Google is getting itself out of a somewhat sticky situation by deciding to sell Performics Search Marketing, which it acquired as part of the DoubleClick deal. It will retain the affiliate marketing portion of the DoubleClick Performics business.
Since Google announced its intention to acquire DoubleClick last year, Google had faced criticism of the potential conflict of interest that would be created by Google owning a search marketing firm. After all, why wouldn't customers assume, even if it weren't the case, that a Google-owned agency would have inside information?
According to Tom Phillips, director of the DoubleClick integration at Google:
It's clear to us that we do not want to be in the search engine marketing business. Maintaining objectivity in both search and advertising is paramount to Google's mission and core to the trust we ask from our users. For this reason, we plan to sell the Performics search marketing business to a third party. We believe this will allow us to maintain objectivity and the search marketing business to continue to grow and innovate and serve its customers. While we have not yet identified a buyer, we've received preliminary interest from a number of our current partners. Search Marketing will continue to run as a separate entity until the division is sold.
So that only leaves one major search engine who's also in the SEO business: Microsoft, which acquired Avenue A | Razorfish and its SEO business with the aQuantive acquisition.