The Gamekeeper Turned Poacher Conundrum

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Google is the matrix which much of all online commerce moves through. In cases where people searching for a product or service click on an ad Google gets to collect their fee which can be substantial; in many cases many dollars per click. However there are lots of clicks on Google which they make no money from…and that’s changing.Given that they run the store why would they want to compete with the very people selling in that store. In an announcement today it looks like that’s going to be happening for at least one major category. Initially in California, but soon all over the US when you search on Google for car insurance Google will offer you the chance to put your zip code and Google will comparison shop rates from multiple insurance providers. So even if you didn’t click on one of their ads Google will have a shot at getting the bounty for delivering a customer to one of the carriers in their program. This isn’t entirely new, Google has been offering similar services in Europe for a while…but it’s an interesting perhaps disturbing precedent for US businesses.

There is a range of vertical markets like insurance, education, health and vacations where the fight for customers is conducted at significant expense mostly on the battle ground of Google. For Google to now join the fray not just as the platform competitors buy clicks on but as one of the direct beneficiaries of end user choice is a little weird. Companies unwilling to join the Google list of price shopped providers run the risk of having to pay more to get exposure in the ads area to make up for not being exposed in the Google price shop set. This gives Google another win and if companies don’t like it they can buy their search clicks elsewhere…oh no wait they really can’t since most of the buyers start on Google. To the casual observer it looks a little tiny bit like a monopolistic approach…but since we have already seen that no matter what Google does in the US they are immune from such allegations.

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