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Google favors its own results, rivals charge

Katherine Noyes | Dec. 14, 2010
Critics say Google gives preferential treatment to its services in search results

'Search Neutrality'

Still, given that Google's revenue depends largely on the ads that accompany its search results--and that it enjoys such a dominant position in the search arena--the question is clearly an important one.

At the heart of the general question is the concept of "search neutrality," as Search Engine Land blogger Greg Sterling pointed out in a post on Monday morning.

"Does Google have a right to offer its own content and products at all?" Sterling wrote. "Alternatively should Google's own products be in some fixed position on the page below other publishers? What are or should be Google's obligations' to third party publishers? This is the central question."

'Google Nailed It'

At least some feel it has no such obligations.

"For these companies to hold their breath and kick their feet because Google has taken away their search lollipop is absurd," wrote Frank Reed on Marketing Pilgrim. "Google is not a government entity that is designed for handouts and 'fair' treatment. It's a business that has done something better than anyone else and as a result most people turn to them for answers."

Reed goes on to describe an example search for New York hotels.

"What Google gives me is hotels, just like I asked," he writes. "Then it shows me TripAdvisor after it lists specific hotels because the TripAdvisor site is not about a hotel but it's about many hotels and it requires more searching."

On a search for New York hotel reviews, on the other hand, "TripAdvisor has the number one position. Google nailed it," he explains.

Google is "not being a monopoly," in other words--it's "simply being better than every other competitor," Reed concluded. "In capitalism, that's what wins."

Equal Representation?

So, which is it? Should Google be required to display search results in a way that equally represents all competitors? Or should it be allowed to continue deciding which results best serve users--including, perhaps more often than not, its own?

I'm not sure what the answer is here, but I'm not inclined to favor the former option, which seems like it would degrade the quality of search results pretty quickly.

What do you think?

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk. 


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