Google now displays non-algorithmic results at the top or in the middle of the results page in a manner that does not clearly flag for consumers that these results are placed there artificially by Google – frequently with photographs, maps and graphics that link to Google’s own pages. Two prominent examples are Google “Places” links and Google’s “universal” or “local” search.
Often, Google competes with its own advertisers in auctions for key words, artificially increasing the minimum bid for top placement. And more recently, Google has been promoting its own products in the exclusive “Comparison Ad” space at the top of the page. (Just try searching for “credit card” or “mortgage” and check out the top sponsored link.)
The result? Advertisers pay more to be listed, which ultimately gets passed down to consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services online. Users click on Google’s artificially placed links, regardless of whether those links are the most relevant to their queries. And Google profits from both.