News

POV: Google EU Antitrust Case – 3rd Proposal

MINDSHARE POINT OF VIEW The EU Commission and Google agreed on 5th February to a number of concessions in how the search engine displays competitor’s listings on its results page.

Details
EU regulators have been investigating Google’s search business practices since 2010, after accusations leveled at the search company that they were favouring their own services and products by displaying them more prominently in the results page. The EU Commission and Google came to a consensus after the third proposal was submitted, addressing four areas of concern:

Google favoring their own specialist search listings over competitors
The use of content from competing specialist search services in Google SERPs
Exclusivity of Google advertising on publisher’s websites
Migration of AdWords accounts to competitor platforms

Under the new proposal, Google will have to display three competitor results (including logos) alongside Google results, when using a specialized search product.

Google will also remove the restrictions in place when migrating Google campaigns over to competitor platforms, such as Microsoft’s’ Bing. The proposals have come under fire from parties protesting against the fact the exact terms of the settlement will not be made public until the deal is finalized.

Implications

Search Market - Google already displays competitor links within its listings, though the impact on Google’s own specialist search products is unclear. The proposal also raises the issue of which three competitors will have their results displayed alongside Google’s. Presumably this will be decided algorithmically, but will still leave a lot of competitors out in the cold.

Advertisers - With up to 45% of overall organic traffic being generated through specialised search services (Google Places, Images, Shopping Feed), we could see click through rate (CTR) negatively impacted on those services as users are exposed to a wider range of results from a broader spectrum of services, all offering similar results. Consequently, advertisers should place greater emphasis on optimizing their listings across all these services, not just Google, in order to remain visible and not decrease overall traffic volumes.

On the Paid Search side, there is no proposed change to the current algorithm which determines where advertisers are placed on the results page. However, the number of competitors in the specialist search product space (e.g. Product Listing Ads – PLAs) will increase, resulting in higher cost per clicks as more advertisers compete for less space. However, advertisers will be able to opt out from appearing in Google specialist services, without it impacting their natural search rankings.

Summary

Google’s third proposal has not been accepted yet, with the Commission reviewing the complainants’ commentary and feedback before deciding to make it legally binding. However, if implemented, this will be the biggest change to the Google SERPS in recent times. All future launches of Google’s specialist search products will be subsequently monitored by the commission’s trustee.