Google Defends Local Search Strategy from Rivals' Gripes
Google claimed it's Google Places, Place Search and Place Pages are designed to deliver the best information to users, but TripAdvisor, Yelp, Citysearch and WebMd feel slighted.Google Dec. 13 defended itself from suggestions that it gives its own Place Pages local search service preferential treatment on Google.com, arguing that anything it does is to help users find the best information possible. The issue arose after the Wall Street Journal published this story (paywall warning) Dec. 12 sourcing startup executives who fear Google is hijacking their market by touting links to its own results over their own.
TripAdvisor.com, health site WebMD.com and local business Websites Yelp.com and Citysearch.com have complained that Google surfaces links to services such as as Google Places or Google Health above links to their own services.
Yet Google's ultimate position is that it created all of these local search services to benefit users, not the Websites whose content it indexes in the course of providing users' information about businesses and locations. Even so, a steady drum beat is beginning to build around the issue. The complaints from local search Websites in the U.S. echo those made by product search sites Foundem, Ciao and eJustice in Europe. Their pleas have piqued the interest of the European Commission, which is investigating Google for finagling search results to put its own Google Product Search results above those of the smaller providers. Google is hearing similar complaints from FairSearch.org members, who oppose Google's proposed bid to buy travel software maker ITA Software because they believe the search engine will take over their market. Microsoft, which funds the ICOMP organization dedicated to persecuting Google for its expansion on the Web, joined FairSearch.org today. The burden all of these companies face is proving that Google is not only touting its own services above their others, but that in doing so it is harming the consumers by reducing choice and healthy competition.