Google is gearing up to launch its Groupon-killer, Offers, in New York.After talking with merchants who have signed up to provide deals through Offers, we’ve learned that Google’s deals product provides merchants several key advantages relative to Groupon, advantages that could shake up the deals business.
We’ve also learned that at least one Google Offers salesperson in New York is promising merchants that signing up Offers will provide “SEO benefits.”
Specifically, a merchant tells us, the Google salesperson promised that merchants who sign up for the program will become “No. 1 in Google.”
Given the investigations that have been launched by the FTC and others into whether Google is abusing its power in the search business to help itself and hurt its competitors, any suggestion that Google is “tying” the purchase of Offers to Google search rankings–natural OR paid–would trigger a firestorm.
So we looked into this closely.
Google spokesperson Nate Tyler tells us categorically that “Google Offers has no influence whatsoever on the ranking of Google search results.”
Tyler went on to draw a sharp line here between Google’s “organic search” and the sponsored search links that appear above and alongside Google’s organic search results. Organic search rankings, Tyler said, are never influenced by money paid to Google, and Google does not offer any clients or companies special help in figuring out how to have their sites rank better in Google’s organic search.
Google’s sponsored search links are different, Tyler said. Google does offer clients of Google’s advertising products–specifically, AdWords sponsored search links–help in optimising their ad campaigns. Google does not promise that clients’ listings will become “No. 1 in Google,” but its consultants do help big advertisers figure out how to make their campaigns work better.
It seemed that the latter consulting help might have been what the Google Offers salesperson was promising a New York merchant, but Tyler said that Google Offers clients also will not get any special treatment with respect to optimising AdWords (sponsored search links). Google Offers salespeople do not sell AdWords, Tyler explained, and they do not have any influence over the performance of AdWords ad campaigns or the consulting services that Google offers big advertising clients.
Tyler concluded that “There appears to be a misunderstanding between the salesperson and this merchant.”
After talking to Tyler, we checked back with the New York merchant, and the merchant was adamant that there had been no misunderstanding:
The Google Offers salesperson had promised repeatedly that the merchant would “No. 1 in Google, No. 1 in Google” for relevant search terms and that the salesperson had been unequivocal about this. There were “no code words, no maybes,” the merchant said.
The merchant also said that the combination of Google’s payment advantages vs. Groupon and other deals providers, as well as the “SEO benefits” the salesperson promised (the merchant’s words), made signing up for Google Offers a no-brainer.
So what’s going on here?
Based on Google’s position on this, there certainly seems to have been a misunderstanding. Having signed up for Google Offers in part because of the promised “SEO benefits,” the New York merchant is likely to be quite disappointed. Whether Google’s salesperson, who is new to the company, simply misunderstood what Google is selling–or knowingly over-promised something Google won’t deliver–is a another question. (We don’t know the answer).
Google spokesperson Nate Tyler said Google is looking into this incident and will make sure its Offers salespeople know that participating in Offers will not give merchants any influence or advantage in Google’s search rankings, organic OR paid.
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