Expedia calls out the anti-competitive and ‘anti-social’ practices by Google

In a first post on this blog, a post that skyrocketed my blog back in 2013/2014, I wrote a story about Expedia’s black hat SEO campaign. Soon after this post Google reportedly penalized Expedia and Expedia’s market cap was down by $800M. I was both excited and scared. Excited since I got many messages from potential clients and scared because I was just a pajama-blogger in a small country, who was I to take down Expedia?

Fast forward to February 14, 2020 and it seems like Expedia is now where I was back in 2013. Google is monopolizing its position and as the time goes by this problem will only get bigger. Looks like no one can do anything about that.

But, during Expedia’s Conference Call on February 13, Expedia Group Chairman Barry Diller (besides this he is also a college-droput and billionaire) and VC Peter Kern didn’t sweat at all. They called the things by their real name. Google is this huge elephant in the room, an elephant that is about to  break everyone’s businesses if government does not stop them. And they did not just talk about Google, they touched HomeAway, Amazon, VRBO, SEO…Lets see what will they do to take Expedia “to the promised land.”

On Google problem

“As far as Google is concerned, it’s a much bigger topic,” Diller said and continued “that Google has certainly monopoly share all over the world. And it does what monopoly shares get you to do, which is extend its business in every direction they can. Now, as long as they don’t use unfair practices, I got no problem with that. But, when they compete against their advertisers, and we are one of their largest advertiser, we and Booking.com are within their top five of advertisers, they’re using their tactics to squeeze these entities that are delivering real service is among many things, anti-social. I mean, I think it’s bad practice.  I told the senior management of Google exactly what we feel about this and have implored upon them to basically stop actually taking away the profits from businesses that are probably one of their main contributors to their advertising revenue. And I don’t know whether that’ll have much effect, but I’ve been very straightforward about it. And I think that there will be — look, when businesses get to this size, they absolutely have to have regulation, I don’t think we’re going to be saved by some by some bill, government bill. I absolutely believe there will be regulation.” but he added “The SEO is not going to kill us. And SEO is not the future of our business.”

On working in Expedia vs Amazon

Barry Diller touched another interesting topic. Working in huge corporations. “Having been Chairman of Expedia for I don’t know, I think almost 20 years or so, I thought I knew a lot about the Company. But, there’s nothing like being on the ground,” Diller said.

“And I’ll give you one anecdote that kind of rang in my ears that I’d heard, I don’t know, I guess a month or half or two months ago, kind of out there in Seattle, that at Amazon — whole concept of working life balance that at Amazon, it was all work and no life; and then Expedia was all life and no work. Now, that’s an enormous exaggeration. We’ve got wonderful people in the business. This is not damning or employees. But for several years, we really lost clarity and discipline.So, we’re changing a great deal. We’re stopping this too large complexity. We’re simplifying our strategy. We’re stopping doing dumb things and starting to do what we think are good things.”

So, it seems like it is going to be all work and no life from now on in Expedia?

“HomeAway is a dumb name”

The rebranding of HomeAway to Vrbo happened because, mostly, “HomeAway was a dumb name which meant nothing to no one.” Diller said.” We did have one business called Vrbo that did mean something to people and so — called the (business) VRBO, which we’ve tried and I think are at the very beginning of branding Vrbo. We did this absolute change day one, the day two, from everything to then one thing Vrbo. That caused us to lose a ton of SEO traffic. It was not well executed it was a disaster in terms of all the search engine optimization acumen that the company lost, and the execution of the change was not done well.