While Google was sued by the Justice Department (DOJ) for anti-competitive behavior due to the firm's dominance in online search and advertising, small-business owners say the issue that affects them is Google's ranking system.
Usually, companies compete to take the top spots in Google's search results, on the first page and the subsequent pages after. But if too many companies vie for one of these spots, the cost can jump out of reach quickly for a small business, as with the price for prime time TV commercials.
Business owners’ concerns about the cost of advertising aren’t directly related to the government’s lawsuit, although Google’s dominance of the search market is seen as a factor in driving up the price of ads in its vast digital marketing network.
Currently, Google is a “one-stop-shop with incredible targeting,” Berman said, noting that any change when it comes to a potential break-up would have drastic effects—both positive and negative—on how his clients do business.
Larger companies with more money to spend, in theory, can always outbid smaller businesses vying for the prime advertising spots on Google.
“As a startup, you don’t have a million-dollar advertising budget."
Google controls about 90 percent of global internet searches. Berman said that "we are forced to use their search and marketing products if we need to succeed." He noted that while some of the ad products are good, others aren't.
Businesses have two main ways of trying to place their listings high in Google rankings. One is to buy an ad that’s seen at the top of the search result pages; the cost for the ads depends on how often a computer user clicks on the ad and how much a company is willing to pay per click.
There’s also what’s called paid search, where companies bid on keywords to get a higher ranking.
Tommy Fang, co-founder of the New York-based Eureka Surveys, said he tried Google to advertise his year-old market research company, but the cost far outweighed the business he hoped it would bring in.
“We ran a couple of ads and the economics just didn’t work out for us,” Fang told The Associated Press. The company runs a website where people can take part in surveys.The lawsuit that was filed on Oct. 20 by the DOJ and 11 states asserts that Alphabet Inc.’s Google has tried to maintain its status as a gatekeeper to the internet by using a number of interlocking businesses to shut out competitors, thereby securing itself as a monopoly.
The department claims the company uses billions of dollars from its advertisements to pay carriers, browsers, phone companies, and other entities to maintain Google as a default search engine.
The potential breakup of Google has been a divisive issue among policy and antitrust experts. The lawsuit is likely to take years to resolve.