FairSearch - for the right result

Google Gives Yelp the TripAdvisor Treatment

Congratulations to Emma Barnett of The Telegraph newspaper for digging up yet another company in the local information vertical that Google is literally strong-arming and threatening to remove its supposedly “neutral” search results unless they continue to allow Google to pull its content for use in Google Places.

The Telegraph interviewed Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman about Google Places, and here’s what he had to say (ellipses are as published):

“Google’s position is that we can take ourselves out of its search index if we don’t want them to use our reviews on Places…. But that is not an option for us, and other sites like us – such as TripAdvisor – as we get a large volume of our traffic via Google search…We just don’t get any value out of our reviews appearing on Google places and haven’t been given an option other than to remove ourselves from search, how to improve this situation.”

Hmm…It’s reminiscent of one of Marlon Brando’s most famous movie lines from The Godfather.

Wasn’t it Google who said its search index is really just connecting consumers with what they want? Suddenly it’s even more clear that Google is showing only what IT wants and gets paid for.

And, this attitude comes from the dominant provider of search with 70 percent in the U.S. and 90 percent in Europe. And according to a new report by research firm eMarketer, Google’s share of the $15 billion U.S. search-ad market will increase this year to more than 75 percent from 71.4% last year (see WSJ “Internet Ad Forecast: Google, Facebook Expand Clout” for more).

Unfortunately, this is not new. Rather, this tactic is becoming standard practice for Google – take competing sites’ content and use it against them while undermining their position, literally in search results. As TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer told The Wall Street Journal’s Amir Efrati, “I don’t feel like it’s fair to force me to provide information to a site that’s trying to compete with me.”

This abuse of its monopoly power in search – even the Justice Department has said Google is relatively dominant in that market – preferencing its own local, travel and shopping services over competitors, is just one more reason why Google should not be allowed to gain more incentive and power to clear the playing field in online travel by acquiring ITA Software.