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Google fights evil, except when it doesn’t

All eyes are on Google, 24×7, it seems. Google’s latest news is big enough for CNN, because it features a steel cage match among two gotta watch wrestlers, Google vs. China. I applaud Google’s pressure on China to relax its information barriers by trying to evade the Great Firewall of China. Censorship of information is evil and Google is on the right side of this one, no matter whose engineers win. But Google seems to be on the side of evil in at least one other area.


Recently, I wrote about how the Internet makes it hard to fool everybody, talking about how a few slimy companies are trying to sneak credit card charges past unsuspecting customers. Little did I know that Google is doing the same kind of thing.
My wife uncovered a fishy-smelling offer from an e-Commerce site powered by DoubleClick (you know, the company owned by Google). Pardon me for thinking this is evil and somehow against Google’s mantra.
Now understand that I haven’t been one to point out every Google transgression (real and imagined) to hoist it with its own petard. Far from it. My belief is that most big companies make many more mistakes than commit acts that are truly malicious, but it is hard for me to give Google the benefit of the doubt here.
These offers purport to give you a discount on a purchase, but in the fine print they set up a recurring charge on your credit card to join some kind of discount club. Now it’s remotely possible that a few people really do shop prolifically at these sites and that the discount truly outweighs the monthly charge, but I would bet it is an infinitesimal percentage. My guess is that the vast majority have no idea that their cards are to be charged and think they are getting a deal on their purchase, and nothing more.
Surely Google knows this, if for no other reason than customers must be calling in droves to have the charges removed from their bills. It’s not illegal, but it is evil. How exactly is this different from those evil spammers that are fooling Google? Both DoubleClick and spammers are trying to fool people for their own gain. If either party were open about what they are doing, their game would no longer be effective. That sounds kind of evil to me.
So, how about it, Google? Kudos for your stand on opening up some sunshine in China, but what about shining a light on your own shady business practices?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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