After Google finally acquired DoubleClick the controversy of Google now officially owning an SEM company was a reality. DoubleClick owned Performics, a company that sells SEM services, including SEO and PPC. Yes, a major conflict of interest. Google, officially announced that they will be selling off the search marketing side of Performics.
While that means a bunch of SEOs and SEMs jobs are bit up in the air now, the SEM community still feels, overall, that Google has made the right decision. Google's blog post explains the rational in selling it off:
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.
Stand up in my opinion. On the other hand, Google will be keeping the affiliate marketing group of Performics. Google explains that keeping that division in the Google team will provide "enhanced value and reach for our affiliate advertisers, and additional tools and monetization opportunities for our publishers." I guess it can bolster the Google AdSense referral project and some of their DoubleClick ventures.
Did any individual influence this decision? I suspect Danny Sullivan and Google's Matt Cutts had an influence, I suspect Matt actually had a huge impact on that decision, but he can obviously not talk about it. In fact, I am glad it happened after our April Fools Matt Cutts Transfers to Performics – Will Assume Lead SEO Role (it would have killed that story if released a couple days earlier).
In any event, I wish the best to all the SEMs and SEOs at Performics. I am sure it will work out for the company and your jobs in the long run. You can always pitch clients that Google once owned your company, as John jokes. But the bottom line is that this is the right move by Google and most of the SEM community would agree on that. Of course, this decision comes to no surprise to any of us.