Google may have gotten off easy with the Federal Trade Commission, but the changes it voluntarily agreed to make to appease regulators got major kudos from the search advertising and marketing community.
Disappointing Google's search competitors, the FTC unanimously voted not to regulate Google's search engine platform. However, Google agreed to change its ad search business policies, and, for the first time, allow search advertisers to "clone" or copy campaigns from Google to other competing search engines such as Yahoo or Bing. Websites will also be able to remove content from specialized Google results pages and still appear in Google's general Web search results.
Previous Google terms have been a real impediment, if not a colossal headache, to search engine-marketing companies like Marin Software and Kenshoo that were forced to duplicate efforts to manage identical ad campaigns across multiple platforms.
"We commend Google for addressing the issue of advertising data portability and recognizing the value that companies like Kenshoo bring to the digital marketing ecosystem," said Yoav Izhar-Prato, CEO of Kenshoo, a provider of digital marketing technology used by companies and agencies such as Starcom MediaVest to create ad campaigns.
The Google changes mean that now marketers are in control of ad campaigns, not Google. Vendors will be able to concentrate on optimizing campaigns for the best financial return because they will now have an apples-to-apples comparison of campaigns across platforms.
"Providing advertisers with true data portability is a huge leap forward for Google, search marketers and the ecosystem of tools providers that support them," said Matt Lawson, vp of marketing for Marin Software, which manages $4 billion a year in paid search campaigns for companies such as Macy's, Gap and Razorfish. "This isn't just a means to provide more efficiency to marketers, it's a good business decision by Google."
Google agreed to publicly honor the changes for a period of five years. So even though there's no official consent decree with the FTC, the public agreement, as outlined in a Google letter dated Dec. 27, 2012, gives the agency teeth to enforce it under the its authority to regulate unfair and deceptive practices.
—With additional reporting by Tim Peterson