Ads promoting the Google Pixel and the Google Pixel XL dominated Google Search over the holiday season, an analysis conducted by SEMrush in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal revealed. After running 25,000 searches over the course of a single day in December, analysts found that 99.9-percent of queries for "phones" and "smartphones" resulted in exactly three ads promoting the Google Pixel, listed right above the actual Search results. Seeing how the ads would redirect a user to the Google Store, they were clearly purchased by the Mountain View-based tech giant. Furthermore, queries related to other general terms like "laptops," "smart speakers," and "smartwatches also yielded Google's own ads virtually every time during the same period, according to the results of the analysis.
In 91-percent of all cases, the most prominent advertising spot was taken by an ad purchased by either Google or Nest. SEMrush conducted the analysis on a sample of 25 searches repeated 1,000 times each using the desktop version of Google Search that didn't account for any previous browsing history. The Wall Street Journal reportedly shared its findings with Google in December. A week later, only 19-percent of all ads served under the conditions outlined above were purchased by the company. While it's possible Google turned down the amount of advertising it was serving due to the findings, it's also possible that it simply stopped promoting its products as much once the holiday season was nearing its end. However, both scenarios are just speculation as the Alphabet-owned company didn't clarify the drop in its online advertising activities.
In general, Google's hardware division has every right to purchase Google Search advertising and compete with other companies for premium advertising positions. However, these practices are usually frowned upon by antitrust regulators who may interpret them as being anti-competitive. That is especially relevant in the present day and age seeing how Google is currently facing three separate antitrust charges filed by the European Commission, one of which is specifically related to Google Search ads. The Mountain View-based Internet giant has so far defended its practices by claiming all of its marketing campaigns have been designed not to affect third-party advertisers looking to promote competing products on its platform.
Google has offered an official comment regarding their marketing programs, stating that "We have consciously and carefully designed our marketing programs to not impact the ad auction. All our bids are excluded from the auction when determining the price paid by other advertisers, and we have strict rules and processes – set to tougher levels than our customers – to govern the use of our own ads products."