Help! Google is Stalking Me, and What This Means for Marketers

I love SEO, know a bit about it, and help other people figure out how to make their content more search friendly as well, so I’ll start this post with admitting I am also part of the problem.

Recently, my husband and I were looking to make a pretty substantial purchase-an Eames Chair- and it was going to be our collective gift to each other, especially given the price of the thing.  As with any substantial purchase, we did a fair amount of research.  We looked at the price of the the “real” thing versus knock off versions.  We looked at prices of new versus used.  We looked at reviews, options in fabric and wood- you name it.  And, of course, we did most of this online, on our computers and our mobile devices.  In January, we found a local seller through whom we could order our custom chair, and it would take about 12 weeks to get it.  It arrived at our house this week, and we’re excited.

Good for you, you say- why should I care?

Because ever since this process started, I have Google Ads for Eames chairs following me everywhere.  Any web marketing site.  Games.  Facebook.  Gmail.  You name it, people are trying to sell me a chair.  Months ago now, I ordered and paid for the item.  But there is no way for me to let Google know that I have already purchased and converted- there’s no need to send me any more ads.

-It’s a pricey item, and I’m unlikely to buy another soon.

-I’ve made a decision, and don’t need to second guess the one I made.

– I love the chair, and I don’t need to sell it to anyone.

-I’m unlikely to recommend any of these other sellers, because I like our dealer, Spectrum Furniture, just fine, thanks.

All of the ads shown to me after we made the purchase on January 3 are useless and a useless spend on the part of the company marketing this item.  I am no longer a prospective buyer, but a satisfied purchaser not looking for any alternatives. Yet, everywhere I go, I see ads following me around on the web like a particularly annoying insect or stalker for Eames Chairs.

This is one example- another is that I have typed into Google “Fitbit” to get to the website, without putting in the URL because I am, from time to time, lazy.   Fitbit has folks use its website to track fitness data, so of course I would go to the website for purposes other than purchasing a new Fitbit.  Now, I may have, once, looked at the new models they were offering, but I’m happy with mine.  Yet Google also seems to think I need a new Fitbit for about a week after I put Fitbit into a search box.

From a consumer’s point of view, I am fed up with feeling like I’m being stalked by automated ads for things I already own and have purchased.  From a marketers point of view, I look at all of this is wasted money and time, when they could have been targeting someone who was actually a potential customer, with intent to buy. Instead, I am left with the intent to annoy, and I have no way of turning this cyber-product-stalking off, or indicate what I may actually be considering in the back corners of my mind.  I know this is all a product of well-placed SEO, but it’s getting to be too much.

What I’d love to see, and where I think the money will be in marketing in the next few years, is doing a better job of discerning buying or intent signals, so marketers have a better chance of using their dollars wisely, and giving consumers the option, somehow, to opt out of cyberstalking messages about things they’ve already purchased.  If I could just let Google know I already have a Fitbit and an Eames Chair, they could start showing me ads for things I really might care about right now- like college scholarships for my kid, or summer tech camps for my younger child, or Menorcinas sandals, that remind me of a terrific trip to Menorca and the great pair of shoes I bought there.

The future will be giving over a bit more ad control to consumers- like the video ads that let you choose whether it’s relevant to you or not.  I just wish this worked for other things I ‘ve had a passing fancy in, where I could opt in or out for different topics.

With the level of Google Cyberstalking that’s going on, I’m seriously considering using a less invasive search engine for subjects I don’t want to be tied to forever- especially if I’m doing research for a client, or a parent, or someone else, not myself, because lord knows, the last thing you want showing up in all your feeds is information about your aging parent’s medical needs or, on the flip side, all the video games your kids were looking up using your Google account.

I’m all for big data.  But unless you let consumers edit data or our searches for true intent versus what sticks to us because more than one person uses the same computer, or god forbid you do research for anyone else, you risk getting it wrong and seriously offending people at the same time.

Socialization of data sounds like a good idea on paper.  But recently, this has been causing me more aggravation and annoyance, to the point where I’m actively looking for more unbiased and unfiltered searches and places to search without feeling like I’m leaving virtual data trails everywhere.

Maybe it’s time to go to the library and do it the old fashioned way.  Wait.  Their search is on computer as well, so there’s no escape.

I guess I’m stuck until I can figure out how to file a restraining order against Google and the folks optimizing SEO/SEM on Eames Chairs and Fitbits.  But for the rest of you, remember that sometimes, just sometimes, optimization may be going a wee bit too far.

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  • hobo bob

    I must say, google is an a*^hole for stalking everyone that way.

  • secretive guy

    GOOGLE CHROME AD BLOCK ROCKS!!!!!