Google Universal Search Reviewed for Bias Toward Google Verticals
Late Friday Google disclosed it is facing another probe into its business practices. The Texas attorney general is reviewing Google’s methods for recommending websites in search results. The focus of the review seems to be on whether Google is manipulating its search results to eliminate competition. This complaint is another sign that every move by the Search Behemoth is raising the intensity and scrutiny by legislators and litigation worldwide.
Google faces suits by European regulators as well as ongoing civil suits in the US for allegedly biasing results towards it’s own services. Litigation is to be expected when the Universal SERPs can have up to 4 Google Vertcal listings of the ten results in some query spaces quite often dominating the above fold real estate marketers covet.
The recent purchase of AdMob with about 50% of Mobile ads served; the huge display advertising in the DoubleClick Network; Google’s Adword platform domination of search advertising and search share is a concern in Washington and Europe. You could likely assume the decision to not pursue purchasing Yahoo! was partially due to the scrutiny they would most certainly would have received from the DOJ.
Don Harrison, Google’s deputy general counsel, wrote in a Friday blog post on Google’s Public Policy blog “We look forward to answering (Abbott’s) questions because we’re confident that Google operates in the best interests of our users,” he then went on to note that SourceTool and myTrigger are represented by former Microsoft antitrust attorneys and Foundem is backed by ICOMP a company largely funded by Microsoft.
Conclusions and the SEO Perspective
Transactional queries seem to be under close scrutiny judging by the type of companies the review by the Texas attorney general has included in the review. In the past Foundem, SourceTool and myTriggers have filed lawsuits or regulatory complaints against Google so it is no surprise these are at the heart of the Texas probe. This could be because these companies have records of previous results before the blended search results were adopted by Google.
It should be noted that other comparison engines, coupon and social shopping platforms are found in the Google blended results. For some reason i think this is a lot like how some SEOs call everything above them spam.
Since this is a news post I won’t go into how I think this is all nonsense but will say these are nothing but nuisance cases. Partially because search results are subjective and that basically Google is not favoring its website but results from verticals it is obvious users want. Results from news and video in particular are indicated to be favored by users based on results from click analysis and online activity surveys. The other point is that all vertical search elements have their own algorithm and all sites have an equal opportunity to position themselves within those results and appear in the “offending positions.