Our thoughts on the European Commission review

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | 3:39 PM

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At Google, we’ve always focused on putting the user first by providing the best possible answers as quickly as possible - and our product innovation and engineering talent have delivered results that users seem to like, in a world where the competition is only one click away. However, given our success and the disruptive nature of our business, it’s entirely understandable that we’ve caused unease among other companies and caught the attention of regulators. Today, the European Commission has announced that they will continue to review complaints about Google's search and search advertising. We respect their process and will continue to work closely with the Commission to answer their questions.

So that everyone understands how we approach search and ads ranking, we thought it would be helpful to state clearly the principles that guide our business:

  • Answering users' queries accurately and quickly is our number one goal. Sometimes the best, most relevant answer to a query is our traditional “ten blue links”, and sometimes it is a news article, sports score, stock quote, video, or a map. Today, when you type in “weather in London” or “15 grams in ounces” you get the answers directly (often before you even hit Enter). In the future, we will need to answer much more complex questions just as fast and as clearly. We believe ads are information too, which is why we work so hard to ensure that the advertisements you see are directly relevant to what you are looking for;
  • We built Google for users, not websites. It may seem obvious, but people sometimes forget this -- not every website can come out on top, or even appear on the first page of our results, so there will almost always be website owners who are unhappy about their rankings. The most important thing is that we satisfy our users.
  • We are always clear when we have been paid for promoting a product or service. Before we launched Google, many search engines took money for inclusion in their results without making that clear to users. We have never done that and we always distinguished advertising content from our organic search results. As we experiment with new ad formats and types of content, we promise to continue to be transparent about payments.
  • We aim to be as transparent as possible. We provide more information about how our ranking works than any other major search engine, through our webmaster central site, blog, diagnostic tools, support forum, and YouTube channel. We give our advertisers information about the ad auction, tips on how to improve their ad quality scores, and the ability to simulate their bids to give them more transparency. And we’re committed to increasing that transparency going forward. At the same time, we don’t want to help people game our system. We do everything we can to ensure that the integrity of our results isn’t compromised.
Our final principle: the only constant is change. We’ve been working on this stuff for well over a decade, and in that time our search technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Our results are continuing to evolve from a list of websites to something far more dynamic. Today there’s real-time content, automatically translated content, local content (especially important for mobile devices), images, videos, books, and a whole lot more. Users can search by voice -- and in a variety of languages. And we’ve developed new ad formats such as product listing ads and new pricing models such as cost-per-action. We cannot predict where search and online advertising will be headed, but we know for sure that they won’t stay the same. By staying focused on innovation we can continue to make search even better -- for the benefit of users everywhere.

18 comments:

Martin said...

I don't get the whole anti-competitive crap quite frankly! After all, you don't see them whining that big companies aren't advertising competitors in their offices, so why insist we do it on the internet!?

James said...

Fair play, I respect your operations as an individual and business man. However, an organisation with such power will be scrutinised at every possible angle.

Great read and excellent defence strategy.

James

suprfluo said...

I agree completely, some people seem to have certain expectations about what a search engine should be and consider any change a violation. A search engine is a question answerer not a traffic pump, also what will this talk about ranking mean when search evolve beyond blue links, facilitated by advances in artificial intelligence and other innovations and breakthroughs.

Jason King said...

Obviously the EC is new to the whole internet game.

Otherwise they'd understand that the free market has already weeded out the huge volume of search engines that went down the "biased results" or "hidden advertisements" path.

Users have already spoken, which is why Google is so dominant. No regulator (or business for that matter) can ever be as powerful as a free market.

Jonathan said...

It may seem obvious, but people sometimes forget this -- not every website can come out on top, or even appear on the first page of our results, so there will almost always be website owners who are unhappy about their rankings. The most important thing is that we satisfy our users

But when Google features are automatically promoted to the top? A normal web site would require a link farm to get this to happen, which would get them banned.

Mark said...

"But when Google features are automatically promoted to the top? A normal web site would require a link farm to get this to happen, which would get them banned."

When I use Google to search for a Google product, I would expect the Google product to be the first result. Same for if I'm using Yahoo or Bing. What exactly are you expecting?

Simon Fothergill said...

I welcome the EU antitrust probe wholeheartedly. I am happy that authorities are treating Google as the powerful monopoly it is, and hope that they choose to be not too narrow in their scope. I am not saying that Google is a bad organisation per se. Clerly that is not the case. Rather there are certain to be areas where it may well need its wings clipping. I know this from my experience having worked closely with Adwords for many years now. I have seen the way that some genuinely competent sites are effectively banned from advertising. This was one of Foundem’s key complaints that is often glossed over, instead focusing on their organic ranking qualms.

Kristenh said...

It's absurd. Are regulators going to now start determining what companies like facebook can show?.. Will they be forced to show twitter results?..

Microsoft and Yahoo complaining that they have no market share, is frankly their own fault. They dropped the ball and decided not to pursue search when they had the chance, they both could have purchased Google for nothing back in the day.

BrianK said...

The EU seems to think I should be able to buy windows from apples web site I guess...

Jonathan said...

Mark,

Who said that I was looking for a Google product? I am expecting the results to be ranked the same, regardless of their source. Just because Google has a product that matches my search criteria does not mean that it should be at the top of the list. I would expect the same from Bing and Yahoo (before they started using Bing as their engine).

If a search engine is to be trusted, it must not return biased results. Google products must compete on an equal footing with the rest of the internet. The reason that I started using Google was because they didn't, at that time, offer paid placement. Now, at least, the paid results are separated from the rest of the results.

As it currently stands, I don't feel that I can trust. Maybe I should start having all of my searches filter Google results?

PMI Servizi said...

Today I posted an article about it and I show as an example of the work of Google a comparison between the results of Google and the results of Bing for the same query ... it is clear that Google works and this bothers... We are with you Google.

elguanche said...

Hola!

I definetely agree with the opinions above. I think also that, as a matter of fact, the EU reflects the opinion of lobbies and/or EU´s investigations get triggered by factors rooted in interests "behind the scenes". You just need to have a look at German media and check how the wording "enemyfies" this investigation procedure by the EU. Germany is the land of "Bedenken und Kontrollanspruch" (Concernals and desire for control) and I think to a large degree some German interests are being represented in this investigation. I would appreciate if Google could in the future put up something like a "Corporate Lanscape" for users and policy makers to keep the overview of "Who makes what for whom".
Regards,
Gab

mreedvt said...

But when Google features are automatically promoted to the top? A normal web site would require a link farm to get this to happen, which would get them banned.

Right.... So when I search for "Cars" why is it that the "Google Feature" is the 8th result?

Or that "Used Cars" reveals google's "Local" results in at result 7?

Or "buy Used Cars" comes up with google news as the last result on the page.

If google was "favoring" its results shouldn't it be listed as:
1) Shopping - Buy a car
2) Books - Read how to haggle
3) Images - pictures of cars
4) Videos - Watch Top Gear
5) Maps - Find a dealer near you
6) News - Car dealerships closing
7) Finance - GM's IPO
8) Groups - forums about cars
9) Sites - Create your own Cars website
10) <Organic Search Results>

The fact is Google isn't even pushing its own services unless it thinks they have the best answer for your query.

you want a confusing list of crap results scattered with sponsored ads that you are only informed by some grayed out size 7 font at the end of the result, goto Dogpile.com

For the rest of us we'll just stick with what actually gives us meaningful results. The only reason google has this "monopoly" on search, is because people like the results. Thats why they stopped using Yahoo, dogpile, Altavista, MSN, and every other search engine that's tanked. Nothing is stopping people from using something else. Hell, Microsoft even made MSN the default homepage and search engine for 15 years before offering a choice and people still meaningfully and thoughtfully changed it to Google.

AmberCat said...

As the developer of UK Shopping Search Engine http://www.ratingsworld.co.uk, I find it difficult to see a huge problem in the way that Google presents its results.

If we want to compete with Google then we have to produce results that are better than Google.

Unfortunately, most companies will not be able to match the resources that Google can throw at a solution, and we cannot disqualify companies just because they have huge resources.

Are they using their resources unfairly by promoting their own solutions? No, I don't think so.

Are they acting unfairly by promoting those companies that pay them? No, they are a business, not a charity.

Are they misleading the public? I don't think so. Currently paid ads on Google are displayed in separated areas at the top, bottom and right-side of the page are are clearly identified as such. However many small search engines, including my own, live off affiliate revenues. Small businesses and small search engines are not charities either.

Of course the EU got in quite a tiz when Microsoft bundled IE in with Windows. The EU often investigates the wrong issues. It would do much better to investigate the price disparities between Micorsoft's products in the UK and the USA.

confused.brit said...

And this doesnt happen on Yahoo? Search on Yahoo for something, and if there is a yahoo group for it, yep, its one of the top results.

rtpHarry said...

I guess this means that to play fair the vertical search engines will be sending traffic to Google instead of keeping it all for themselves? :P

e22 said...

The trouble is that Google tend to do things well. This means that when I search for "16GB Memory Card" their very good search engine returns their very good price comparison site in the top few results! This is exactly what I want to happen until such a time as the other price comparison websites become less thoroughly rubbish at what they do.

A_flj_ said...

You may want to have a look at this text - the EU's announcement of the investigation: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/1624&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

This quote from that text seems extremely relevant to me:

"This initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of any infringements. It only signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority."

The EC is legally bound to follow up on any complaints it receives. It is IMO better for Google to have this investigation pass as soon as possible.