Google Voice Assistant Tied To Google Ads Caught In Oversight For Recommendations

As brands increasingly experiment with voice search and virtual assistants for advertising and ecommerce, the pitfalls and benefits along the way are becoming increasingly clear.

A recent feature recommends plumbers and other local home service providers without disclosing that the query results are pulled from a curated database mainly composed of companies that joined a Google marketing program, Reuters has discovered.

Based on the marketing program, “it’s not a completely clean recommendation,” according to one attorney who spoke with Reuters -- because it’s required that the companies that display their information on Google disclose all financial commitments.

Google disagrees. “The ranking of local providers listed on the Assistant is based on relevancy and not monetized,” said a Google spokesperson told Search Marketing Daily. “Any local provider can become eligible to show up in those results by going through our verification process and earning the Google Guarantee badge, which is completely free. This experience is only available in the United States.”  

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The ads are not tagged as ads or sponsored content because the company doesn't pay for the results, per Google, but while they don't pay for specific recommendations the program is ties to Google Ads. The assistant also makes business recommendations through partners like HomeAdvisor, but Google doesn't disclose this either. 

There have been no complaints about the ads, according to Reuters, but per a letter to Google from the Federal Trade Communication in 2013, search services that talk to consumers are not exempt from the fact that companies must make advertising distinguishable from organic listings.  

Organic listings in search results and organic listings like the recent deal between Walmart and Google.

Late Monday, Walmart announced a deal with Google to introduce a new way for consumers to search and buy groceries with their voice, through devices running Google Assistant.

The feature, Walmart Voice Order, will roll out during the next few weeks to those with Google Home devices, as well as other Google Assistant-enabled devices such as Android smartphones and iPhones.

Customers will be able to say “Hey Google, talk to Walmart” and the Google Assistant will add items directly to their Walmart Grocery cart, explains Tom Ward, Walmart SVP of digital operations in a blog post.

The list of items at first will require more input from the consumer such as “add one gallon of 2% organic milk,” but as the consumer uses the platform more often the Google virtual assistant will know exactly what type of milk to add to the cart. Rather than telling the Google assistant each time to add to the cart 2% organic milk, it will know which item is needed from past purchases just by using the word “milk.”

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