Google search is often thought of as an even playing field where we can get the results we want. Over time, Google has begun leaning on their own services — and thus information. That’s not concerning to most users, but what about other services? Recently leaked internal documents at Yelp insist Google is toying with Search results regionally to deceive regulators and mislead users.
Google is facing anti-trust complaints in the EU, which is where the crux of this complaint rests. In the US, some Google search results will force you into a world of Google+ information. A large angle is restaurant info, where Google will force-feed users Google+ reviews ahead of services that might be more robust —- like Yelp. Google has also been taking strides to legitimize their service stateside, launching programs like Google City Experts to encourage reviews and engagement.
In Europe, Google results may simply toss you into a very plain search results page, where items are listed equitably. Yelp seems to think this is because EU regulators may be checking up on Google, and they’d like to downplay the complaint’s merit. The issue, however, remains the practice on a large scale. Yelp believes Google is simply gaming the system until they get a favorable ruling in the EU.
Search for a restaurant with “Yelp” in the search box, and Yelp says you’ll still get Google+ results ahead of their own. An example provided by TechCrunch didn’t seem to yield as much, but the prominently displayed box on the right was pure Google.
The question will likely be what “search results” really mean. In the example above, the links on the left side of the page — what is normally considered ‘search results’ — were as expected. The right side of the page was all Google, with no actual acknowledgement of Yelp at all. The boldly displayed map, pictures, and title are clearly meant to grab the eye — but are they misleading?
The EU will decide that one.