Google bosses from its Ads, Chrome and Search departments conspired together to boost ad revenue, according to emails shared at the federal antitrust trial by the US Department of Justice.
The internal emails reveal private exchanges between Jerry Dischler, the Vice President of Google Ads, Prabhakar Raghavan, who heads up Google Search and Chrome, and Anil Sabharwal, Product VP and GM at Google, as well as other senior leaders
Within those conversations, the Google bosses discussed increasing search queries on Chrome to improve ad revenue – which accounts for more than 80% of Alphabet’s revenue.
Why we care. Search marketers have long speculated that Google intentionally complicates SEO to boost ad sales revenue. Despite denials from Google search leaders like John Mueller, this email exchange seems to indicate otherwise, indicating potential unfair impacts on SEO campaign performance.
What do the published emails say? In the email exchange, Google Ads VP Dischler says:
- “The Search team is working together with us to accelerate a launch of a new mobile layout by the end of May that will be very revenue positive (exact numbers still moving), but that still won’t be enough.”
- “Our best shot at making the quarter is if we get an injection of at least [redacted]% , queries ASAP from Chrome.”
- “The question we are all faced with is how badly do we want to hit our number this quarter? We need to make this choice ASAP. I care more about revenue than the average person but think we can all agree that for all of our teams trying to live in high cost areas another [redacted] in stock price loss will not be great for morale, not to mention the huge impact on our sales team.”
The request for more searches via Chrome to boost ad revenue came after the Google Ads team were already quietly manipulating ad prices to hit revenue targets.
More tweaks. Dischler goes on to propose making more tweaks to push ad revenue even further. He wrote in the email:
- “Do we think it’s worth reconsidering a rollback? Or are there very scrappy tactical tweaks we can launch with holdback that we know will increase search queries?”
- “For example, we can we increase vertical space between the search bar/icons/feed onnew tab to make search more prominent? Are there other ranking tweaks we can push out very quickly? Are there other entry points we haven’t focused on that we could push on soon?”
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What did John Mueller say? On 8 May 2015, Mueller was asked by a marketer if Google makes SEO harder to boost ad revenue. Responding in a Google Hangout, he said:
- “This is definitely not true. This is something where we have a very, very strong firewall essentially between the paid side of Google and the organic search side.”
- “And that’s not something that we would kind of connect, where we would say we would make algorithms that make the search results worse so that people go and click on ads more.”
- “It’s something where we’re not artificially trying to make it more complicated or harder or the search results worse so that people click on ads. So, that’s something where on the one hand, we really have the strong separation between the two sides.
- On the other hand, we really need to keep that upright, so that we can make sure our search results are really as neutral as possible, as high quality as possible and really provide what users want.”
Deep dive. Read the email exchange in full for more information and check out our Google antitrust trial updates for all the latest developments from the courtroom.