Business Owners: Google ‘Killing’ Companies Using ‘Shakedown’ Ad Tactics

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As antitrust investigations into Google heat up, business owners are speaking out against one of the company’s ad practices, known as “conquesting.” Edible Arrangements CEO Tariq Farid says the practice is “killing” business for his franchisees, and Basecamp CEO Jason Fried called the tactic “a shakedown” and “ransom.”

Business Insider reports that a number of business owners are speaking out against Google’s advertising practices as antitrust investigations into the Silicon Valley tech giant heat up. Specifically, a practice known as “conquesting” has been described by some business owners as “a shakedown” and “a ransom” by Google. Conquesting involves Google allowing competitors to buy ads specifically targeted at searches for company’s names, resulting in ads showing up for their products above the organic search results Google users searched for.

Business Insider spoke with Tariq Farid, the founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements, a gift basket company. Farid told Business Insider that Google’s ad practice is “killing” business for his 1,100 franchise owners in the United States. Edible Arrangements has actually taken out multiple lawsuits against Google over the firm’s ad practices.

Farid said that the issue starts when a user searches for Edible Arrangements, although his firm is the first organic result it does not appear at the top of the page, instead those spots are reserved for advertisements awarded to the businesses that pay the most money for keyword search terms including “Edible Arrangements.” As a result, Edible Arrangements has to bid on its own trademarked brand name to beat competitors.

“Google is manipulating this for their own benefit,” Farid said. “I’m OK for that when it comes to generic terms like ‘fruit’ or ‘basket.’ But not for Edible Arrangements, which is our mark. Google has come out and started making millions of dollars off of our name.” In a lawsuit filing in December in Georgia, Edible Arrangements stated: “This is a simple case. Google cannot take someone else’s property — in this case, Edible IP’s property — and sell it on the internet.”

Business Insider reached out to Google for comment on the issue, the firm stated that it prohibited a competitor’s brand name from being used in the actual text of an ad if it was deemed malicious but did not comment on the use of another company’s trademark. “For trademarked terms like the name of a business, our policy balances the interest of both users and advertisers,” the Google representative said. “Like other platforms, we allow competitors to bid on trademarked terms because it offers users more choice when they are searching. However, if a trademark owner files a complaint, we will block competitors from using their business name in the actual ad text.”

Farid commented on how this practice affects businesses stating: “I hope people realize what [Google is] doing is killing Main Street businesses. When someone can’t afford to do advertising because they have to advertise just to protect and police their own name, it’s affecting small businesses.”

Jason Fried, the founder and CEO of project-management tool Basecamp, called Google’s practices “a shakedown’ and “ransom.” Freid included an ad that his company is now running which states: “We don’t want to run this ad. We’re the #1 result, but this site lets companies advertise against us using our brand. So here we are.”

Friend told Business Insider: “I don’t understand how you can be number one on an organic result for your brand name but actually show up fifth because you have four ads ahead of you that [Google is] happy to sell. Those ads are nowhere near as relevant as your brand, which people are clearly looking for. The whole thing just feels rotten and an example of Google abusing its power.”

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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