Google Revenue Emergency Blurred Line Between Search, Ads

Davey Alba and Leah Nylen, Bloomberg:

Google maintains a firewall between its ads and search teams so that its engineers can innovate on Google’s search engine, unsullied by the influence of the team whose goal is to maximize advertising revenue. But in February 2019, testimony at the antitrust trial revealed Tuesday, Google internally declared a “Code Yellow” amid concerns the company might not meet its goals for search revenue for the quarter.

As part of the emergency, which lasted for seven weeks, engineers from Google’s search and Chrome browser teams were reassigned to figure out why user queries had slowed, according to the documents.

This and the related internal presentation (PDF) is the closest this trial has so far come to suggesting the kind of juicing reported by Megan Gray earlier this month. The slide on page five of that April 2019 presentation, for example, notes that while there is a “strong separation between Ads and Search”, those two teams are now “working together to recapture this commercial intent”. This does not necessarily suggest something nefarious — a commercial query could perhaps have more accurate ads. Even if Gray’s interpretation is not proven, slides like these damage Google’s insistence that search is not influenced by ads.