Friday, June 8, 2012
Setting the record straight: competition in search
Search is about helping people find the right answers to their questions when and where they need them. We work hard every day to figure out the most useful results for our users, and we’re working to create new and better ways to answer your questions. We know that if we don’t give users the best results, people can and will switch to another search engine.
And while we’re always happy to have feedback about how we can improve, it’s more useful if that feedback is based on facts. In today’s Wall Street Journal, the CEO of comparison shopping site Nextag makes several claims that are wrong -- or suggests that Google start doing things that we already do. Let me set the record straight:
Claim: “Most people believe that when they type "convection microwave oven" or "biking shorts" into Google, they will receive a list of the most relevant sites. Not true. That's how Google used to work. Now, when someone searches for these items, the most prominent results are displayed because companies paid Google for that privilege.”
Fact: Let me be very clear: our unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment. Our algorithms rank results based only on what the most relevant answers are for users -- which might be a direct answer or a competitor’s website. Our ads and commercial experiences are clearly labeled and distinct from the unpaid results, and we recently announced new improvements to labeling of shopping results. This is in contrast to most comparison shopping sites, which receive payment from merchants but often don’t clearly label search results as being influenced by payment.
Claim: “It's easy to see when Google makes changes to its algorithms that effectively punish its competitors, including us.”
Fact: As we’ve said many times before, we built search to help users, not websites. We don’t make changes to our algorithms to hurt competitors. We make more than 500 changes a year (each one scientifically evaluated) in order to deliver the most useful results for our users - and we now publish a monthly list of algorithm improvements. Every one of those changes moves some websites up and some sites down in the rankings, but the most important thing is that users are happy with the results.
Claim: “[Google] has used its position to bend the rules to help maintain its online supremacy, including the use of sophisticated algorithms weighted in favor of its own products and services at the expense of search results that are truly most relevant.”
Fact: Our algorithms are always designed to give users the most relevant results -- and sometimes the best result isn’t a website, but a map, a weather forecast, a fact, a quick answer, or specialized image, shopping, flight, or movie results. And that’s not just Google; Bing, Yahoo and other search engines do the same thing.
Claim: “Google should provide consumers with access to the unbiased search results it was once known for—regardless of which company or organization owns the service. It should also allow users to reduce the number of ads shown or incorporate a user's preferred services in search results.
Fact: All major search engines -- including Bing and Yahoo -- long ago evolved beyond the simple “ten blue links,” and we believe that our users are often best served by providing better answers directly in search results. And if users don’t like our results, they can try Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, or even Google Minus Google.
Claim: “Google should grant all companies equal access to advertising opportunities regardless of whether they are considered a competitor.”
Fact: We don’t prohibit competitors from advertising on Google -- in fact, many of our largest advertisers are also competitors. Our auction-based advertising system, which takes into account relevance and bids, is designed to provide a level playing field on which placement is not automatically awarded to the highest bidder.
Claim: “In addition, Google often uses its prime real estate to promote its own (often less relevant and inferior) products and services...”
Fact: It’s understandable that every website believes that it is the best, and wants to rank at the top of Google results. The great thing about the openness of the Internet is that if users don’t find our results relevant and useful, they can easily navigate to Nextag, Amazon, Yelp, Bing or any other website.
There has never been as much choice online as there is today. Over the last few years, we’ve faced competition from new players, including social networks, mobile apps, and specialty search sites. All that competition is a great thing for consumers, it gives you more choices and makes us work hard to deliver you even more relevant answers, day after day.