google lawsuit

Google Lawsuit Latest: New Revelations Highlight Changing Priorities

Early last year, the US Department of Justice announced that they were starting a Google lawsuit over “monopolizing multiple digital advertising technology products”. The industry implications of this lawsuit are huge: with the potential for everything from stricter regulations on Google Search to the breaking up of the predominance Google Ads has enjoyed on its proprietary platform all these years. With the EU launching a similar antitrust lawsuit, these are interesting times to be in the search marketing industry.

This case has been slow-moving, and we’re unlikely to see a result for years, but the revelations that are stemming from the necessary disclosures of internal communications Google have made to the court are already telling a tale. Central to recent revelations has been a key date – 2019 – when the company made – or, rather, rolled back – changes to search that had been avoiding excessively spammy and less focused content that was SEO optimised. 

A key finding from the emails disclosed to the Department of Justice was that Google’s then head of search, Benedict Gomes, had warned against what he called “engagement hacking”, which he described as a series of short-term hampering to Google’s user experience that much boost enquiries: “… turn off spell correction, turn off ranking improvements, place refinements all over the page,” were all examples he cited, signing off by qualifying to his superiors: “I am deeply deeply uncomfortable with this, and I’d be surprised if the ads team wants this.” Gomes was later shuffled out of the search team in 2020, replaced by the current head, Prabhakar Raghavan.

These findings alone answer questions that were being asked in recent years by major news platforms about the decreasing quality of Google search, as the platform pivoted toward maximising the number of queries for its metric data rather than quality of user experience. Findings by a German research team showed a “torrent of low-quality content, especially for product search, keeps drowning any kind of useful information in search results”.

The trend in Google search reflects a wider push in the company toward greater automation and less user input. Pay-per-click (PPC) agencies have noticed a marked increase in attempts to automate search engine marketing. For PPC management services, this has often meant their teams have had to take steps to stop creeping overspend and save clients money.

Gomes’ troubled tenure as head of Google’s search team shines a light on changing priorities at the company. We can expect to catch more glimpses behind the curtain at the search giant before disclosure wraps up.

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