I was particularly pleased to see the news today that Google has promised to make “significant” changes to how rivals appear in search results. As the founder of MovieGlu, a small business about to launch as a rival to Google in the movie listings field, this is indeed good news to me personally.
They have agreed to this change in order to avoid a mutli-billion Euro fine from the European Union’s Competition Commisioner. It will be interesting to see whether such changes extend to Google’s service in the United States and beyond, or just limited to Europe.
Google has been showing movie listings for a few years. Take for example this search: “movie times new york”. The first result is Google’s own listings for movies showing in New York City.
Note that the first results are their own movie theater listings, followed by Google’s own news feed results. Only then are their competitors listed – in this case nyc.com and fandango.com – results that I believe match the user’s search intent.
When such a search result is displayed, it would be hard not to click on the first links displayed, and follow through. Yes, I will admit that it is incredibly useful to end users, but Google’s approach will be hitting its competitors hard. It seems that Google’s own results triumph over any effort businesses put into their own Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
And movie listings aren’t the only area where Google prioritises it’s own content – they also do the same thing with Music (via links to YouTube), Restaurants and Shopping.
So any changes they can implement to give equal relevance and visibility to smaller competitors is a very welcome change.
UPDATE 06-Feb-14: On further investigation, I discovered this statement from the US Federal Trade Commission which you can find here. In short, the Commission found that “the introduction of Universal Search, as well as additional changes made to Google’s search algorithms – even those that may have had the effect of harming individual competitors – could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product and the experience of its users. It therefore has chosen to close the investigation.”. In other words, they believe there is nothing wrong in Google promoting their own content over others in this area.
UPDATE 03-July-14: The BBC broadcast an interview on this subject of Google “downgrading” its competitors products.
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