The global leader in search engine services Google has until July to respond to the European Commission with regards to antitrust allegations. According to the EU’s executive body, the Google antitrust investigation was initiated after a number of complaints were issued by smaller internet companies, claiming that Google’s practices were unfair and inhibited their growth. In short, the Google antirust allegation is that the internet giant is abusing its power by favouring its secondary services, effectively crushing start-ups and rivals. If these antitrust allegations are found to be true, Google may be forced to change its operations and reveal aspects of its algorithms, which may have major affects on the search marketing and search engine optimisation world.
The Google antitrust allegations were initiated in 2010 after a serious of antitrust allegations were made against the search giant. According to one of the original plaintiffs, British search firm Foundem, Google has crushed competition in the areas of price comparison, video and travel by making sure that competitors don’t feature as well in search results. Other Google antitrust concerns are that online advertising consultants, agencies and rival online advertising systems are being excluded thanks to Google Adwords. In Europe, Google captures more than 80% of web searches, compared to 67% in the United States. The question is, does this automatically mean that Google’s dominance is harmful to the online industries as well as economies?
Google’s answer to this antitrust question is no. Although it can be agreed that a healthy business environment is one that benefits consumers and encourage competitiveness and innovation, Google states that consumers choose to use its services. In essence this is true; online users are not forced to use Google by lack of alternatives and can easily switch to Microsoft’s Bing or Yahoo. Google also states that the antitrust complaints are a result of disgruntled competitors, which include companies affiliated to Microsoft, not reaching the much coveted number one spot.
For many search engine marketers and SEO specialists, Google is largely considered the bread and butter of the industry. As long as Google benefits customers, users will willingly gravitate towards its services. However, because Google holds such a unique position in being able to direct traffic and revenue, the company represents a very unique kind of monopoly and thus Google antitrust is an issue. The European Commission is asking for Google to create a remedy that ensures its own services are not favoured in general search results, thereby protecting competition. If Google refuses to negotiate, Google may have to pay fines of up to 10% of its global revenue and reveal aspects of its algorithm, which is bound to send ripples through the search marketing world. Should Google be punished for its dominance or be praised for giving consumers what they want? Please share your comments about Google antitrust action here and watch this space.