Google is the world's largest advertising platform. I mean, of course it is. It's responsible for roughly half of all internet traffic, and it makes up more than 90 percent of all searches. One of the great genius moves of the past 25 years is that someone recognized that Google could leverage all of those queries and match them with paid ads that were highly related to a visitor's request.
And so, Google is where millions of small businesses promote their products and services and find new customers. It's also where millions of consumers go to find answers to their questions, and when they do, they often find those answers in the form of one of those products or services. It's a remarkably effective strategy: According to The Wall Street Journal, the company's ad business brought in almost $135 billion last year alone.
Of course, the massive size and scope of Google's advertising platform mean it's also an appealing target for more scammers. That's always been the case, but it's something we're all a little more sensitive to in a world where people are facing extraordinary challenges and many are desperate for anything that might help us find some form of 'normal.'
It's understandable then, that Google has an interest in making sure that the companies advertising products and services on its pages actually are who they say they are. As a result, Google says it will begin requiring advertisers to verify their identity in order to create ads on Google Ads, YouTube, and third-party sites that host its ads.
The company will require anyone wanting to run ads to provide both personal identification, as well as business documentation that shows the company is located in the country it claims. Current advertisers will have 30 days to complete the verification process.
Once this change rolls out widely, users will be able to click next to the ad to display more information about the advertiser. That information will include both the legal business name, as well as the company's location. Users will also have the ability to control whether future ads from that business are shown.
While Google says the move isn't directly in response to the onslaught of misinformation associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the change will certainly help reduce ads promoting false cures or faulty safety equipment.
Those have become a prevalent problem as less-than-ethical businesses race to profit on public anxiety and the desire for anything that resembles a treatment or cure. One of the biggest challenges of a platform the size of Google is the sheer number of users, and the difficulty in effectively determining what is credible, and what isn't.
There are actually two lessons here. The first is that if you're a business that uses Google Ads, you'll want to be sure you provide the required information so that you're able to keep using the platform.
The other, and arguably more important, lesson is this: When you build a platform, you're accountable to protect your users. That's true whether you're a multi-billion-dollar tech giant or a small business. The only difference is that the scope and reach of your influence determine your level of accountability.
Either way, the answer is the same. Do the right thing for your customers, even if it means saying no to the easy option. It would be easier for Google to simply allow anyone to advertise. Instead, Google is doing the right thing. That kind of action always pays off in the long run anyway.