Odds are you did a search last week on Google and, if so, the odds are even greater that you searched for something locally; a restaurant, service provider or airfare from you local airport. The search results may have come in the from of a map or business listings, which likely provided you with the answer you needed faster than if you had used a third-party website. These results are upsetting to businesses that are seeing their webpages pushed down in the results by Google's own services.
Google results for credit card comparison, travel, health, shopping, restaurant reviews and more are routinely showing up ahead of third parties such as Bankrate, WebMD, Yelp and others. In a world where your Google search ranking can dictate the profitability of your business, this is a big deal. This practice has recently become more disruptive for Google's rivals due to the launch of more and more Google services like Google Places, Google Maps, Google Health and more.Several business, including TripAdvisor, told the Wall Street Journal that their traffic had declined since Google has become more active in the local review space. Stephen Kaufer, Chief Executive at TripAdvisor told the newspaper that "Google does seem to be chasing us and I don't like it one bit."
On one hand, there is a big concern that Google is taking advantage of it's online search dominance to become a destination for content, rather than just the destination for a search. There is the possibility of a homogenization of the web if Google is the one source for information on local searches -- but only if competitors (both search and local review websites) are unable to innovate and attract users.
For its part, Google has responded on the company's Public Policy blog. It explains that the search results are all about delivering what the users are looking for as fast as possible. In response to a European Commission review of Google's treatment of rivals, a Google Spokesperson posted the following statement, "Answering users' queries accurately and quickly is our number one goal. Sometimes the best, most relevant answer to a query is our traditional "ten blue links," and sometimes it is a news article, sports score, stock quote, video, or a map."
Ultimately, it's in Google's best interest to provide searchers with the fastest access to the best search results in the least amount of time. Right now, that means some of Google's own products may appear above the standard search results. Hopefully, Google will be able to work together with third parties to provide a means of getting the best content, including results that aren't "ten blue links," to searchers -- even if it comes from third parties.
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