Google is currently facing legal scrutiny over accusations of employing deceptive strategies to maintain its position as the world’s foremost search engine. The U.S. Justice Department contends that Google’s actions have damaged the competitive landscape of search, and its deliberate tactics have also negatively affected other advertising platforms and advertisers. In this blog, we’ll go over the latest developments and search–related issues that have been brough up in the trial.
Google’s Search Market Dominance
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Google holds a dominant 90% market share in search engine activity. Google entered substantial financial agreements with companies such as Apple to maintain this dominant market share. These deals established Google as the default search engine on popular products like the iPhone. The Department of Justice contends that these multi-billion dollar arrangements provided Google with an unjust advantage, creating formidable barriers for rival companies attempting to compete.
In response, Google’s lead attorney, John Schmidtlein argued that the company asserts its dominance in the search market stems from offering a superior product. Google contends that users have the flexibility to switch to competing search engines effortlessly, even if Google is set as the default option. However, competitor search engines are inferior.
The Other Guys Complain About Unfair Advantages
Several search engine competitors including Microsoft, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and travel sites like Booking.com have claimed that Google has unfairly excluded them from the search market. Executives from competitor platforms have testified that Google makes deals to block opportunities from other search engines. They content that these actions hurt the search industry, making it less competitive. However, even the CEO of Advertising at Microsoft agreed that Microsoft’s product was not as good as Googe’s mobile search. The CMO at Booking.com called Google a, “benevolent dictator”, because they have no choice but to cooperate with the changes Google decides to impose.
Manipulating Ad Costs
Increased Ad Payments
Google admitted that they frequently increases the reserve pricing of ads by as much as 5% for the average advertiser. In some cases prices may have been raised as much as 10%. Essentially, without any competition, Google can impose whatever ad pricing it wants.
Testifying as an expert witness for the US Government, Professor Wilfred Almadoss, specializing in digital marketing, stated that Google has reduced the visibility of certain specialized vertical provider (SVP) advertisers in its search results. He asserted that these measures taken by Google have resulted in heightened costs for those advertisers to maintain equivalent visibility within the search engine results page (SERP).
The Curtains Get Flung Open on Long-Assumed Ranking Signals
A former Google employee, Eric Lehman, revealed that the company is incorporating click data into its rankings. However, Google has long avoided confirming that they use user data in the ranking of search results. Likely because Google doesn’t want people to think that user activity can be used to manipulate search results.
And the Trial Continues
This trial is far from over, and the outcome of this landmark case has the potential to transform the future landscape of SEO and Google Ads. Regardless of the outcome, this trial is providing fascinating insight into the business practices that lead to one of the largest, most powerful business in the world. We will continue to watch to see what more is unveiled. But we don’t recommend holding out for cheaper ads or a viable alternative to Google Search anytime soon.
If you have questions about how Google influences your business’ digital marketing activities, get in touch with our team at Ontario SEO!