More questions for Google: What do you want to ask Google?

What questions should Google be asked? Contribute your questions.

As I indicated in "Google Q & A: What questions do you want to ask Google?", Google will have the opportunity to provide more information on how it works next week when it holds a Q & A with financial analysts and investors to “offer more opportunities for the investment community to interact with our senior management.” What questions should Google be asked?

Join me to create a COLLABORATIVE GOOGLE Q & A to be proposed to Google for the analyst Q & A Google is holding next week.

Here are the questions so far:

1) Do you do more to prevent click fraud in your AdSense operations than in your AdWords operations?

2) Will you agree to reimburse your advertisers in cash, rather than in Google AdWords credits, for payments they made to you for fraudulent clicks?

3) Will you make absolute data available to the public on the exact words and phrases the public is searching on at your properties, as well the number of times the words and phrases are searched on?

4) Rather than lobbying the U.S. legislature, will you stop censoring

5) Will you amend your mission statement to accurately reflect your profit motives?


The United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, order compelling your compliance with part of the U.S. Department of Justice subpoena for information from your search engine operation records stated: “Google claims that its success is attributed in large part to the volume of its users and these users may be attracted to its search engine because of the privacy and anonymity of the service.”

However, Lee Shaker’s scholarly paper, “In Google we trust”, discusses the need for information integrity in the digital age and posits about your operations:

As a company that organizes information at its core, Google has not been sufficiently examined in this context. To begin with, Google maintains server records for every search term used, every Web site visited, and the IP address and browser associated with these actions (Mills, 2005). Google’s other services are not innocuous either. Gmail, in return for free access to a large amount of server space, scans every e–mail and provides targeted advertisements based on the words within them (Orlowski, 2004b). If logged in, the account created to use Gmail carries over to use of Froogle or Google Scholar, linking academic and consumer searches with a unique user regardless of the computer used…At the same time, Google’s resistance to a consumer–friendly privacy policy is well documented and suspicious…reading the privacy policy makes it clear that it is a document to protect the company’s interests first, to reassure users second, and protect users lastly…

6) Will you agree to cease maintaining server records, for searches and Web sites visited, with the IP addresses and browsers associated with these actions, for searches that do not yield clicks on sponsored links?


In advertising your AdWords product, you state, in the “How much does AdWords cost?" faq, “In the Google AdWords program, the cost of your campaigns really depends on you -- how much you're willing to pay… Daily budgets start as low as 1 cent up to whatever limit the advertiser is comfortable spending.”

Joshua Stylman, Managing Partner of Search Engine Marketing firm Reprise Media, wrote at the firm’s blog last November:

Theoretically, search marketing is supposed to be the new democratized way in which media will be bought and sold. Given the nature of the "open" auction systems and 24/7/365 access, that should be the case… That said, anyone who thinks that Adwords is a transparent system clearly has not spent much, if any, time actually managing SEM campaigns.

Unlike other pure auction systems such as Yahoo where the advertiser that pays the most gets featured at the top of the list of sponsored results, Google's system is based upon an equation that factors in what an advertiser is willing to pay (cost-per-click) along with relevancy (supposed to be click-through-rate…)

When Google launched this system they were praised for purportedly caring more about their users because they wanted them to see only the most relevant ads. What seems to have gotten lost is the fact that it's not just the users who win: advertisers get better performance and Google is able to maximize its profit potential.

The fact that the house always wins is not the reason Google is opaque. The main driver behind this point is that the users of its system can't necessarily identify causal relationships to improve their own performance….While the most obvious parallel to auction-based media markets are the financial exchanges, the major distinction is that Google never tells you what other advertisers are willing to pay. By comparison, Yahoo! and other second tier systems like Miva and Enhance offer total insight into what the bid landscapes in the market look like.

To use financial services terminology, Google's system becomes a guessing game on the spread between the bid and the ask..All this chaos, of course, leaves the market guessing, which is very good for Google - not to mention their stock price.

7) Will you uphold the Better Business Bureau Code of Advertising? i.e., “The primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests with the advertiser…An advertisement as a whole may be misleading although every sentence separately considered is literally true. Misrepresentation may result not only from direct statements but by omitting or obscuring a material fact.”

Your AdSense Help Center “How much will I earn through this program?” faq states:

advertisers pay either when users click on ads, or when the advertiser's ad is shown on your site. You'll receive a portion of the amount paid for either activity on your website. Although we don't disclose the exact revenue share, our goal is to enable publishers to make as much or more than they could with other advertising networks. The best way to find out how much you'll earn is to sign up and start showing ads on your web pages.

8) Will you agree to operate under generally accepted standard business practices and provide prospective AdSense publishers with a meaningful, upfront commission schedule?

Your AdSense AdWords Help center "Keyword State - Inactive for Search" faq states:

A keyword marked inactive for search doesn't have a high enough Quality Score and maximum cost-per-click (CPC) to trigger ads on Google or the search network. This means your keyword's maximum CPC doesn't meet the minimum bid required to trigger ads. Inactive keywords aren't performing well.

Until recently, your nomenclature for “inactive keywords” was “disabled keywords.” It seems that marking a keyword “inactive for search”, or disabling it and thereby reducing your users’ access to information and reducing your advertisers’ ability to share their information with your users, is contrary to your stated mission to “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible.”

While “inactive keywords aren’t performing well” may mean that the so-named inactive keywords are not of such a generic nature as the widely searched, and therefore, presumably, widely profitable keywords like “mortgage” or “prescription drugs” many so-named inactive keywords are undoubtedly of high informational value to your individual users.

Also, many so-called underperforming keywords represent efforts of entrepreneurs and small, local businesses to leverage the power of the Internet to efficiently reach their highly targeted audiences. Such efforts, in fact, correspond to your oft stated positioning of new ad products as leveling the playing field for small businesses, as you recently illustrated with the launch of Google Video Ads:

A large percentage of video ads will come from small advertisers," said Gokul Rajaram, a director of product management at Google. "A small resort owner in Maui probably already has video of their great beachfront property. Now they can put it in an ad and reach a qualified set of users.

Robert Cringely wrote about how the Ad Sense  AdWords “inactive keyword” or “disabling” system is actually disadvantaging a small business in his “The Rich Get Richer, Google Needs Some Ad Sense,” earlier this week:

The system appears to be optimized for people selling goods of interest to millions of people, to huge marketers no matter what they are selling, but not to tiny businesspeople trying to mine narrow niches like equation editors. By targeting campaigns and not keywords, big advertisers can use any keywords they wish regardless of the relevance simply because they exist in a much larger corpus. Because keywords are treated by Google not individually but in the context of the whole campaign and these companies receive so many clicks overall, none of their keywords are likely to perform poorly using this algorithm.

The result is that no matter how inappropriate or even offensive, those words will also be cheap to buy. And because these keywords have performed “well,” their “history” is then updated with regard to the campaign of the big advertiser, effectively blocking out small advertisers who can’t compete with the massive click rates of big companies.

Google says “we’d much rather show nothing (white space) than a poorly targeted or non-relevant ad.” But on the basis of pure performance—what Google actually DOES, rather than what Google SAYS—it would appear that ad quality is irrelevant in the presence of huge ad budgets. The data suggest Google really cares about massive click rates, which under most circumstances come from big companies that have a huge built-in advantage...

"The system does scale fairly, and provides a level playing field for both small and large advertisers," says (Google’s) Jeff Huber. "If Mr. Dias has relevant ads, keywords, and landing page, he should be able to do just as well as other advertisers, regardless of size. It does not mean, however, that Mr. Dias or any other advertiser will be able to economically show ads that are not relevant and not consistent with user intent. If Mr. Dias or other advertisers want a large quantity of untargeted impressions, there are a variety of media that offer these relatively cost effectively (e.g., web banner ads, TV, newspapers, magazines). It is fair to observe that if there are any advertisers who may have a slight advantage, it's advertisers who have strong brands that users recognize and trust, and therefore users find more compelling when they show relevant ads -- but that's very consistent with the 'real world' and value of brands."

It all comes down to the AdWords algorithm and its intent, which isn't to help Luis OR Amazon, but to simply maximize profit for Google.

9) Will you uphold your "do no evil" slogan and, really, level the playing field for small businesses?


Your faq on "Cached Links" states:

"Google takes a snapshot of each page examined as it crawls the web and caches these as a back-up in case the original page is unavailable."

By copying whole Web pages, without Web page owners' explicit permission, rather than merely taking "snippets" of Web page content for indexing, you are usurping content owners' management and control over how, when, and for how long, their content appears online and providing for expired content to remain online and within your databases, without the content owners expressly confirming the wish for such continuation or database storage.

While you indicate that Web site owners may request that "we not cache their content," such an opt-out option is unreliable and unduly burdensome.

10) Will you agree to cease caching and repurposing Web pages, unless you obtain Web page owners' explicit permission to do so?