EU Investigation Discovers Google DOES Manipulate Search Results for its Own Benefit
EU INVESTIGATION DISCOVERS GOOGLE DOES MANIPULATE SEARCH RESULTS FOR ITS OWN BENEFIT – A recent EU investigation in to allegations that Google has been manipulating the search results in Europe that allows Google to places its services above those of competitors has found this to be the case.
In response to the EU investigation Google will now provide the EU Commission with a list of concessions this week in order to stave off prosecution and being fined.
This is the first time Google has bowed to regulatory pressure and some advocate groups and websites are again calling for U.S trade investigations to determine whether Google is playing by the rules that it sets for every other website. Last year the U.S Trade Commission found Google NOT guilty of any such behaviour.
The EU investigation, which began in 2010, turned up a number of in-house practices that allowed Google to basically by-pass its own stringent algorithm
s and therefore place its services above those of competitor which resulted in ‘squeezing out’ the competition.
It is interesting to note that the EU Commission did dismiss other allegations, mainly those of demoting rival services. While Google may not have tweaked its algorithms to target any one particular rival service it did however ensure that its own services appeared above those from its competitors.
Google’s rise to dominance was originally based on the idea that ‘users’ determined the position of any search result through a complex set of algorithms that monitored use, time on site, page views and others to determine the usefulness of the content and therefore its ranking position within the search engine results.
Over the last 3 years we have seen Google push the envelope further by introducing a number of algorithmic changes including Panda, Penguin and Caffeine; all designed, as Google will tell you, is to produce greater quality in the search results while removing duplicate, farmed or scrapped content from its index.
While many of the algorithm changes have produced benefits some groups are now accusing Google of simply ‘policing the web’ and that Google is now forcing, through its dominant position, website owners to comply or perish.
Google has a strict set of guidelines regarding quality of content but also many other factors are taken into consideration, such as page load speed, which is forcing web owners to spend more time ‘tweaking’ their websites in order to comply. While most would agree that some measures are helpful to their visitors others feel that Google is simply dictating to website owners how to run their businesses.
One of the biggest bones of contention has to be the ‘Page Layout Algorithm, which penalizes websites who insert advertisements ‘above the fold’. The term ‘above the fold’ earmarks the first 600 pixels from the top and Google had noted in its guidelines that “Visitors come for content, not advertising.”
The most valuable real estate, in terms of advertising, it that very space ‘above the fold’ and Google knows it. In fact if you search on Google the first 3 results are Google’s own Adwords Ads and to the right are all Adwords Ads. Most website owners are voicing their opposition saying that what appears unacceptable for the goose the gander can do what it likes.
The Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has also become a victim of Google’s continuous algorithmic changes as most find that as soon as they overcome one penalty Google introduces yet another.
Google has, for a long time, told website owners not to worry about SEO but to focus on great content. This, as they see it, will result in people sharing the content, spending longer on a website and therefore naturally pushing a website up the search rankings.
There is little doubt that for most websites the position in Google search results can be the difference between success and failure and many are asking the question; “Should Google be able to hold websites to ransom through its complex algorithms?”
The fact is that Google is not obligated to index any website or webpage and the service is also free. All Google asks in return for the traffic it is able to send a particular website is that it complies with its quality guidelines.