Google CEO Eric Schmidt: transparency, or more 'Google Speak'

I asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt yesterday if "inactive for search" contradicts Google's vaunted mission to "organize all the world's information."
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor
Google CEO Eric Schmidt invited members of the press for a Q & A following his public talk yesterday at the Search Engine Strategies Conference.

Schmidt welcomed us by stating his desire for greater “transparency.” The Q & A, however, yielded more “Google Speak,” rather than real insight into Google operations and strategy.

I discussed two important, but rarely debated, issues with Schmidt and present one of the exchanges below.


Google’s “inactive for search” penalty is contradictory to Google’s stated guiding mission of “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible.”

According to Google:

Your keywords may be marked 'inactive for search' and stop showing your ads on search results if they don't have a high enough Quality Score and maximum cost-per-click (CPC). This is another way of saying that your keyword or Ad Group's maximum CPC doesn't meet the minimum bid required to trigger ads on Google or its search network partners. This typically occurs when keywords aren't as targeted as they could be, and the ads they deliver aren't relevant enough to what a user is searching for.

I asked Schmidt how Google can claim to organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible, given that it unilaterally decides to not place ads for certain products, services or companies, merely because Google believes such ads would not meet Google’s gross margin objectives.

I presented Schmidt with a specific case-study:

1) A rare disease impacts five people in the world.
2) An independent scientist has a cure for the disease which he offers for sale and he wants to advertise it via AdWords to reach the five individuals afflicted by the disease; the five people are dispersed throughout the world.

AdWords Reaction
For Google, an AdWord placement that is of interest to five people is characterized as not “relevant enough” because “only” five people would click on such an ad, and it would be marked “inactive for search” by Google.

Real World Situation
1) For the five people afflicted by the disease, an ad for a cure is highly relevant.
2) For the scientist seeking to monetize his work, being able to reach the five afflicted individuals is critical to his livelihood.

According to Google, however, there are only two ways for an ad marked “inactive for search” to be “activated”:

If your keyword is inactive for search, you have the following options:

Increase your keyword's Quality Score by optimizing for relevancy.
Increase your keyword's maximum CPC to the recommended minimum bid.

As the scientist’s proposed ad for AdWords is already highly relevant, the only way the scientist can satisfy Google is to pay more to Google.

I asked Schmidt if such a scenario contradicts his mission to “organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”

Schmidt said that under the scenario I presented, the scientist’s ad would be run for the benefit of the five afflicted people.

I then asked Schmidt for clarification, and confirmation, that if any ad received a sole click, it would run on Google AdWords, and would not be marked “inactive for search.”

Schmidt did not confirm that such an ad would run and indicated that he would put me in touch with an AdWords specialist to discuss the issue.

Stay tuned to this Digital Micro-Markets Blog for details on a Google “clarification.”

Plus, stay tuned for presentation of Question Number Two that I discussed with Schmidt!


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