Google’s search engine was found displaying the company’s own results ahead of those from rivals Yelp and TripAdvisor in response to queries for those sites on mobile devices, reports Recode.
Over the weekend, searches for restaurant reviews with queries like ‘yelp ozumo’ on phones surfaced links to Google’s listing of the establishment first, with Yelp’s page far below. The company blamed a bug for the issue, saying in a statement:
The issues cited were caused by a recent code push, which we’re working quickly to fix.
Yelp and TripAdvisor’s respective CEOs Jeremy Stoppelman and Stephen Kaufer were clearly unhappy about the problem. Both company heads tweeted examples of the problem and called Google out for allegedly gaming its search engine.
— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) November 22, 2015
— stephen kaufer (@kaufer) November 22, 2015
Yelp noted that around a third of Google searches that contained its name along with an accompanying term (such as ‘yelp sheraton’) were directed away from its site.
Some Twitter users replied to the CEOs’ tweets and noted that the issue may have been rolled out only to certain geographies or to a limited number of users, as their results in testing similar search queries varied.
TripAdvisor and Yelp are are complainants in the EU case against Google for anticompetitive behavior, in which they claim that the search giant intentionally promotes its own results over others.
In addition, the ‘buggy’ behavior of the search engine seems to be linked to an algortihmic change described in Google’s internal emails that surfaced during the US Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust investigation of the company. The algorithm was developed to automatically show Google’s products when searches triggered competing websites to rise.
It’s unclear if the issue has been fixed across the board yet. We’ve contacted Google for comment and will update this post when we hear back.