Is anyone else concerned about the ads and competitor recommendations in Google's Knowledge Graph? Ginny Marvin's fine post
on SEL highlighted the fact that for a selection of movie titles the ads shown in Knowledge Graph about those movies seemed to disproportionately favor Amazon downloads and Google Play over other streaming sites. That is interesting, but ultimately the brand -- in this case the movie/film studio -- doesn't really care which distribution partners are featured, so, while Netflix might need to spend more to get in the mix, Despicable Me 2 is likely indifferent.
What I find disturbing is that if I search for "Target" the Knowledge Graph tells me all kinds of good stuff about Target, but then also points out that people also search for WalMart, Best Buy, Sam's Club, etc.
Now maybe this isn't a big deal for Target since everyone knows their competitors. But suppose you're a fashion brand like Express? Do you really need Google to tell your customers who else they should consider before buying at Express?
An argument could be made that there have always been ads for competitors on brand searches so this is no big deal. I don't agree. "The Knowledge Graph" carries with it a certain authoritative aura. Where search ads from other brands seem a wee bit desperate (look at me! look at me!) Having an "Everything you should know about this brand," source with stock tickers, etc saying: "and you should also consider these other companies..." that's just wrong! Companies work hard to develop their brand and generate the kind of loyalty and interest that prompts people to search for them by name. "Helpfully" encouraging those loyal customers to shop around erodes the lifetime value of customers, and ironically could bite Google in the butt down the road. Companies invest in non-brand paid search to reach new customers. Many companies are willing to lose money on an initial purchase from a new customer because lifetime value makes that a growth investment that pays off. If, however, lifetime value erodes (because some unnamed navigational tool suggests alternatives instead of simply helping the person find the info they requested) companies will in turn be less willing to invest in new customers. Do others find this practice objectionable? Is it different than just normal ads from competitors?