Google and the mystery of being #3...

Google and the mystery of being #3...

Summary: A Senate comittee recently questioned Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, about a strange set of search results: Google's sites consistently ranked in the #3 position across hundreds of products and services...

TOPICS: Google, Browser, CXO

My son told me about a breakthrough ad strategy he stumbled upon for his affiliate businesses: reduce your Google AdWords spend, yes, you drop down from #1 in the Google advertising order to #3 or so, but the conversion rate is still good and it's costing a lot less.

The reason I'm sharing this tidbit is because it reminded me of this: When Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, testified recently in front of a Senate committee, he was asked about a puzzling set of search results, ones that consistently showed Google sites in the #3 position...

CNET reported that Senators Al Franken, Mike Lee, and the subcommittee's Chairman Herb Kohl asked Mr Schmidt about this strange set of search results, which nearly always showed Google's sites in the #3 position, across hundreds of product and service searches.

In one exchange, [Mike] Lee tried hard to pin down Schmidt on why results from searches on 650 different products seemed to look fishy. He noted that very often, Google's services or products ranked third. Lee made it clear he was skeptical of such "magical" results.

It was tense at the hearing after Lee told Schmidt that he could only conclude: "You've cooked it so that you're always third."

Google could argue that #3 is not #1. If it were cooking the books surely it would seek pole position?

But #3 is plenty good enough to get a great conversion plus Google can sell the #1 and #2 search slots. Being #3, as my son discovered, can be very profitable. It might be one of the reasons Google has been reporting a massive jump in revenues this year.

However, Mr Schmidt was adamant that Google hadn't fixed anything.

Lee was prepared to move on ... but Schmidt didn't let him. "Senator, let me say that I can assure you we haven't cooked anything."

I agree with the Senators, it does smell fishy and knowing Mr Schmidt, I don't think he's the right person to be answering such questions.

Mr Schmidt was hired to be a distraction, a lightning rod, taking attention away from the founders and "running interference" with Washington. And he is still doing that job. If I were looking to gain insight into Google I wouldn't be asking Mr Schmidt.

The Senate should be questioning Google's CEO Larry Page.

Mr Page has embarked on an incredibly aggressive business strategy, one that's testing the boundaries, it seems similar to Microsoft's strategy from the 1990s, to aggressively compete then deal with any fallout later. We're just seeing this new strategy emerge.

It's wonderfully ironic that Mr Schmidt has to answer the Senate's anti-trust probe of Google when he spent many years at the helm of Novell, complaining to the government about Microsoft's business practices.

(It's interesting that you don't see news stories mention this fact about Eric Schmidt's past (it's not a conspiracy it's just the youth of the reporters)).

Tune in to SVW for more... a future series about Google's secret war -- and it's not against Facebook -- that's a red herring.

Topics: Google, Browser, CXO

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  • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

    If you use Google Adwords to promote an affiliate business, Google will most likely terminate and BAN your account. In the Internet Marketing world this happens more common that a trip to the bathroom.

    But it seems to be working for your son, so more power to him!

    Google is scared of Facebook. Of course they are "cooking" things, especially with the new Panda algorithm updates to stay on top of the stock market.

    Once Facebook goes public, game over.
    • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

      @MarcMedia Marc interesting insight but I thought Facebook already went Public with their IPO awhile back which was backed by Goldman Sachs?
      Arush Rehman
      • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

        @Arush Rehman
        You have wrong info Sir. Goldman Sachs didn't back any IPO for FB, only helped its customers gain its stock. FB is slated for an IPO in late 2012
    • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

      Interestingly look please
      Student from Bosnia
  • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

    Those people who belive that google is not evil should be really stupid.
    • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

      like u??
      • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

        @linuxforhumanbeing Oh snap!
  • Mathematical equivalent of 'fishy, sceptical' 'monopoly'

    In a famous Amercian trial the prosecution put forward that the defendant had abused his wife and was therefore more likely to have murdered her. The defence pointed out that only 1 in a 1000 wives were murdered by their spouses. Unfortunately the prosecution wasn't up to the maths. of conditional probability. The relevant statistic being that of those abused wives murdered, 4 in 5 were killed by their husband. Bit of a difference 1 in 1000 to 4 out of 5.<br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>We do need to know 650 out of how many and how important (650 out of the top 1000 most valuable commodities?) of course ... but really, 650 is 'fishy', you are 'sceptical'? Call me hardline, but I am almost certain! Guilty of murder, I say.<br><br>"Mr Page has embarked on an incredibly aggressive business strategy, one thats testing the boundaries, it seems similar to Microsofts strategy from the 1990s, to aggressively compete then deal with any fallout later."<br>Bravo! A ZDNET blogger who sees reality AND has the integrity to speak up. You forgot INTEL's idea of 'fair competition' with AMD (who had the superior product at the time). Most of the major IT giants are unlawful operators, many convicted already.<br><br>In other threads ZDNET bloggers are debating whether M$'$ measures of Secure Boot, plugin banishment in METRO IE and the METRO software store - exclusive and with a 30% cut to M$ - is anti-competetive and monopolistic.<br>So tell me, would you let a convicted (but supposedly reformed) child-molester walk your daughter home from school?
    • Google is not a monopoly

      @johnfenjackson@... They're free to put their own sites on the results and if the users are dissatisfied they can go use another search engine. Also they charge their customers zero, so there can be no accusation of price gouging.

      It's not like any of their users can't name a competing search engine if they tried.

      Google is not a monopoly. It has never been adjudicated so. Until and unless that happens, critics can go take a walk.
      • Yes, one has to be labeled a monopoly in court before

        they are actually a monopoly in actions.

        With 79 percent of the MP3 market, Apple is not a monopoly, as the remaining MP3 manufacturers in the industry can divide the remaining 21 percent amoungst themselves.

        And the fact that Apple can leverage their music libray against others (as they did with Amazon in refernce to Sony music) means that they do not weild monopoly power, as they have not been labeled as such in court.

        Tim Cook
    • You are a $oogle fan, are you not?

      and somehow fear Microsoft, which would make sense of all your posts that reference Microsoft, even though they are not the focus of the inquirery of article.

      Tim Cook
  • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

    The blog post is a bit misleading. What were the products and services where Google ranked #3? Could it possibly be that they are legitimately the 3rd ranked product or service in that area. I also assume that Google affiliates count such as blogger and picasa. A little more transparency and your arguments wouldn't just seem to be anti-google fodder.
  • then can you tell google what should be put at #3?

    Google is providing searching service, and is giving the results it thinks the best to searchers. If google thinks putting its website at #3 is the best for searchers, what's wrong with it? if it is wrong, what search result is the 'right' one, can you tell me?
  • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

    Google has 2-5 ads on top, maybe a link or two and then the products with pictures, and that's key, as pictures attract clicks and user attention.

    Are these products the best for the user or for Google? Just test them.
  • Are these &quot;unpaid&quot; search results or advertising slots?

    "But #3 is plenty good enough to get a great conversion plus Google can sell the #1 and #2 search slots."

    Are these "unpaid" search results or advertising slots?

    If they are labeled as advertising, why wouldn't a Google service be allowed to advertise on the #1 search site?
  • RE: Google and the mystery of being #3...

    Student from Bosnia
  • Google does not sell search rankings

    Your statement that Google might place its own services in the #3 spot so it can sell the #1 and #2 spots is uninformed nonsense. One of the ways Google differentiated itself from competing search providers early on was by NEVER selling search rankings (just ads which are clearly separated from search results). This has not changed and I doubt it ever will.
  • Some Examples?

    I did a Google search on "search engine", and the #3 result was indeed for the #3 search engine service. The #2 search engine was returned 4th (Altavista) and 5th (Yahoo), while the #1 service came-up 6th.

    Can someone provide some example of where Google is returned 3rd - what sorts of products and services are the Senate committee highlighting?