Google often promotes its own services in its own search results, at the expense of similar services offered by other startups. The Wall Street Journal has a good rundown of the complaints this morning.
Those complaining include Yelp, whose local reviews are often superseded by Google’s own local results product, Places, WebMD, superseded by Google Health, Yahoo Finance, superseded by Google Finance, etc.
Google’s line in response is that it shows the results that are best for the user. Sometimes that means a Google service, sometimes that means someone else’s service. Of course, the problem with that is that who decides that a service is best for the user is, well, Google.
Furthermore, using its main search page to promote other services is reminiscent of the “bundling” charge that was used against Microsoft in antitrust proceedings.
That being said, it’s hard to get worked up about the complaints. Google is not being fair? In other news, there is no Santa Claus. Google is a search engine, it provides results to search queries. If you search for a local restaurant, Google should have listings for those restaurants and show them to you.
Furthermore, Yahoo Finance shows that these don’t have as much impact as many people think. Yahoo Finance is still waaaaay more popular than Google Finance, despite the alleged promotion by Google, simply because it’s a better product.
And these complaints can seem disingenuous. Yahoo uses its own traffic firehose to promote its own properties all the time, but Google can’t promote Google Finance? Yelp grew so big in the first place because it spent years gaming Google results to show up at the top of long tail local searches. If you rely on a platform like Google for growth, sometimes that platform will change. That’s part of the game.
Edit: Google responds to the allegations on local search on its public policy blog.
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