Is this a sharp drop in Google ethics or just a reflection of the more commercial nature of the current economy? Does anyone predict a mass shift to Bing or alternative search providers? It’s too early to be sure, but this latest shift in Google’s public philosophy certainly bears close watching.

Published on 01/12/2012

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