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December 18, 2012

Ex-Google Employee: “Google’s an Ad Company”

James Whittaker is a bit disillusioned with Google. He has good
reason – he used to work there.

At first, James was in love with the energy of the place – like so many others, he was swept away by the hip new culture of innovation and excitement that the company fostered within its walls. He drank the search giant’s Kool Aid, and he became extremely passionate about Google almost as soon as he began his post there.

James said the decision to leave his job at Google was not an easy one. He was a keynote speaker, helped out from time to time by adding content to Google’s developer blog, and did a range of other things related to his position that anyone would consider “above and beyond” the scope of his regular job duties.

James really did love what he did.

Then, something inside him shifted. He lost the love. According to James, “No one had to ask me twice to promote Google and no one was more surprised than me when I could no longer do so. In fact, my last three months working for Google was a whirlwind of desperation, trying in vain to get my passion back.”

Back in March of this year, Whittaker wrote a blog post about the whole experience that shed some serious light on Google’s motives and true agenda. He offers up a disclaimer at the beginning of the post: nothing he says in it reveals trade secrets. Bummer, but the silver lining is much of the post does confirm suspicions that many in the SEO community have had for years now.

“Google’s Changed.”

So, what changes sent Whittaker over the edge? According to his post, Google’s innovative projects began shutting down one by one to make way for more lucrative endeavors. He gave the example of Google Labs shutting down. Then, he was alarmed to discover that App Engine fees were raised as well. Whittaker was also discouraged by the fact that APIs, which had once been free, were suddenly either deprecated or offered for a fee.

According to James, Google’s new agenda was all about competing with Facebook. To him, it seemed that Google was shelving everything to singularly focus on fighting its greatest tech foe. This was the demise of the old Google. The company was once all about creativity and innovation, but it now had adopted a competitive new face. Instead of listening to and encouraging employees to create, stakeholders and corporate entities had the bullhorn, and they were screaming about social.

This next part of James’ blog post is incredibly intriguing. It may be best to use his own words here to achieve the fullest force of impact:

“Officially, Google declared that “sharing is broken on the web” and nothing but the full force of our collective minds around Google+ could fix it. You have to admire a company willing to sacrifice sacred cows and rally its talent behind a threat to its business.”

Wow. Powerful stuff. Google used its influence as a bully pulpit to convince the Internet at large that sharing was fragmented; a broken shell of what it could be (with Google’s help, of course). The company needed to perpetuate this fallacy in order to introduce their social network, Google+, and sell it as the answer to the “problem” they conveniently created.

James said he hardcore bought into the hype. He said many of his peers did as well – they wanted to be part of something great that would better the Internet. He worked as a development director, and he helped to create the Google+ we know and use today. However, he learned that social networking wasn’t broken at all – people were (and are) using Facebook and Twitter just fine, no Google intervention necessary. Google simply wanted to dominate another corner of the Web that it was missing out on, and James felt as if he was simply a pawn, something Google used to help close the social gap and get in on the action.

Looking Out for #1

From James’ standpoint, Google created its social network for selfish reasons. Google is an ad company after all, and mining personal data is how the search giant keeps the lights on. What better way to convince people to voluntarily offer up their personal data 24/7 than to build a social network? Google saw Facebook doing it with wild success, and the competition gene set in.

So, if you’re a webmaster, how does this relate to you? Bottom line: Google is mining a ton of info from your G+ profile (if you have one), and it’s using the data to sell to you in a much more targeted way. Google’s so dead-set on enticing social networkers to use their service that they’ve woven it into search. For example, Google Authorship is tied to your G+ profile and appears in search results right beside content you’ve authored. G also uses links you’ve included in your profile to create a “map” of your presence online.

Believe it or not, if you’re a webmaster, it’s actually good to give Google as much info about yourself, your websites, and your online activities as possible. Some SEO experts even think advertising your identity this way will even help you in the SERPs.

If you’re an everyday Internet user, however, the same rules may not apply. If you choose to use Google+, make sure you’re aware of what you’re selling in return for use of the service. “Free” may be more pricey than you think.

Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the ‘net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at Content by Nell.

36 Responses to “Ex-Google Employee: “Google’s an Ad Company”

    Not surprises here, Google is falling in the footsteps of all other great companies. They are too big for their own good and too desperate to maintain their leadership status. That said (and privacy debate aside), I do admire the fact that they have a long term strategy and were able to finally pull off a serious contender social network

    avatar Silver Rous says:

    Google is a big company who race to increase their profit every year. This is not a big news, since we already know that Google is the owner of the net. We must follow the rules, and actually not healthy competition with others like Yahoo and Bing. We have to choose the best thing for ourself, including only apply one social network for personal purpose.

    avatar Ravi says:

    I didn’t understand how Google+ could invade the social circles and now with recent launched communities they plan to get in roads into sharing and forum activity.

    avatar lincon says:

    Im also not surprised.
    Google has to aims nowadays

    – beat facebook
    – make money from its ads

    They no longer care for the best results on searches

    avatar Ian Smith says:

    Stunning piece!
    As with Maria above, it does seem inevitable the company would end up this way given their dominance. And they did dominate because …….. they were vastly superior to the competition.

    dos casinos onlinegratis spielen I really enjoyed reading this post, big fan.
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    avatar Graham Howes says:

    Too much targeted selling means more and more work for me to do just to stay on the top page of Google – competitors with deep pockets literally trying to buy their competitors off the page. I just want my services to be found in my area without the endless tweaking or seo companies also vying for my money just to keep me “on page one”. How long before you HAVE to pay to be on google and be found by clients?

    avatar Kathleen Gee says:

    This is already the case in some niches. Essentially, Google is creating a “de facto” Internet by virtue of being the tiny window through which the Internet is viewed.

    avatar Simon Parker says:

    This is such a big shame but is a result of having shareholders.
    Shareholders dont care about Google being an innovative and forward thinking company. They care about a return on investment this year. not next or anytime in the future.

    Any big company will eventually kill itself through endless need for growth which kills the innovative spark that got it there in the first place.

    It really is almost sad to see Google go this way as i imagine there are lots of people who have recommended Google to their friends and families early on in the search engine wars and then after with all the great services and ideas that were flying out of the Google labs teams and other projects.

    I used the translation API for several years but again it is now paid and at such a cost that i couldn’t continue its use for my forum.

    I always used to say “Trust Google” to everyone i met after all their motto is “Do No Evil”

    Cant recall the last time i heard them say that. And i cant recall the last time i recommended Google as the best option either
    Its a shame.

    avatar PHK says:

    i always thought the motto pretty funny, sounds more like for a cult.

    avatar madovsky says:

    one more time honest worker who believed in the human evolution through a company that gave them opportunity to create and make internet evolve have been ripped off, as usual.
    Once this generation is fed up, they just need to hire new generation and play with their prestige to enslave new worker who think that google is sane…. poor guys…

    avatar BlokeToys says:

    And now he’s at Microsoft, a company that does less to involve webmasters than any of its primary competitors.

    This is a key to Google’s success and why it has become so powerful. Millions of webmasters hand over their own data, allowing Google to gather vast amounts of information that no other SE can possibly hope to gather, and this is something they then use to control those webmasters and alter their content.

    There will be no real competitor to Google unless another SE incorporates webmasters in the process and gains their support. This is how Google became the giant it now is, you’d have thought Bing would have caught on to this by now and offer similar benefits to webmasters, getting them on-side and supportive.

    Bing needs to bring us into the fold and offer us more than Google does (or even just the same). If I could get the same form of analytical data and analysis about my sites through an account with Bing, I would remove my webmaster account with Google within the hour and switch.

    Google is too big, too powerful and too dangerous to online business. I would participate in any real drive to diminish their stranglehold on global internet business, and that starts with having a viable competitor that can offer me what I actually need as a webmaster.

    avatar Mark Cody says:

    Its pretty scary to know that Google is at the forefront of search engines and yet it is the biggest advertising marketing company out there!!

    Monopoly comes to mind here!!

    avatar Tony Rausseo says:

    This is a great article. It will definitely will open the eyes to some people. I am one of the them. Keep up the fantastic work that you are doing.

    Mr. Rausseo

    avatar Martin says:

    It is a shame, in the beginning, early 2000 my money was good enough for Google´s adwords, in the meantime, they suspended my account for some odd reason, and let´s be honest, no regular small internet marketer can afford adwords anymore. For Keywords i paid 0.01 cent per click, it was over 1 USD last year! Profit is all they care about. Google is a slap in the face to people who made them what they are now! I hope some other company rises and beat google to where they belong!

    avatar Cedar Rapids says:

    We have long believed that Google has been selling out to the big boys. Look at the search results these days, see how often Walmart, Sears, Lowes, Ebay, etc now appear in the top 10. They never used to, and if you go to their pages they rarely have anything to do with the search term used. Flag was raised for us when we did a search for lawn mower tires and walmart appeared in the top 5 and they dont even sell lawn mower tires. Its a farce.

    avatar Mark says:

    Well, again for me this doesn’t supprise me!
    As far as a user of google goes, this last year has been a nightmare! Living in New Zealand i feel that suddenly i have been restricted to what google wants me to see as opposed to what i want to find. For instance , even though my settings are set for worldwide i am bombarded with local, irrelevant links, now making it 10x longer/harder to find what i need! If i wished for local content to be shown i would use the local settings! So these days i feel like rather than being able to surf the net so to speak that i am being limited to North Korean style limitations on what i can search for and kept localised!
    As for Google itself, Unfortunately this is a business and as mentioned the CEO’s and there shareholders are interested in one thing and one thing only..PROFIT… Rather than concerntrate on there own niche of the market and developing that, there view has changed to “How dare that company stand on our toes” and in response aggresively try to dominate the entire infrastrucure. Of course we have seen this many times in history and still no-one ever learns! (Google=Rome) By doing so, they alienated there loyal followers and in the end will inevitably fail! SEO is a nightmare, searching is a nightmare, G+, well still havent got my head round that one yet! makes you wander if they can design anything more confusing! Everything has become a nightmare for 1 single as you are forced to click on those ads to try to find what you are looking for. In turn making more website owners pay for advertising/seo constantly to line the pockets of the shareholders. They have taken this model so far down this path that they have shot themselves in the foot due to the narrow mindedness of profit and not listening to the people. Google is slowly failing and quickly loosing its support. CEO’S.. start listening to those young students with innovative ideas again!! After all it was them that built the company not you!

    avatar Woodstock says:

    Nell if you keep writing truthful and insightful articles about G we might have to put you in the webmaster witness protection program. I’m a big fan so keep up the good work.

    avatar mav says:

    Bing needs to bring us into the fold and offer us more than Google does (or even just the same). If I could get the same form of analytical data and analysis about my sites through an account with Bing, I would remove my webmaster account with Google within the hour and switch.

    I agree BlokeToys but Bing (Microsoft) is way up on a mountain looking down on the little folk and it is a shame they choose to ignore small publishers.

    Bing mistakenly ignores millions of small publishers instead of embracing them as part of their Scroogle campaign to gain market share.

    The slap in the face to Bing by their own hand is that many of the web sites pulled up in Bing Searches have Google AdChoices ads placed them as the dominant ad provider.

    How warped is that for Bing to be feeding Google’s monster?

    avatar steph says:

    it’s too bad Google had to make a play for Facebook. They could have found another way to capitalize on the site….with youtube, with advertising…..something….all while bolstering the quality of their own product.
    i read the blogpost and am also disturbed that the website will tailor ads to suit my private emails…..they aren’t even relevant to me as a person but it’s obvious they are monitoring my correspondences….and i don’t like it.
    i also can’t stand all the paid ads that fill up my search results.
    on a lighter note: i have been a big google fan and i hope they pull it together.

    avatar Chris says:

    Well, of course, Google is looking for profits and competing. Geez. The point is that we come to Google because we get relevant searches.

    I’m always suspicious of anyone complaining about somewhere that they just quit. It makes me wonder what he did.

    I agree that big G selling out to the big boys! My last search was about zakynthos hotels in I found Ok.. i like it, is useful but.. i pay a lot for adwords and now Google sponsores the big ones! I try to find something else in the competition.. Economy is hard! Big fish eats the small one and all Big ones the are together..

    avatar No BS SEO says:

    Good point Geo. Still if Google persist on pushing their own barrow so blatently they will continue to lose traction to Bing and Yahoo.

    avatar Dub says:

    It was an interesting post. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I feel Google is still a very good search engine. I know that a lot of people complain about how hard it is to be at the top of the page for a certain search term and think that it’s because Google makes it too hard, but there are more and more sites and blogs being made every day. So it does take work to beat out millions of other sites that have related information. But, part of me does feel that links and things hold a little too much weight in the searches and still bring up sites that are only sort of related to what was searched for and if Google+ is going to play a role in it all then things will go down hill. Maybe I should put Google+ on my site

    avatar Peter Australia says:

    As a consumer we hold the power in microscopic amounts each but in huge amounts collectively,so take action switch to Duckduckgo or another engine for your personal or business searches and commerce will follow eventually to the place where the people are. As a parent of teenagers the future is already taking shape, they dont have active email accounts and they dont post status’s on Facebook except occasionally, its not cool, your grandma on facebook & email is for assignments and getting free sh*t online or to your mobile.

    avatar No BS SEO says:

    And yet Google+ is nowhere near achieving either the popularity OR the functionality of Facebook.

    avatar John says:

    This is the natural way of how things work. They did a study of concerts through the last forty years and found a similar pattern to what happens everywhere:

    It starts off as a good idea, then develops into a “give something back” kind of entity, but slowly the money factor takes a hold, and it becomes a fully blown business entity.

    It’s no different to someone’s life:

    No responsibility as a kid, trying to change and do good in the world as a teenager and twenty-something, given up and fully blown grabbing money by your thirties and forties….

    avatar tre2215 says:

    It made 65 of its 67 BILLION from advertising. This guy is groundbreaking! Cheers!

    avatar Alan says:

    Google is an advert company, always has been and always will be so not really sure of the point he is making. As businesses grow projects will come and go that is inevitable.

    No doubt Google is ad company. Desperacy can drive one crazy. Ad world and social networking is a big pie that is enough to go round. Google should note that they not be leader in every sector therefore should be contented in the area where they lead.

    avatar Alex says:

    So Google is making money selling ads. How else are they going to make money? We live in a commercial world and until planet Earth transforms into Shangri-La where everyone works for the joy of doing so, we are stuck with commercialism.

    I find it hard to believe that an apparently intelligent person applies for a job with a commercial giant such as Google and then despairs because they are not acting as a charitable institution. It is like applying for a job at MacDonald and then complaining because the place smells of french fries.

    I suspect there must be other reasons why this fellow lost his enthusiasm.

    Google is an extremely successful company and they are employing a lot of people. They also offer some very good tools and services which are (apprently) free. They are not a charity–that’s true, but at least they are giving something in return.

    So I am not at all alarmed that they want to know my details in order to push me goodies they think I will buy. That is what healthy commercialism is all about.


    avatar Dr Ian Smith says:

    I think you might be missing the thrust of the article Alex. its about the changes he has witnessed.

    avatar Bill says:

    I really enjoy Nell Terry

    she writes about subjects most people are refusing to address

    is regards Google as an an company, this could go deeper.

    Not only are they an ad company – but they use there customers information against them to exploit the pricing

    Back in the days of, Overture and the first buyout to Yahoo PCCeveryone could see each others bids and stay competitive.

    Then Google released there platform and everyone said “we dont need to see each others bids, because Google is good”. But fast forward – Google now exploits its advertisers.

    A company that specializes in jewelry boxes and has done so for 10 years online has not only seen a drop organically and lost to Amazon – may also be paying 3 to 4 times the amount of click thru than say Amazon.

    Only Google has a separate platform for its bigger companies that gives them advantage features, tools and direct relations with adwords members to help develop this further

    at the same time – small businesses are being force to pay more or simply give up

    PENGUIN update forced 100,000+ companies to turn on and turn up PPC spending
    but now alot of companies can not even afford that due to the exploitation on the amount Google is demanding in click thru

    Google can take a .50 bid and over night make it a $100 minimum to be on page one by saying your sight is not relevant

    at the same time it can make Amazon .10 for an item it may not even really carry

    More will come out on this in the future Im sure – but Google is so far from the company it was 10 years ago – nobody can figure them out .

    avatar David Sanders says:

    Okay, well said, well written, so now what do we do? Until a better solution comes along, small merchants are getting killed by Google to those that can afford the fee’s and maintain the constant changes in SEO requirements. And instead of redefining and being innovative, Yahoo, now Bing is trying to keep up with it’s largest competitor. I guess the old saying still holds true, if you can’t beat them, join them.

    avatar anon says:

    i always get the best search result that i want.
    also every big company has critics. we cannot trust a single ex-google employee. who knows that the author was a gogole employee. he may be some anti google company like facebook,microsoft employee.
    google is still best place to work in the whole world and no company has capability to beat Google atleast for next two decades.

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