Has Google Finally Lost Its Way?

Has Google finally lost its way? It certainly seems that way.

Over the last year or two, the signs that Google has lost its way have been many.

First there was the wholesale lifetime suspension of AdWords advertisers’ accounts with no explanation, no help, and no recourse.

In fact, my AdWords account was suspended in September 2010 because of the site you’re reading right now.

Since that time, I’ve gotten many private emails from people who are livid about Google’s business practices.

One guy is so upset he wants to organize a class action lawsuit brought by banned advertisers. (I asked him to keep me posted.)

But the poor handling of AdWords is only one of Google’s major missteps.

Second came Google+, which in my opinion has been a colossal flop. I gave it a spin when it was first released, but realized there were too few people for it to be useful or worthwhile. I stopped actively using it months ago.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks Google has lost its way. James Whittaker recently left a high-level position at Google due to what he sees as a work culture that has changed for the worse.

In a column titled “Why I left Google” Whittaker writes: “The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.”

Whittaker also talks in detail about the shift that happened at Google and how fear of Facebook caused Google+ to become the focus of the company.

As it turned out, sharing was not broken. Sharing was working fine and dandy, Google just wasn’t part of it. People were sharing all around us and seemed quite happy. A user exodus from Facebook never materialized. I couldn’t even get my own teenage daughter to look at Google+ twice, “social isn’t a product,” she told me after I gave her a demo, “social is people and the people are on Facebook.” Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google’s party became the elephant in the room.

As I write this, I can’t help but think how short-sighted Google has been. They’re worried about the threat of Facebook, yet they’re treating their current AdWords advertisers like a virus they want to get rid of.

Does anybody else see the irony in this?

I’ve advertised on Facebook and I’ve gotten good results. Yes, Facebook is a corporate giant, but — so far — they’ve been easy to work with. They seem to want my advertising dollars.

Google, on the other hand, has shunned my advertising dollars for reasons I can’t comprehend.

Contrary to Google’s professed fears, it seems Google is doing its level best to make sure Facebook becomes the Internet’s advertising king.

When Google finally wakes up and starts treating their AdWords advertisers with respect, it might be too late.

-Ryan M. Healy

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

John Phillips - March 15, 2012

They’re killing Adsense too…

Mike D - March 15, 2012

They don’t care if you’re on Google+ – average user spends 3 minutes a month (3 more than I do!) They just wanted more data to be able to offer it to advertisers. Facebook will really hurt them when they roll out FB ads across the entire web. Google’s focus is (I think ) android. With that said – I have no issues with their adwords platform – it still works for me.

    Ryan M. Healy - March 15, 2012

    Yes, AdWords still works… if your account hasn’t been suspended. That’s the problem: Thousands of advertisers have been permanently banned without recourse.

Joseph Ratliff - March 15, 2012

I disagree about Google + being a flop, I highly doubt folks like Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan would be writing books about the network if it was such a flop.

However, I do agree with the premise of your post, I do think Google has “lost it’s way”… the repeated bans of advertisers, and its favoring of brand names have certainly left a sour taste in the typical small business owner’s mouth IMO.

    Ryan M. Healy - March 16, 2012

    Google+ is a network that appeals to business people and savvy Internet users.

    But riddle me this… 673 people have added me to their circles, yet I get very little interaction (usually none) no matter what I happen to post or when. I find that very strange.

    There may be people on Google+, but they’re not nearly as interactive as people on Twitter and Facebook. Even John Whittaker, one of the guys who helped create G+ says “no one came to Google’s party.”

    Oh, side note…

    I started using Pinterest and I’ve gotten WAY more response and interaction there than G+.

      Joseph Ratliff - March 16, 2012

      Pintrest is a topic of interest right now ;)

      As for lack of activity on G+… I dunno… I have 1650 or so people who have me in their circles… I tag people with +YourName etc… and they +1 and comment fairly regularly (nothing to brag about, but hey).

      I suppose it depends on your use, and I will also say that Guy Kawasaki has over 1 million people in his group… and I don’t think all of them are “geeks” or business people. ;)

      I’ve read his new book on Kindle “What The Plus?” and it gave me tremendous insight to the GPlus world.

Kurt Henninger - March 16, 2012


You know…I read the same article a couple days ago when it came out and I think he summed it up perfectly

“Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation.”

Although, I’d argue that G+ growth was faster than Facebook growth at the same time since launch of either network.

However, with all of that said…..I don’t know, I’m still undecided.

People use Google for search….and think of it in terms of “hey I need to look something up”…they turn to G. When people want to interact, they turn to Facebook, and to a limited extent Twitter.

It is almost “ingrained” into peoples minds at this point. For this…do this…for that ….go there.


P.S. Revenue growth ad Google has never been better…its an older snapshot on this page, but probably still holds. More…bigger companies spending more $$ on there means less of the pie for the small business owner.


    Ryan M. Healy - March 19, 2012

    Good point about Google’s profitability.

    Although their strategy of banning the small guys in favor of big brands could backfire. Will people really want to use a search engine that eventually refuses to promote any company outside the Fortune 500?

Derek Morton - March 17, 2012

Google has definitely lost it’s way. But at the same time Google + has proven to have some value for me. Especially as they continue to roll out social search.

Sanjay Pande - March 18, 2012

Hi Ryan,
I was banned on adwords as a new advertiser which was hilarious. I didn’t even know about it for a while wondering why they’re taking so long to approve ads.

They even keep sending me coupons AFTER banning me BY SNAIL MAIL.

Before I continue to rant, Google HAD a social network before Google+. It was called Orkut. I was on it AND I LIKED IT more than facebook. Google+ is just an abomination (forcing people to be social) … Errm … No Thanks!

Back to advertising. Well I’ve had MANY rejected facebook ads, but they’ve always had the decency to tell me what to fix (although it can get aggravating at times).

If they want to learn ANYTHING from facebook, it’s how to treat people who pay you.

Honestly, if your budget is good enough and you’re in a competitive market why wouldn’t you do direct mail. If ANYONE is paying more than a buck a click for anything, they’re out of their frickin mind – You can send a letter for that to your prospect.

They don’t have demographic targeting like facebook or linkedin or even POF.

And for ANY adwords experts who wants to challenge ANYONE who has done direct mail – well – No PPC campaign can ever generate more ROI than targeted direct mail.

The big money guys who understand direct response were the chaps who were getting banned from adwords. The reasons for banning are actually not even disclosed (I doubt they can argue in favour of the ban).

There are other things I find funny too.

Quality score, bounce rate, customer experience etc are ALL subjective. If I want to sell more, I KNOW how I should treat my customers. Who is a 3rd party to tell me how.

Here’s a known fact. Google is the big dog in the search engines with around 70% of the market share (although a better search engine will easily kill it – Pretty much exactly like they killed Altavista and Yahoo). However, they’re responsible for a measly 6-8% of overall website traffic. So, yes it should be on your agenda to optimize your website and all that other good stuff.

But even if google delists your website, you can actually not just get by, but be quite profitable (with a competitive advantage).

I’m a geek. I used to love Google. I used to write an SEO newsletter before they even existed and was so happy when they entered the market. It was clean. It made sense. The search results were much better (although they can be improved A LOT).

Now, I’m sick of what they keep throwing at me.

I’m disappointed that they own YouTube. I’m disappointed that they own Admob. Because of my experience with Adwords, I won’t try YouTube ads or Admob ads either – expect jerks or idiots on the other side of what once used to be a real technology pioneer.

Warm Regards,

Sanjay Pande

    Ryan M. Healy - March 19, 2012

    Excellent contribution, Sanjay. Thanks for commenting.

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if for one week there was an organized boycott of AdWords? :-)

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