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The Black Hole of the Fashion Industry - Part III - We Need to Talk About Google

Posted by V. A. Bates Kassatly on

This is the third part of our ‘The Black Hole of the Fashion Industry’ series, where we shed some light on the difficulties faced by a new brand trying to garner attention in the fashion industry.


We know James Damore (the Google employee fired for writing a memo critical of the company's diversity programs) has an overrated opinion of his own abilities. Claiming a Harvard PhD when he only has a Masters (source) he clearly thinks Google men are the smartest creatures that walk the earth (source). Google seem to feel the same way - with their sleep-pods and gourmet free food, Google would like us all to think that gods run the company that runs us.

It has taken me so long to produce this third part of our editorial on marketing not because I am sleeping on the job or holidaying in Monaco (although the latter does apply), but because I have been waiting for Google. This is a bit like Waiting For Godot: it took Google almost 2 months to try, and fail, to fix a simple Shopping Campaign for us. Incredibly, the campaign we set up ourselves, worked better than either of Google's. Unlike Adwords (text ads at the top of the search results page), Google shopping includes no clever search word targeting - you link your store to Google Shopping through a Merchant Center, choose your country and bid, and your products are automatically advertised to relevant search terms. How could Google not know how to do that on their own site? And yet...

In Network Theory 101 you will learn of the Page Algorithm - Larry Page, of Google. Almost 20 years ago this algorithm established the model for internet searches: the more popular the sites that link to you, the higher you will rank - and, by definition,  the more popular you will become. Google's share of 6.5 billion global, daily, internet searches, is almost 80%...and rising. Meaning that what will appear on the screen for 5 billion daily searches is determined by Google and Google alone. So pay attention. This approach to search management - to those who have, shall be given - dominates at Google to this day.

And how does it apply to Google Shopping advertising? Well every advertiser is charged a different rate by Google. Some, the smallest and presumably poorest, will, it seems, pay ten times more for a lesser service. Google justifies this by claiming that how much you actually pay is determined by the size of your bid and your 'Relevancy". Sound's sensible and caring doesn't it - searchers will be shown the products that are relevant to them. Lovely! Except what determines relevancy appears to be simple math: as we understood their explanation: the more people click through from your ads, the more your ads will be shown, and the less you will have to pay for them. So a huge established company, like H&M, with hundreds of items in each campaign and hundreds of thousands of clicks, going back years, is, it would appear, charged around €0.08 per click for it's sweatshirt ad to appear in position 1 to 5, whilst I am billed €0.80 per click for mine to be shown in position 6 to 10. The click thru rate averages 36% in position 1. It falls to less than 2% in positions 6-10! (source). Since my ad will hardly be shown, and when it is shown, will be so low down as to be hardly seen, my relevancy has nowhere to go, but down and my cost per click, up. Certainly, we were never able to get our Shopping ad to appear - not even when we tacked our brand name onto the search query!

When I tried to raise the topic with Google, they stopped replying to my mails. Well blow me down with a feather!

Actions speak louder than words. Check out how much money Google makes, where they earn it, where they pay tax - it's not very edifying. The group makes more money from digital ads than any company on the planet (source). And where it matters to us most - in our biggest market, the US - Google take 80% of search ad revenues (source).  The Sherman Act makes a 75% market share the benchmark for illegal monopoly (source) so why hasn't Google been prosecuted?

As I said: we need to talk about Google...

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