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Danny Goodwin

Texas AG Wants Google's Formula for AdWords Rates, Ranking Sites

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The Texas attorney general leading an antitrust investigation of Google wants to know how Google determines the prices for its AdWords paid search advertising program and how sites are ranked in Google's search results.

According to various reports, a civil investigative demand from Texas AG Gregg Abbott from July 29 asked Google provide his office with:

  • Details on how it sets prices for its AdWords search advertising program.
  • Information on how the company "scores" different sites to rank search results.
  • The identity of employees responsible for Google's Product Search price comparison service.
  • Documents related to shopping websites Froogle, Google Product Search, and Google Shopping.
  • Minutes, agendas, and notes from search quality team meetings at Google.
  • Documents that show "manual overriding or altering of" search result rankings.
  • Documents referring to "black listing" any website.
  • Documents on Bing and Yahoo.
  • Complaints about purchasing and placing an ad on Google.

This inquiry began back in September and is based on complaints by Foundem, SourceTool/TradeComet, and myTriggers. At the time, Google said its focus was on providing the most relevant search results and ads for users:

"Given that not every website can be at the top of the results, or even appear on the first page of our results, it's unsurprising that some less relevant, lower quality websites will be unhappy with their ranking."

Google also pointed to this post as an explanation of the theory behind using algorithmic results, this post, and "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine" by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Google was ordered to comply with the request by August, but neither side would comment on whether Google met that deadline.

UPDATE: Got a copy of the document. The requests are broken into two sections: interrogatories and requests for documents.

Interrogatories

  1. Identify persons with principal responsibility for setting or modifying AdWords prices and/or minimum bids.
  2. Identify persons with principal responsibility for determining the criteria for Landing Page Quality Scores.
  3. Identify persons with principal responsibility for determining or modifying Landing Page Quality Scores.
  4. Identify Google's search partners.
  5. Identify persons with principal responsibility for negotiating agreements with Google search partners.
  6. Identify persons with principal responsibility for managing the business relationships between Google and its search partners.
  7. Identify Google's syndication partners.
  8. Identify persons with principal responsibility for negotiating agreements with Google syndication partners.
  9. Identify persons with principal responsibility for managing the business relationships between Google and its syndication partners.
  10. Identify the persons primarily responsible for creating, promoting and managing Froogle.
  11. Identify the persons primarily responsible for creating promoting and managing Google Product Search.
  12. Identify the persons primarily responsible for creating, promoting and managing Google Shopping.
  13. Identify persons with principal responsibility for advertising or marketing relationships with vertical search engine advertisers, including but not limited to the following companies: myTriggers, WorthPoint, Foundem, TradeComet.com, and SourceTool.com.
  14. Identify Google's internet search advertising competitors.

Requests for Documents

  1. Documents setting forth Google's policies, procedures, algorithms and/or practices for setting or modifying AdWords prices or minimum bids.
  2. Documents setting forth Google's policies, procedures, algorithms and/or practices governing the outcome of AdWord auctions.
  3. Documents setting forth criteria and/or algorithms for setting or calculating Landing Page Quality Scores.
  4. Documents relating to the modification of Landing Page Quality Scores.
  5. Complaints regarding AdWords pricing or minimum bids.
  6. Complaints regarding Landing Page Quality Scores.
  7. Documents relating to the complaints identified in response to Document Request Nos. 5 and 6.
  8. Documents relating to the manual overriding or altering of algorithmic search result rankings.
  9. Communications between Google advertising or marketing staff person(s) and any Google employee(s) responsible for search algorithms relating to an advertiser's search result rankings.
  10. Minutes, agendas, and notes from search quality team meetings.
  11. Minutes, agendas, and notes from AdWords quality team meetings.
  12. Communications with the French Competition Authority relating to AdWords policies.
  13. Communications with third parties regarding increases in AdWords prices or minimum bids.
  14. Communications with third parties regarding new or modified Landing Page Quality Scores.
  15. Documents referring to "white listing" any web site.
  16. Documents relating to the relaxation or waiver of Google's criteria for Landing Page Quality Scores for any web site.
  17. Documents referring to "black listing" any web site.
  18. Documents relating to the application of more stringent Landing Page Quality criteria to any web site.
  19. Agreements with Google search partners.
  20. Documents that describe, analyze or discuss search partner relationship(s).
  21. Documents relating to exclusivity in search partner relationships.
  22. Documents relating to Landing Page Quality scores for any Google search partner.
  23. Documents relating to the impact of changes in AdWords prices or minimum bids on any Google search partner.
  24. Correspondence regarding any search partner's natural or sponsored search result ranking.
  25. Documents relating to the search result placement or ranking of Froogle, Google Product Search, or Google Shopping.
  26. Documents discussing the impact of "Universal Search" or "blending" on traffic volume directed to Froogle, Google Product Search, or Google Shopping.
  27. Documents that that describe, analyze, or discuss strategies for Google to enter the product search market and/or increase traffic to Froogle, Google Product Search, Google Shopping, or any similar Google service.
  28. Documents that describe, discuss or analyze the success, failure, traffic volume, or revenues associated with Froogle, Google Product Search, or Google Shopping.
  29. Documents relating to competition from vertical search engines, including but not limited to the following companies: Worth Point, myTriggers, Foundem, TradeComet.com, SourceTool.com
  30. Documents relating to web site traffic volume for any vertical search engine.
  31. Documents relating to the impact of changes in AdWords prices or minimum bids on vertical search engines, including but not limited to the following companies: Worth Point, myTriggers, Foundem, TradeComet.com, SourceTool.com
  32. Documents relating to advertising revenues, web site traffic volume, or search result rankings for any of the following companies: Worth Point, myTriggers, Foundem, TradeComet.com, SourceTool.com
  33. Documents relating to the actual or potential loss of Google advertising revenue from any vertical search engine resulting from changes to AdWords pricing, Landing Page Quality Scores, search partner agreements, or "white listing" decisions.
  34. Documents sufficient to show Google's share of search advertising revenue, and its competitors' relative shares.
  35. Documents sufficient to show the share of internet searches conducted on Google and on competing search engine web sites.
  36. From January 1, 2009 through the present, documents that describe, analyze, or discuss competition for advertisers from Bing and Yahoo.
  37. Advertising syndication agreements with Google syndication partners.
  38. Documents relating to exclusivity in advertising syndication arrangements.
  39. Documents sufficient to show your document preservation, retention, destruction, backup and litigation hold policies.

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