Google to Sell Performics, Lay Off 300 DoubleClickers

Google responds to industry critics by vowing to sell the search marketing business of Performics.

In a move that has search experts giddy over the preservation of objectivity, Google said it will sell the Performics search marketing business it secured when it bought DoubleClick.

The company is also laying off 300 people, or one-quarter of the 1,200 DoubleClick staffers based in the United States, a source familiar with the company's plans told eWEEK.

Google, which closed the $3.1 billion deal for DoubleClick on March 11, the same day it passed muster with the European Union, said April 2 it is splitting the DoubleClick Performics unit into affiliate marketing and search marketing units.

Google said it will integrate the affiliate marketing business into existing Google operations to support its affiliate advertisers and provide more tools and monetization opportunities for its publishers.

The company does not yet have a buyer for the search marketing business, although Tom Phillips, director of DoubleClick integration for Google, wrote in a blog post that several current Google partners had expressed interest.

Search marketing, which helps marketers place ads on search engines for Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, will run as a separate unit until the division is sold.

"It's clear to us that we do not want to be in the search engine marketing business," Phillips wrote in the same blog post. "Maintaining objectivity in both search and advertising is paramount to Google's mission and core to the trust we ask from our users."

Search expert Danny Sullivan, who wrote an open letter asking Google to sell Performics to avoid the conflict of having a search marketing firm try to improve results on Google's own search engine, thanked Google for the gesture in a blog post April 2.

Sullivan is calling for Microsoft to do the same with the Avenue A/Razorfish search marketing assets the software company gained when it bought aQuantive in 2007 for $6 billion.

Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson confirmed the layoffs but would not provide additional details beyond this statement:

"Today, we are laying off some DoubleClick employees in the United States and placing others in transitional roles," the spokesperson told eWEEK. "We are confident that our combined organizational structure, along with the skills and experience of our new colleagues, will allow us to continue to offer great products and services to our customers."

The statement comes after Google CEO Eric Schmidt hinted at early April layoffs in his blog post celebrating the closure of Google's purchase of DoubleClick.

Google said it expects to trim some DoubleClick workers overseas as well, but has not yet provided a timeframe or head count for that action.