Beat That Quote.com: Google’s Monopoly Move

You won’t find Beat That Quote.com in Google’s index, because Google have this week…

#1. Bought the UK finance comparison site for £38m

#2. Banned them from the search index for violating their T&Cs.

I’ve written before about Google’s abusive monopoly position. Google buying a major finance comparison site is merely the latest symptom.

Everybody in the search industry is having a good old chuckle at BeatThatQuote’s hilarious/filthy/scary backlink profile. Beat That Quote’s fruity paid links that have got them penalized, with BTQ no longer ranking for their own brand name.

But people appear to be missing the point: Google buying major comparison/affiliate sites is bad news for everybody (except their shareholders) – and here’s why.

Google is a Monopoly…

Let’s recap…

  1. Google has 88-90%+ market share in the UK search market (depending whose stats you believe).
  2. As a public company, Google’s sole responsiblity – despite the ‘don’t be evil‘ schtick – is to maximize profits for shareholders
  3. Finance comparison sites are (amongst?) the UK’s profitable comparison sites…
  4. …as well as some of the biggest spending AdWords advertisers
  5. Google miraculously appear #1 on AdWords for ‘compare credit cards’ et al

#1 for ‘compare credit cards’, you say? Crazy times. It’s almost like they know the algorithm. Who’d have thought it.

Think Google aren’t going to push their luck with their treatment of Beat That Quote? You’re mistaken. They have a obligation to their shareholders to do so.

And the reported 30 day link buying penalty is nothing more than a smart gambit to appease competition regulators: “See! We treat our own sites the same way!”.

Except they don’t.

Think JC Penney’s recent paid link shenanigans are only going to get them hurt for 30 days? Seems unlikely – especially when they compete in part with Google’s new property Boutiques.com…

In recent years, Google have (allegedly) dished out penalties to various BTQ competitors for over-aggressive linkbuilding, including:

Let’s be clear: many major finance comparison sites are up to shenanigans against Google T&Cs.

But if I worked at any of those companies, I wouldn’t be ‘feeling lucky’ next time Google’s next P&L figures require a pick me up.

Last year, the French Competition Authority concluded that Google was a monopoly and ordered the search giant to reinstate a banned AdWords advertiser.

Germany’s justice minister described Google as a ‘giant monopoly’ last year, while Russian Competition officials blocked their acquisition of the Begun ad network for similar reasons.

Expect further interest from other countries in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Back at Google HQ

Since I always imagine Larry & Sergey as Bill & Ted of Excellent Adventure fame, perhaps the hypothetical Google HQ conversation might go like this…

Larry: “Dude, I just remembered our guys in the UK blew Tuesday’s lunch budget on a massive finance comparison site.”

Sergey: “Hey – maybe we can leverage this to give our P&L figures a little tickle?”

Larry: “Remember, dude – don’t be evil…”

Sergey: “Let’s make it awesome – or merely drive the costs down to zero & put our competitors out of business – and nobody will ask any questions when we nuke the competitors for shady paid links…”

Larry: “Dude! That is a most excellent solution to our most heinous of problems: perpetual aggressive growth.”

Sergey & Larry: [Play air guitar 'Bill & Ted' guitar riff in sync]

…But You Can Do Something About It

Google’s acquisition of Beat That Quote can be investigated by the UK’s Competition Commission. In order for this to happen, the case has to be referred by the Office of Fair Trading.

Many moons ago, I worked at the the OFT. Complaints from members of the public can and are investigated. Here’s how to file a complaint.

To report anti-competitive or other behaviour by a trader or traders, please write to:

Enquiries and Reporting Centre
Office of Fair Trading
Fleetbank House
2-6 Salisbury Square
London
EC4Y 8JX.

Alternatively, they provide an email address: enquiries@oft.gsi.gov.uk.

Examples of Google’s Abusive Monopoly

Unsurprisingly, it’s no good merely saying ‘I don’t like it’ – you need to explain to the OFT how the company in question is engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.

For example…

#1. Moving organic results below the fold, adding more ads above the fold, and then giving the top slot to your own finance comparison site.

#2. Or price gouging comparison site AdWords advertisers who compete with Google’s monopoly.

#3. Or banning affiliates who use AdWords to drive traffic.

#4. Or issuing arbitrary lifetime bans for AdWords advertisers without right to reply.

#5. Ditto with AdSense publishers .

Just sayin’…

Since Google is the only show in town when it comes to the search marketplace, each and any of these constitutes abuse of monopoly power.

Further Reading On The Google Penalty

Background On The Acquisition

Background On Google’s Monopoly Behaviour

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