Following a highly critical article that recently ran in the Wall Street Journal, Google has opened up on its blog, claiming that a number of statements from Nextag CEO Jeff Katz were entirely false. This is particularly interesting for Google to do, as the search giant doesn’t often pick fights so aggressively.
This is certainly not the first anti-trust complaint that has been targeted at Google as of late. Take, for instance, Expedia and Trip Advisor, both of which filed EU anti-trust complaints back in April. Shortly after that, Google confirmed it was under investigation in both Argentina and Korea and most recently faced a new probe from the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
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According to Google, here are a few of the “claims” VS “facts” stated in the article. Of course, take these with a grain of salt, as Google’s well-being is at stake:
Claim: “Most people believe that when they type “convection microwave oven” or “biking shorts” into Google, they will receive a list of the most relevant sites. Not true. That’s how Google used to work. Now, when someone searches for these items, the most prominent results are displayed because companies paid Google for that privilege.”
Fact: Let me be very clear: our unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment. Our algorithms rank results based only on what the most relevant answers are for users — which might be a direct answer or a competitor’s website. Our ads and commercial experiences are clearly labeled and distinct from the unpaid results, and we recently announced new improvements to labeling of shopping results. This is in contrast to most comparison shopping sites, which receive payment from merchants but often don’t clearly label search results as being influenced by payment.
Claim: “It’s easy to see when Google makes changes to its algorithms that effectively punish its competitors, including us.”
Fact: As we’ve said many times before, we built search to help users, not websites. We don’t make changes to our algorithms to hurt competitors. We make more than 500 changes a year (each one scientifically evaluated) in order to deliver the most useful results for our users – and we now publish a monthly list of algorithm improvements. Every one of those changes moves some websites up and some sites down in the rankings, but the most important thing is that users are happy with the results.
Claim: “[Google] has used its position to bend the rules to help maintain its online supremacy, including the use of sophisticated algorithms weighted in favor of its own products and services at the expense of search results that are truly most relevant.”
Fact: Our algorithms are always designed to give users the most relevant results — and sometimes the best result isn’t a website, but a map, a weather forecast, a fact, a quick answer, or specialized image, shopping, flight, or movie results. And that’s not just Google; Bing, Yahoo and other search engines do the same thing.
Claim: “Google should provide consumers with access to the unbiased search results it was once known for—regardless of which company or organization owns the service. It should also allow users to reduce the number of ads shown or incorporate a user’s preferred services in search results.
Fact: All major search engines — including Bing and Yahoo — long ago evolved beyond the simple “ten blue links,” and we believe that our users are often best served by providing better answers directly in search results. And if users don’t like our results, they can try Bing,Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, or even Google Minus Google.
As you can see above, these are some very serious claims for Katz to be making, but it’s clear that he is not alone in his complaints. As far as we can tell, this issue is only going to grow in size unless Google starts becoming significantly more transparent, while throwing some serious bones out to its competitors.