Google was fined $1.7 billion this week for antitrust violations in the EU. Regulators found that the search engine abused its power to restrict competition in text ads appearing on third-party websites as recently as three years ago.
The move highlights Google’s dominant role in search marketing. The tech giant’s ad revenue has roughly doubled since 2014, and its bread-and-butter suite of shopping and text ads are increasingly integral to both awareness and conversion. Search drives nearly 60% of visits to brand sites, according to Gartner L2’s search report.
Despite Google’s anti-competitive behavior, brands can’t afford to live in a world without it. Half of paid search budgets go towards driving awareness and conversion, particularly through text and shopping ads.
Some brands have realized the importance of text ad visibility, but others still lag behind. Specialty retail is one sector where the ad space has become notably competitive. Even brands that achieve close to 70% text ad visibility on their brand terms fall into the bottom quartile of the rankings, making clear that retailers are aggressively defending their turf.
However, the watches and jewelry and activewear verticals reveal much wider spreads between quartiles. In these sectors, brands failing to invest in ads (and thus visibility) risk losing their own brand terms to conquesting from other businesses.
Despite regulatory and competitive pressures, Google shows no sign of slowing down. However, with Amazon doubling down on its ad business, brands’ search marketing strategies may soon become more complicated.