Google likes to be on top — and not just on top of the advertising business it dominates, but on top of the very ads themselves.
That’s the conclusion of a recent newspaper investigation that found the Mountain View tech icon was a leading buyer of its own search advertising.
Search ads are the ones that appear above search results. You may have noticed Google ads in the top spots, for its app store, music service and phones.
That’s Google paying Google to advertise on Google, according to Google. And it’s plenty fair to other advertisers, according to Google.
Google placed its ads in high positions with considerable frequency, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal concluded.
“Ads for products sold by Google and its sister companies appeared in the most prominent spot in 91 percent of 25,000 recent searches related to such items,” the Journal reported. “In 43 percent of the searches, the top two ads both were for Google-related products.
“The results show how Google uses its dominant search engine to boost other parts of its business and give it an edge over competitors, which include some of its biggest advertising customers.”
A Google spokesman told the newspaper that the firm’s marketing programs are “consciously and carefully designed” not to affect other advertisers.
“Google said that when it competes for ads, other advertisers are charged as if it wasn’t bidding, meaning its participation doesn’t directly inflate prices,” according to the Journal. “Google said that its ads only appear atop results because of the ad’s quality and the price Google is willing to pay.”
The firm auctions off ad positions for search results, with marketers offering bid prices for specific search terms.
However, online-marketing executives and analysts told the paper that Google’s ads can affect the price, placement and performance of other firms’ ads.
“Advertising slots on many pages are limited, so Google’s ads can prompt others to increase their bids to compete for the remaining slots,” the Journal reported.
The paper said that after it shared its findings with Google in mid-December, many Google ads disappeared from search results.
Google’s promotion of its own products and services on its search engine has caught the attention of regulators, and the firm faces charges from the European Union alleging it favors its comparison-shopping service over competitors’, which Google disputes, the paper noted.
Google rules the global digital advertising market, reaping 31 percent of it, according to eMarketer.
Photo: A Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Connie Zhou/Google/via AP)