Thoughts on the EU antitrust investigation against Google

Today the BBC reported that the EU is investigating Google on antitrust charges.

Competing sites such as Foundem (shopping comparison) and ejustice.fr. (legal search engine) allege that Google ranks its own offerings higher in organic search. That’s a little like suing Publix for positioning it’s own brand of food closer to eye level than other brands. Publix can arrange it’s products however they like in their own store. Similarly, Google owns its search results. It can rank things however it likes.

Competition is where the analogy breaks down. If Oreos doesn’t like where Publix puts it on the shelf, they can negotiate with Publix for a better spot. If that fails, there are many other grocery stores that will carry Oreos. Not so with search.

If you don’t like your position with Google, your only real option for reaching more than 70% of searchers is by doing a better job at SEO. Google has pointed out that Foundem is mostly duplicate content. Maybe if they cleaned that up they’d rank higher. Remember, if Foundem’s site is actually better than Google’s competing service, Google actually puts itself at a disadvantage to rank their site higher, since it degrades the quality of the search results. Crappier search results = more chance for competitors to gain a foothold.

Asking Google to change the way it ranks sites isn’t the answer, more competition is. We need as many viable search engines as we have grocery chains.

Forcing more regulations on the search industry will only make it harder for new companies to enter the market, producing less competition, not more.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

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