Google is not a government. Therefore, they are not in any way obligated to promote the social welfare of all, particularly not the business objectives of their competitors.
What am I referring to? Today’s Wall St. Journal featured an article documenting critics of Google’s practice of featuring their own products prominently in search results. To me, this argument is so absurd that it’s unbelievable. My two main reasons are as follows:
1. Google’s other products are mostly search engines in other verticals – shopping search, local search, etc. They have competitors within each of these verticals who have their own dedicated search for these verticals. If people prefer Yelp’s local search to Google’s, they should go to yelp.com to search for local businesses. Google shouldn’t be forced to prioritize linking to Yelp’s site/search results, Google is a business with the legal responsibility to maximize profits to its shareholders. The way it does that is by prioritizing the needs of users to get to an answer or to the best destination website in the quickest amount of time possible.
2. Even if Google started selling cars and wanted to put the links to their cars first no matter what car you searched for, so be it. They are a corporation in a free market society. The market will ensure that the best products will win. If customers prefer to search at Bing or Yelp or Trip Advisor, then they should and they will. It is absurd to suggest that because of Google’s success that they should be regulated to ensure “fair” treatment in search results. There is almost no product that is simpler for customers to switch to a competitor – just a click away. Amazon has had a huge ad for the Kindle on their home page for months. This is probably not loved by book publishers, but so what? Becoming a successful business does not mean a company should be judged differently or made to play by different rules.
Google is a search engine. A search engine’s job is to point you to destination sites that have the information you are seeking, not to send you to other search engines. Getting upset that Google doesn’t point to other search engines is like getting upset that the New York Times doesn’t simply have headlines followed by a single paragraph of text that says “read about this story in the Wall Street Journal.”
It’s insane. It really is. A person comes to Google for answers. Back in the “old” days when search engines were just getting started, that generally meant simply getting lists of web pages (though even back then, even before Google, search engines also had some vertical search engines).
And his most recent post today discusses the article and the issue in even more detail.
I also find it ironic that one of the chief complainers in this article is Trip Advisor. I’m sorry, but their site is terrible. What they need is more competition from every angle. Perhaps then they’ll have motivation to fix their own site and service. Competition from Yelp forced City Search to [eventually] start innovating again. Maybe competition from Google will force Yelp to do the same again. Google is not a utility, it’s not a government, it’s a business. Other businesses would be wise to understand this and to spend their time innovating and not whining.
- New SEO Best Practice: Whining (marketingpilgrim.com)
- Silicon Alley Insider: Google Not Playing Fair, A Bunch Of Startups Say (GOOG) (businessinsider.com)
- TripAdvisor Debate Turns Into Big Anti-Competitive Story At WSJ (seroundtable.com)