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4/3/2008
05:43 PM
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Google To Sell Off DoubleClick's Performics Business

No buyer named yet, but the decision has been well received by the search engine marketing community, which happens to include some of Google's biggest customers.

Hoping to avoid criticism for a conflict of interest Google on Wednesday said it would sell newly acquired DoubleClick's Performics search marketing business.

"It's clear to us that we do not want to be in the search engine marketing business," said Google's director of DoubleClick integration Tom Phillips in a blog post. "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."

Search engine marketing companies offer to optimize Web sites so that they rank more prominently in Google searches. Providing such a service would make it seem as if Google were offering to skew its organic search results for paying clients. That would significantly undermine the trustworthiness of its search results and put search marketing companies not affiliated with Google at a competitive disadvantage.

"I think it's both a good move and an expected move," said Linda Gridley, president & CEO of Gridley & Co., an investment bank that provides financial advice to information services companies. "Really, it would have been a conflict of interest helping customers figure out how to maximize search."

Gridley said the decision has been well received by the search engine marketing community, which happens to include some of Google's biggest customers. According to Gridley about 40% of online marketing spending goes toward search marketing.

Microsoft's purchase of aQuantive has not prompted similar worries. aQuantive owns Avenue A/Razorfish, a digital interactive agency that offers services comparable to those offered by Performics, among a broader set of services.

Gridley said that Google's purchase of DoubleClick differs from Microsoft's purchase of aQuantive because two companies have different core businesses. Because Microsoft's core business isn't search, its ownership of a company offering search marketing services hasn't prompted the worries engendered by Google's ownership of Performics.

Phillips said that while Google had not yet settled on a buyer for Performics, some of its current partners have expressed interest.

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