Local-Search Rivals Call Out Google, as Expected

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-09-22 Print this article Print

Next, NextTag's Katz painted Google as a formerly honest company that let its search-engine success lead it astray. As founder of Orbitz before creating price-comparison engine NexTag, Katz said his companies early on enjoyed great access and Web penetration by advertising with Google.

"But Google abandoned those core principles when they started interfering with profit growth. Today, Google doesn't play fair. Google rigs its results, biasing in favor of Google Shopping and against competitors like us. Google says that competition is just one click away, but that's not even the question.  The question is, should Google be able to use its market power to make it difficult for users to find us?

Specifically, Katz said that when consumers search for running shoes or washing machines, Google doesn't return the results it did a decade ago. Instead, he claimed, it points shoppers to its own Product Search engine most of the time to bolster its own monetary gain. Show us the evidence.

The most compelling testimony against Google came from Yelp's Stoppelman, whose brushes with Google have been well-documented and who has successfully influenced the blogpsphere to portray his company's dust-up with Google as a case of David vs. Goliath.

Stoppelman alleged that after partnering with Google, Yelp terminated the arrangement only to discover that Google last year began scraping its content, including local review snippets, for its Places local-search product. The CEO also claimed that Google said Yelp had to allow its content to be indexed to appear in Google's Web search.

Adding insult to this injurious scraping, Google then provided preferential treatment to its own, newer reviews recommendation engine, over Yelp's content. Stoppelman said Yelp and other rivals "take a back seat to Google's own competing products" as Google provides larger text, great graphics and isolated placement."

Google did something that might seem suspicious. Google-after admitting in late June that it was facing an antitrust inquiry from the FTC-in July yanked Yelp and other review snippets from its Places product.

Stoppelman questioned whether this was an admission of anticompetitive conduct. It certainly didn't look good, even if it was the right thing to do.

He concluded: "When one controls the market, it ultimately controls consumer choice. If competition were a click away as Google suggests, why have they invested so heavily to be the sole choice in Web browsers and phones. They are not taking chances."



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