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WSJ: Google's Monopoly and Internet Freedom: Google's Amit Singhal Responds
engine




msg:4463061
 5:49 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WSJ: "Google's Monopoly and Internet Freedom" [online.wsj.com]
It's a position all business leaders would love to find themselves in—a massive IPO, dominance in the marketplace, and a blank slate from policy makers to do practically anything they please.

Google has enjoyed this unrivaled position for nearly a decade. It is the most popular search engine in the world, controlling nearly 82% of the global search market and 98% of the mobile search market. Its annual revenue is larger than the economies of the world's 28 poorest countries combined. And its closest competitor, Bing, is so far behind in both market share and revenue that Google has become, effectively, a monopoly.

The company 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.


Google's Amit Singhal Responds: Setting the record straight: competition in search
[googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.co.uk]
And while we’re always happy to have feedback about how we can improve, it’s more useful if that feedback is based on facts. In today’s Wall Street Journal, the CEO of comparison shopping site Nextag makes several claims that are wrong -- or suggests that Google start doing things that we already do. Let me set the record straight:
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.




You need to read the whole of both articles to get a drift of the position and counter position.

 

Leosghost




msg:4463070
 6:20 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

"Clearly labeled" they might be ..

But Amit is very carefull not to say "clearly distinct from search results" ..because they are not, and he knows that very very well..more "blended" you just could not get..

Googlers are becoming masters at refuting "not quite the precise point which is made".. or replying to "not quite the precise question which is asked"..

A bit like "showing the results for"..as a opposed to "showing the results for exactly your query"..

dvduval




msg:4463074
 6:42 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

sorry, but depending on the angle of my screen the ads do not have a noticeable background color variation, and I have to look closely or change the angle. If I am looking just very slightly down on the laptop screen, the ads background is white. We're talking just a couple of degrees above straight on which I would expect many people see too.

netmeg




msg:4463076
 7:07 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm thinking pot meet kettle.

[searchengineland.com...]

mhansen




msg:4463080
 7:20 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

depending on the angle of my screen the ads do not have a noticeable background color variation, and I have to look closely or change the angle


More and more I find myself having to tilt the screen on my portable devices (laptop, tablet) to see the difference. I have to adjust my head on the PC (which runs at 1920x720 screen) screens...

Paid content (aka ads) are almost indistinguishable from the organic on my screens.

ken_b




msg:4463082
 7:26 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

More and more I find myself having to tilt the screen on my portable devices (laptop, tablet) to see the difference.

That's my story too. Ad it's darn annoying!

I've almost gotten to the point that I don't bother with the top 3 listings at all, unless NOTHING below looks like a possible hit.

.

jskrewson




msg:4463084
 7:29 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

So, Nextag's not a great spokesperson for us. You do have to be sympathetic to the cause though. Google is slowly "becoming" the Internet instead of being a doorway into the Internet.

Striving to "become" the Internet is not a morally defensible position, which is ironic giving their early "do no evil" mantra.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4463097
 8:04 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

The unpaid results are at or below the fold on many serps so the results PEOPLE SEE are indeed paid. A search user does not care to make the distinction Google is asserting.

In laymans terms people are talking about page one results and what they see most prominently, not what they don't see(natural results). It's like calling a car blue when the blue is actually under several coats of red. Sure the car is painted blue... but that's not what it looks like.

Google posted a screenshot of their new shopping layout, did you notice that only 2 natural results are visible? That doesn't sit well with many since Google also just launched algorithm changes that lower the rankings of any other site doing the same.

[edited by: Sgt_Kickaxe at 8:18 pm (utc) on Jun 8, 2012]

scooterdude




msg:4463098
 8:10 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well, some of us wait with bated breath to see what the various statutory investigations say.


I also read the D Sullivan article, and I don't think that was one of his best,

nomis5




msg:4463104
 8:15 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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


WE all understand the real truth in that statement but unfortunately it's true. And the real truth is obscured by the language used by G.

So how can G be called to account? How can we make the government policy makers understand that the world's public is being conned?

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4463108
 8:25 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

So how can G be called to account?

They can do as they wish with their website, but not with your content. Robots.txt googlebot would hold them accountable.

Seriously, take a look at the new shopping layout screenshot Google provided and ask yourself a very simple question: Is what I'm seeing mostly paid or not? The page is indeed mostly paid. The claim isn't that the results are paid, the claim is that the results PAGE is mostly paid which is very accurate now.

johnhh




msg:4463112
 8:46 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Fact: Let me be very clear: our unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment.


Fact: By the time you include the ads, places, shopping ( soon to be paid for ) 'natural' results are nowhere to be seen

Fact: By downgrading these replies to those by a Vice-President level you keep the bigs guys clean. ( for UK readers a Vice President is more like a Department Head rather than a Director )

Fact: If you have a high spend an adwords ( many million ) you get an invite to the plex to show you how to get exposure in 'natural' listings.

Fact: If you are a US listed corporation and spend on adwords you get a boost and get multiple listings in the top 30 positions

randle




msg:4463113
 8:47 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm no Google fan boy by any stretch, and the constant "Google Spin" on how every single change they make is all for your benefit not theirs, is getting really old, but where does Katz get the idea Google owes him traffic to his site?

If you dont like the amount of traffic your getting from Google you got 3 options:

Disavow the bot, and move on.

Get off your arse and learn how to make money through PPC

Improve your site in the hope you will rank higher, and also get more click throughs.

His whole diatribe is just a lot of whining.

Sorry about the rant but come on, your the CEO of a company that size and your complaining that the entity thats provided you millions in free advertising traffic is screwing you?

Would Nextag even exist if it weren't for Google?

jskrewson




msg:4463118
 8:52 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

randle, I think you are missing the point. Google is using their dominant position in search to raise the profile of Google Shopping and put Nextag out of business.

Its the same as when Microsoft bundled IE with the OS to get rid of Netscape. Dominant position in one area, used to eleminate competition in another.

netmeg




msg:4463131
 9:11 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have various problems with Google, and as someone whose made prodigious use of the free shopping feed on behalf of clients, I'm sorry (but not surprised) to see it go paid inclusion, but I have NO sympathy for Nextag, and the guy's a world class whiner as far as I'm concerned. Google's under no obligation to protect this guy's lousy business model.

Marshall




msg:4463142
 9:43 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

More and more I find myself having to tilt the screen on my portable devices (laptop, tablet) to see the difference.


Ditto.

Marshall

legaleagle




msg:4463143
 9:51 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Let me be very clear: our unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment


Isn't it reassuring to hear that?

albo




msg:4463153
 10:28 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google seems always to have a standard defense, to which I haven't found the credible answer. I guess I have to be meek and cower to the utter power of logic when I hear, "It's a free country and a free service: Use it or don't." (Like it or lump it?)

Lorel




msg:4463198
 12:26 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's true it's a free service but this free service monopolizes 82% of the Internet. Where else do you suggest we focus our efforts?

incrediBILL




msg:4463233
 2:31 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

free service monopolizes 82% of the Internet


How so?

Please explain as they do not monopolize any part of the internet that I use. Best I can tell they only monopolize their own domains.

People make Google the search monopoly and people can change that easily.

When you turn on your computer does it start at Google? If so, you make that happen, not Google. Go change your start page to something else.

Where do you search, at Google? Are they there typing in google.com, does your ISP redirect all your search requests to google.com or do you willingly go there? Go somewhere else to do your searches like Bing.

When you look things up on maps do you use Google Maps? Try MapQuest or something else next time.

Do you use Google Mail? Switch to Yahoo Mail.

Wait, those alternatives all stink you say?

Wait, Google just does a better job at all those things and are getting penalized because people PREFER them and a superior product?

Oh rats, being the best can make you a monopoly even when free choice to use something else is literally a click away?

Sorry people, Microsoft being preinstalled on computers and MSIE being the default browser and OUTLOOOK being the default email shoved down your throats, now THAT's a monopoly. Google wasn't pre-installed, wasn't the default, de-facto or anything de-else and people went to Google - that's NOT a monopoly, that's a PREFERENCE. How can it be a monopoly when lots of other choices (still) exist?

It would be like saying McDonald's has a monopoly on hamburgers just because most people go there, it's silly. Just because the drive-thru at Burger King, Carl's Jr. and Wendy's are pretty empty doesn't make McD's a monopoly, just means they do something the customer likes better because nobody is driving that car, or that keyboard in this case, except the customer.

The customer can obviously get what they need by multiple other sources but, unlike in the case on Microsoft or Apple OS being preinstalled on PCs, the customer is making a deliberate choice here out of many options and not being forced to pick just A or B.

They could use Bing, Blekko, Yandex, etc. and in an act of desperation they might even end up at Ask.com!

Don't forget, you can stop them easily:

User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: /

Try it, I dare you.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4463250
 3:38 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: /

Try it, I dare you.

Your dare has apparently been accepted in an upcoming wordpress plugin that adds that to pages which Google isn't sending traffic to after a 30 day period (it checks analytics). When no traffic from Google is detected the analytics is removed from the page and googlebot is blocked. No actual Google traffic during a 30 day period = no googlebot welcome mat. The dashboard will report which pages have been blocked to make it easy for the owner to upgrade them and allow googlebot manually again or to leave the bot blocked.

NO clue if this will be used at all, probably not, but the fact its being created says something. It's perhaps a happy medium between a complete block and pages being crawled incessantly without chance of receiving traffic. How many pages does Google crawl daily that they never send a visitor to anyway?

ChanandlerBong




msg:4463273
 5:25 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

IMHO, it was a dumb accusation because it gave G an easy out. He should have concentrated on more sinister truths and made it very clear he was talking about the natural SERPS and the way those results have been skewed in recent years.

Leave the ads out of it. Yes, we all know the background color is tending to #FFFFFF but even talking about the ads just lets some Google talking head come out and do what Singhal has done and score an easy home run chatting about natural SERPS and paid ads being totally different.

neildt




msg:4463299
 10:14 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

The clear problem is Google's actions for promoting their products in search over organic results. Like it's already been mentioned websites looking to compete in the organic have no chance.

On top of the strange looking results where branded sites who pay for Google Adwords appear to be getting repetitive listings for the similar URL, we have Google Places, Google Hotel Finder etc all pushing down the organic results.

Also with the Google Hotel Finder, any referral that yields a hotel booking means Google the affiliate earns money. The result, is Google is looking to make money in any area it can competing against organic sites.

Either organic ranking loses out, or you opt for Adwords (making money for Google). What ever you choose, it is a win win situation for Google.

Our company is completely changing it's view with regards Google, and adopting offline techniques.

piatkow




msg:4463322
 12:29 pm on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)


Paid content (aka ads) are almost indistinguishable from the organic on my screens.

Almost? Totally on mine!

Marshall




msg:4463333
 1:08 pm on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

branded sites who pay for Google Adwords appear to be getting repetitive listings for the similar URL,


I know one of the search terms I regularly test for, Amazon has 13 consecutive results, and 17 of the first 30 excluding ads. And more than half of the remaining 13 are not e-commerce sites but informational sites, mostly with Adsense. Nothing like fair and balanced results. Explain that G.

Marshall

skibum




msg:4463444
 8:45 pm on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google loves to dance around any direct question or accusation about the way it does business that may have merit and be valid. They don't lie, they dance.

It doesn't seem like this guy from NexTag is a very good representative for arguing against Google.

Leosghost




msg:4463451
 8:54 pm on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

I suspect that any senior Google personnel, VPs or "founders" or Eric, would refuse to be interviewed publicly and on the record, especially such as video, with anyone who was any good at arguing with them, and who actually had a clue about search and serps etc..and who would insist that they answered the actual questions, and stopped dancing..

diberry




msg:4463465
 9:55 pm on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think Yelp had a much better case against Google. Google scraped their reviews for Places, and when Yelp complained, they just happened to drop in G's rankings. That's verified and witnessed. The only defense Google can make is that the algo did it for mathematical reasons rather than G doing it manually out of spite, and that would be a very, very hard sell. Especially since Places was scraping and Yelp was the original source.

londrum




msg:4463536
 9:28 am on Jun 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Please explain as they do not monopolize any part of the internet that I use.


as a user they dont, sure. but as a business, they do.
your argument is only a half-argument, because it only applies to everyday users

web businesses cannot just change their browser, their email program, switch all their staff's computers to bing, and all of the other things that you mention, and expect to get a load more search traffic.

as an everyday user, okay, i can forget about google if i want, switch to other companies, and be perfectly happy. but as a webmaster who needs traffic, blocking google is suicide. in that sense, they have a monopoly.

netmeg




msg:4463697
 9:16 pm on Jun 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

But when it comes to search, it's a user-created monopoly. There are other options, people just don't want to use them. So how do you propose changing that? Forcing people to use Bing? Forcing Google to drop search? I don't know if you're in the US, but I am, and we're currently in (at least nominally) a pretty big anti-govt-intervention phase when it comes to business.

There are various things that Google needs to answer for, mostly in the areas where they're straying OFF the search business. But I don't see it as likely any entity is going to be successful messing with them on search, at least not in the US. There ARE other options available; Google is not keeping them out of the market. And apart from the reasons already mentioned, we have that pesky free speech thing.

As a webmaster who needs traffic myself, and for clients, Google is a tool. It's only one tool; I have others. It's my responsibility to make sure I have others.

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