Basecamp CEO calls out Google’s pay to play search practices, calls it “ransom”

Basecamp co-founder and CEO Jason Fried accused the tech giant Google for its advertising practices and called it a “shakedown.”

A simple Google search for the word “Basecamp” will end up yielding a slew of search results, out of which the first one or more results are advertisements of other similar services to Basecamp.

Fried expressed frustration at the fact that the tech giant was featuring other advertisements in the top spot instead of the original and organic search result, forcing Basecamp to pay and advertise for the top spot.

“When Google puts 4 paid ads ahead of the first organic result for your own brand name, you’re forced to pay up if you want to be found. It’s a shakedown. It’s ransom. But at least we can have fun with it. Search for Basecamp and you may see this attached ad,” tweeted Fried.

In a creative attempt to vent frustration, the company purchased the advertisement spot in the search results and titled their advert as, “ | We don’t want to run this ad.”

“We’re the #1 result, but this site lets companies advertise against us using our brand. So here we are. A small, independent co. forced to pay ransom to a giant tech company,” read the above-mentioned advert.

At a juncture where Google is facing scrutiny for its practices in search and advertising, a complaint such as this magnifies the perils of Google’s monopoly.

In a CNBC interview, Friend had expressed that the company never advertised on Google in the past, but it was forced to do so as the Basecamp was sometimes turning up in the fifth search result, despite being the first organic result and the brand people were searching for.

Known as “conquering,” this practice is a sly way of showing up in the top search results of your competitor’s brands. Such “conquering” practices are common across several platforms, with Amazon’s search results being the other example.

Fried also added that Basecamp had filed trademark violation complaints with Google for ads that used Basecamp’s name. In this connection, a spokesperson for Google said that the company prohibited the use of trademarked items in the text of an advert if the owner files a complaint.


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