Tough Week in Google Town

Anyone who lives eats and sleeps search has to watch the gyrations of Google pretty closely. They can be brilliant, opaque, capricious, and occasionally look illogical. This week, however, has been an especially tough one for the very bright young things in Mountain View.

I have commented several times over the years on how much the EU just hates Google. This hate, hate relationship started many years ago when Google swept into the market essentially giving away, or paying, to power search which essentially, pretty much over night, made the EU entirely dependent on the CA giant for all things search. They have compounded the problem multiple times by doing things like comprehensively avoiding paying any EU taxes on massive profits and pushing back on various EU attempts to make them pay for content which more traditionally minded EU publishers regard as being stolen by the search giant. This week the litany of EU pain continued with instruction by multiple EU regulators, which require that Google substantially change their data collection protocols or face legal action. This complaint springs from multiple origins; from the fiasco of private data collection during the creation of Google Street View to the more recent concerns generated by the admittedly creepy Google Glass the EU Mandarins don’t like or trust Big G and if they can’t stop EU users loving their products then they are going to make them miserable by legal means.

Back in the US, Google has once again come under fire for trafficking in ads for pharmacies that offer (potentially/supposedly) counterfeit drugs.  I find this continuing problem utterly incomprehensible. We are a frequent advertiser on Google… and it’s tough. They have very strict guidelines that we have to follow and if the page, URL, or keywords aren’t up to snuff, then we can’t even get them to take our money and show our ads.  How then is it possible that the same people who make it so tough for us to advertise for plumbers can blithely take and display ads for fake blue pills?  I simply don’t buy that it’s a rogue algorithm… follow the money… these guys spend huge amounts of money, and for the right amount of money it looks like the same checks and balances don’t apply.  I could be wrong but the Attorneys General of Nebraska and Oklahoma aren’t buying it either. Whilst I hate to make an obvious suggestion, Google could solve this in a heartbeat by requiring that advertisers for any of these kinds of products go through a positive vetting program to prove that they have the right to sell what they sell, and what they sell is FDA approved.

As a final embarrassment for the week G has just launched the first love child from its $12.5Bn shotgun marriage to Motorola a while back. The Moto X is their new smartphone aimed at the already very crowded middle market.  With iPhones 4 and 5 selling from $140-$175 in main street stores and their partner Samsung already establishing a strong position with Android phones. The Moto X (who names these things!) is at the very least a day late and a dollar short. Even given that Google got some cash, made some IP deals and will make further savings as they integrate, they are still left holding a $4.5-5 Bn baby which is a non trivial price to pay for the IP to use against Facebook and Apple in their continuing legal disputes. 20:20 hindsight says if they had waited just a bit longer they could have got Motorola, Blackberry, and maybe even a good chunk of Yahoo for the same amount of cash. Oh well… maybe things will look up next week.

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