"How can that be, given that it's an
auction model?" Sullivan says. "In an auction, the highest price wins. Since AdWords began, Google's never sold to the highest bidder." The winner is calculated through a mix of factors, including bid
price and the ever-elusive Quality Score. And because Google alone determines Quality Scores in a somewhat opaque manner, Sullivan says that the giant is essentially manipulating all the prices
"Let's be clear: Quality scores mean advertisers with ads deemed 'good' pay less," he says. "But the bottom line is that Google is interfering in the auction in ways only it knows."