Featured Google Search Engines

Has Google Manipulated Search for Personal Gain?

Google seo search results
Photo Credit: MoneyBlogNewz

The jury is in and it’s official. Google has cheated many companies in big ways and done so for much longer than most are aware.

For several years now, companies such as Yelp and Amazon have accused Google of stealing content to boost the competitive services offered by the search engine giant in crushing the competition. Unfortunately, claims of damage to business models through unfair and biased rankings do not end there. Microsoft’s search engine Bing, and travel sites such as Expedia and TripAdvisor are among many others to cry foul.

Yes, they may be guilty of the same; but for the focus of this piece, let’s put Google on trial and get to the truth.

Earlier this month, disturbing news came out of the tech community as those rumors, along with many others, were confirmed as true by a previously undisclosed 2012 Federal Trade Commission report that “accidentally” ended up in the hands of the Wall Street Journal. The report was inadvertently sent to the WSJ after a Freedom of Information Act request. The document details how Google slighted many websites and various competitors while they stacked the odds in their own favor.

How Google Damaged Competitors

The lengthy report documents Google’s misuse of search engine algorithms to favor shopping, travel, and local businesses to benefit the company. Ranking criteria was altered, content from rival sites was ignored all together, and the search engine was also found to intentionally demote rival websites even when Google’s services were not the most relevant for consumers. The report goes on to state that “conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets” and that Google has caused “harm to many vertical competitors”.

It was also confirmed that Google did in fact “scrape” or steal content from rival websites such as Yelp. When the sites that this information was being taken from requested that Google discontinue this practice, many received threats of removal from search engine rankings all together. Google’s response to this claim was simply that doing so was justifiable because it helped better assist customers to find information more quickly and more effectively.

In a 2013 settlement, the FTC found this practice to be unethical and ruled against Google which allows for rival companies to opt out of having information and reviews stolen without fear of retribution.

The findings of the FTC report seem to be at odds with what Eric Schmidt, the once Chief Executive and now Executive Chairman for Google told a 2011 Senate panel about the company’s search practices stating he, “was not aware of any strange boosts or biases” in search engine rankings. “I can assure you we’ve not cooked” Google’s search results, Schmidt added.

The Outcome

The FTC found that Google had in fact deployed anti-competitive strategies to maintain and bolster its monopoly over search advertising for fear of lost revenue and searches. Despite this fact, Google’s General Counsel Kent Walker was quoted in a statement as saying, “After an exhaustive 19-month review, covering nine million pages of documents and many hours of testimony, the FTC staff and all five FTC Commissioners agreed that there was no need to take action on how we rank and display search results,”. He went on to say, “We regularly change our search algorithms and make over 500 changes a year to help our users get the information they want,” and added, “We created search for users, not websites – and that focus has driven our improvements over the last decade.”

Though the initial investigation was conducted from 2012 to early 2013 the incriminating results of the document still hold great relevance today as Google continues to expand its repertoire of services.

Earlier this month, Google launched a new search tool for car insurance quotes that is sure to rival similar tools offered by companies such as Allstate and Esurance. These disturbing revelations and insights into the business practices of what was once a universally trusted search engine for most could possibly have tarnished Google’s reputation permanently. How can businesses and consumers alike trust Google to provide the most relevant information and ranking for search results when it is now widely known that the search engine puts their personal agenda above all else?

Only time will tell if Google will be able to redeem themselves in the public’s eye, or if the public will actually hold Google accountable for these grievances.

How do you think these insights will affect the search giant going forward?

About the author

avatar

Tina Courtney

Digital producer, online marketer, community manager, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney-Brown has been managing cross-functional teams for online businesses since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, community management, social networks, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and spiritual counselor. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.

45 Comments

Click here to post a comment
  • Google is a destroyer with a lot of money to throw around. It carelessly destroys others and then they acts as though butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth.

    Google enters the space of other companies, destroys their business model, then eventually works out that it can neither make a profit in that business, nor can it do a good job of it, and then they throw in the towel, wasting the time of all the people who trusted them to keep the service running.

    They can’t even follow their own rules – their own customer service is poor, their designs are poor, their usability is poor, their online help is poor and their sites are often hard to understand and navigate.

    I also read recently that they skip out on paying taxes in the countries they operate by transferring money to the lowest tax jurisdiction.

    They used to be a good search engine, but now, in my opinion, Google is evil and can’t be trusted.

  • If these claims are upheld, there could be a class-action of unprecedented proportion against Google, which could change the whole face of the web-search industry.

  • Thanks Tina for sharing again such a great information for us. I read full article and found so many things in it. Its really a good information.

  • It has felt for ages as if google was giving the results it had chosen to give rather than the most accurate results for the search. Thanks for confirming what I have long suspected.

    Shame, really.

    Margaret

  • This is very disturbing , when companies work so hard to achieve a goal and provide a service to people only to be cheated out of a fair deal is totally wrong , when money is involved then anyone will cheat to make personal gains If it is within there power to do so and Google has done this , sad but true

  • I agree with this article! It has impacted my one person taxi business for more than a year now! It is harder for me to get the right people to come to my website. I’m struggling financially because of their greediness! What can be done about this?

  • One of the first things I learned, when I started my first site in 2003, was that Google would rather show the wrong page with ads than the right page without ads. Bing and Yahoo aren’t any different.

    Does this official disclosure of Google’s tactics change anything? No, not one bit! People really don’t care. You can get them to say that it is an outrage and something should be done about this, but two minutes later, when they start searching for something, they have completely forgotten that they are being manipulated.

  • thanks sir for giving us this precisely information which support us in our near future so please sir be connected with us to solve our problems which is related to our blogging….

  • Google makes money because they give the users the best ranking that they can deliver. They make the most money in the world because competitors gave us a limited set of answers. The best Google audit and authenticity test is done by us daily, including getting to this article.
    If competition is left out of this ranking, it is not the user problem. We know how to use the competition sites but we do not go there anyway. Sometimes on new computers, competition is starting automatically other search engines but we know how to deal with that and we change the settings to activate only Google.
    Why isn’t Google advertise other search engines for free and give them high rankings is because we are in capitalism here. I was 25 years in communism and you do not want to go there, in a place where all have good rankings but no one is going anywhere forward 🙁

    Have outstanding search results today !

    Dorin

  • I always wonder why isn’t there a strong competition for google. There can be more powerfull search engine than google, its just that people are sticking to google. And moreover no-one took that strong stand against google.

  • So it’s true: Google is crooked. I had long suspected this from my own observations and inquiries over the years, as well as little things I’ve noticed. Time for the Great Online Public to change their search engine of choice, I think.

  • Can’t wait to see Google’s unbiased car insurance search tool.
    I try, although don’t always succeed, to avoid anything related to Google.

  • Google completely destroyed my business, I was obliged now to pay for google Adwords to maintain some traffic. I believe Google has implemented this strategy to get more traffic and profit for their Adwords services.

  • It’s clear to me that Google has created somewhat of a monopoly when it comes to the SERPs. They are, of course, not the only circus in town, but they are the strongest.

  • AdSense is another Google program that needs to be put under greater scrutiny.

  • It’s a shame that Google is scraping content from other websites and yet they want to penalize any website that uses duplicate content. See, how they break their own rules? It’s just a game if you think about it. Thanks for sharing the info!

  • A truly informative article, and some insightful comments about the Evil Empire. I can only hope this brings them down and perhaps some of its ring leaders serve hard prison time when subsequent legislation arises as a result of this decision. It would be great to see Matt Cutts, for example, locked up for the rest of his life.

    I won’t rehash how evil Google is or what its many egregious transgressions are. We all know that stuff. We need to communicate this to the unwary public who keep using Google’s former search engine (now ad spam server) when much better alternatives exist.

    A world without Google would be a much better place, but I’d prefer a world with a Google that went back to its pre-evil days. There was a time when Google actually valued ethics and made a positive contribution. Today, it’s an evil, twisted company with an evil, twisted mentality.

  • Duh – This has been going on for years (and not just with Google) — Google (and other “search” companies) are a business; and the business is designed to maximize revenue for the company; not to provide the best search results – so much for “Do no evil” !

  • When an company is allowed to get that big without oversight bad things happen and Google is no exception to this rule! They do not play by their own rules and punish others without giving any solid evidence….

  • Search engines always change their algorithms every year .This results in new programmings and costs boosting thier business

  • I just checked. Google AdSense claims I only had 45,911 pageviews to my website in March. I have a dedicated server and my log file analysis shows 103,806 pageviews for March. Google decrements my pageviews, clicks and estimated earnings every 15 to 30 minutes. My SERP positions haven’t changed in 17 years on all the search engines. My daily income from Google AdSense has dropped from and average of $56+ per day up to October 2013, to $6+ per day as of today. I have never cheated and have always performed only white-hat SEO. One has to ask why.

  • You people are just now figuring this out?

    How about how badly hosting services manipulate their customers?

    How about how badly Internet Service providers not only manipulat, but access your very computer?

    I had one site from 1998 into 2001. Christmas 1999! I wondered where all the customers were – over 200,000 site visitors per montn – no sales! First inclination something was wrong.

    I located FILES tracking site visitors and upon opening them found…. every single visitor was denied access.

    I now find the exact same thing being done by http://www.000webhost.com

    Now.. that one happens to be in operation free temporarily BUT with their manipulation – YOU THINK I WANT TO DO ANY BUSINESS WITH THEM?

    There is EXTREME manipulation going on ALL OVER THIS INTERNET and it is in guise of PAY UP OR GO AWAY!

    Now for those attempting to get something going – they really put the screws to you.

    Can you sue them? Who are they, where are they so you can? Do we have any rights at all on this supposed World Wide Web?????? NO! They are manipulating every aspect of it – to prevent people from getting anywhere unless they pay high prices to be allowed to do so.

    You think this isn’t happening everywhere?????

    So we can’t have the government step in to control things… or we lose it all anyhow. We are left with the mafia tactics of every major company either offering internet or web hosting services!

    Everyone is being extorted – either they pay high dollar fees to these companies, or they get nothing!

    Now, you’d think there would be SOMETHING people could do… but how can you toss a class action lawsuit at every single internet service provide, every webhosting service or anyone handling and charging for use of the internet?

    They are holding everyone hostage all so only they are allowed to rake in the high dollars. Pay them or go away is their method.

    Dig deep, really deep and you will see this happening everywhere – to everyone!

    Thankfully someone else has finally noticed all this – now, what can be done about it?

  • As a giant in search engine business, Google could even possibly get away with murder.

    I hope there is a serious and genuine scrutiny by FTC and other relevant agencies of its activities and find out whether they are indeed doing fair business or not.

  • Interesting reading, but you keep using “disturbing” in the article. I don’t understand what’s so disturbing in this. Google is just a company, like all the others, company which is following it’s own profit, just like all the others, including “yours”. So what’s the problem? Their service, their world, their rules. It’s so simple. If you don’t like it, leave it. Just like Pepsi always complains and attacks Coke, just like Apple and others attack Microsoft and so on…. If Google was able to build a product good enough to become a “monopoly”, great for them, congratulations. If it wouldn’t be that good, people would leave to Bing or whatever. So again, what’s the problem?

  • Thanks for sharing this info. The fact still remains that Google is still into the business of profit making. In business world, there has always been most times fierce competition for top positions. It may be sad that sometimes small thriving online businesses may be worse hit by some business approaches by the giant, yet online businesses will continue to look for best practices to remain relevant and to remain ongoing concern.

  • This doesn’t surprise me at all.

    However one must not forget that Google is a business and not a public utility. Therefore they will make decisions they think advantageous to them. Just the brutal reality.

  • Thanks for the info but I think that Google will fight off law suits with their money and will keep on doing what they are doing as if nothing has happened.

  • Google has no choice but to become a theif and crook because they need to rocover all they spent into google all this years. Nevertheless I hate google for all the evils they had done to my adword account, adsense account and website. I don’t know when but some day they will pay for it no matter how big they have become. People made them big and they shall surely be made small by the people. We only need a good competitor and we shall all support them against googles wickedness

  • This, unfortunately, is the downside of Capitalism stretched to its limits. One poster earlier on, was decrying the Communist system – as to how bad that was, and again, that’s due to it being taken to extremes. No system in the world is perfect – and over time, people/companies/organisations will seek out weaknesses and manipulate them for their own benefits (its only human nature – the survival of the fitest). Indeed, its why so many great empires of the world collapsed – from the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and even the British Empire etc.

    This is why we need good, strong competition in all areas, with an overseer organistion to step in if/when something starts getting out of kilter. There was one time, when the Microsoft Corp. got so big that they had to be regulated, and now, they’ve come out as a better organisation. Google, if left unchecked, will slowly kill the goose that lays their golden egg (i.e., run all the businesses they rely on to provide their links, out of business, and thus, leave themselves with no business). Thus, they need to start seriously regulating themselves, or face the consequences of being regulated (and paying the huge fines that will be levied).

  • If true and provable, a nice class action that results in a 100 gazillion in fines would be a beginning. Perhaps it’s time for some government intervention in this industry since there seems to be many grey situations. Perhaps a 6-12 month fine to google of no internet access or advertising.

  • If the FTC themselves said there’s no need to take any action to change what Google does– at the conclusion of the investigation this story mentions– I don’t really see the problem. Yet one paragraph after stating that conclusion, this story vilifies the company. I don’t get it.

  • yes of course,google will go for its benefits.But google should make sure its prestige and user should get the best, doesn’t matter what else they are going for. By the way thank you so much for keeping us updated.

  • yes google go for its personal gain but it also keep in mind for the users to give best suggestions to make it simple. Thnks for that al last.

  • Thnks for the information sir. Google does its best and give users a nice and best experience.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter