• http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    In response to: “How on earth does anyone argue that Google has been and currently is harming a vertical search engine like Yelp when it sends that much traffic?”

    This is where I stopped reading, as your logic is flawed. I don’t know what Yelp’s situation is like. That doesn’t matter. The question is not how much Google traffic is Yelp getting; the question is how much Yelp-like traffic is Google siphoning off from Yelp and competitors by positioning its own Yelp-like data in front of the organic search results.

    This question cannot be answered by how much traffic Yelp gets or where that traffic comes from. This article provides no clarity on the situation.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Michael, in response to “This is where I stopped reading,” that’s where I stopped reading, as if you’re not going to read what I wrote, then the logic of responding to anything you have to say in regards to this piece is flawed.

    But actually, I’m less dismissive of you than you appear to be of me. The logic isn’t flawed, in my view. You just don’t agree with it.

    The question is, to be specific, is Google acting in a way that abuses its market position to harm its competitors. The answer is that if it was, you wouldn’t expect that competitor to say that it’s still getting an overwhelming amount of its traffic from Google.

    If Google’s deliberately trying to harm Yelp, out of anti-competitive concerns (and that’s what this is all about), then you’d expect Yelp to get very little of its traffic from Google. That’s clearly not the case.

    If the argument is that Yelp used to get 85% or 90% of its traffic from Google but now only gets 75% of its traffic from Google, due to the launch of Google Places, that’s still a very weak argument that Google is deliberately trying to drive Yelp out of businesses with that launch.

    The question of whether Google has acted in anti-competitive manner against competitors certainly can’t be answered by the traffic to Yelp alone. That’s why FairSearch wrote such a long report. That’s why I wrote such a long review of it. Whether you want to read either of those things before commenting is, of course, up to you.

  • TimmyTime

    —-”Well, Blekko would beg to disagree. Blekko launched last year to compete against Google. OK, it hasn’t won any significant market share to speak up, but clearly competitors can enter the space.”

    The key is to winning market share, not starting a search engine. I can start one with 5 sites indexed. Blekko can issue press releases all they want, what market share do they hold?

    Danny you have one major flaw in your argument: who started verticals or Bing does it too, do not matter. Google is a monopoly (or near it), Bing is not. Likewise what Apple does, MS cannot do on Windows. Until you understand that you shouldn’t write any more on this subject.

    ——”Sound absurd? It gets worse. Really, it’s more like Comedy Central complaining that NBC isn’t running enough free ads for The Daily Show on its network, even though NBC already runs so many free ads that the majority of people who tune into The Daily Show do so after NBC tells them to change channels and watch The Daily Show. Stoppelman testified that Yelp gets 75% of its traffic from Google. 75%! For free, by the way. How on earth does anyone argue that Google has been and currently is harming a vertical search engine like Yelp when it sends that much traffic? I know plenty of sites that wish Google would “harm” them in the same fashion.”

    Actually your argument is absurd. Google says that they are a search engine and want to find the best sites for the user. If SEL is the best site for a topic, your traffic is not free, it’s thanks to your hard work. Not to mention that Google is being paid handsomely for the services one way or another, to the tune of $30 billion a year. How’s that for a ‘free’ service that Google generously provides to the people that pay that $30 billion in higher prices ??

    What Yelp is saying that if not for Google’s bias toward their own product they’d get even more traffic because they deserve it and that their pages are better than G Local. Once again you need to brush up on monopolies, maybe by reading Google’s argument’s against MS in late 1990′s. Or Eric Schmidt’s. Once you have a certain market power you are limited on what you can do. Wold Google like it Microsoft had ads for Bing on Windows toolbars each time someone visited Google? No one forced people to buy Windows :)

    I am glad you agree that Google needs to put “Sponsored Listings” on top and make sure that the different colors is seen as such on most monitors and color settings. Try it.

    Notice how Google has some extra white space between the search box and ads? It’s so only ads show up on about 40% of resolutions. Clickmania!

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Timmy, I do understand that what’s allowed by a non-monopoly company might not be allowed by one with a monopoly. I even said that in the piece. It was the fourth and fifth paragraphs:

    “In the US Senate hearings, even Google chairman Eric Schmidt agreed that Google had such dominance as to be deemed having monopoly power, which means it it has to exercise special care not to be seen as abusive, a limitation its competitors don’t have to worry about.

    For example, much of of the wrong-doing Google gets accused of, such as how it positions its vertical search results, it done identically by its rivals Yahoo and Microsoft. But because of Google’s large market share, conceivably these identical things could be ruled as abusive.”

    I couldn’t be more clearer in understanding this. I can only assume you were in such a rush to disagree with anything that I wrote that you didn’t bother to read.

    What you seem to overlook is whether the positioning of vertical search is deemed an abuse by Google remains to be seen.

    The degree to which this is an industry standard, and a standard done to benefit consumers, will almost certainly be an important factor.

    That’s why later in the piece, I suggested people read my story about how we ended up with blended search as a response to consumer needs, rather than some desire for any search engine to try and harm competitors.

    As for the best site argument, I point you back to the NexTag irony. NexTag argues that Google isn’t doing right by pointing to Google Product Search so much. It should instead point to NexTag. Maybe it should, if NexTag is better. But I haven’t seen some independent research report saying that NexTag is better.

    I do know that if you can only be listed in NexTag because you pay, and if Google Product Search will list any qualified merchant, I’m already questioning why NexTag is so much better.

    Beyond that, I might very well still be getting to the best site through Google Product Search. That’s because the best site when I search for something like ‘iphone 4 cases” isn’t necessarily another shopping search engine, where I can do a search all over again but rather a set of actual merchants who are willing to sell me what I’m looking for. And Google Product Search provides that.

    As for Yelp, I continue to find it a weak argument that “only” getting 75% of their traffic from Google suggests that Google is operating in an anti-competitive monopolistic manner.

    As for ad disclosure, yeah, colors being faded out are an issue. Don’t like that at all. I also don’t like how the FTC guidelines seem to sometimes be forgotten by many in the search engine industry. But that’s not a Google specific issue. It’s also not an anti-competitive issue. It’s a consumer issue, where we have existing guidelines on the books that could — and should — be enforced now.

  • TimmyTime


    I couldn’t be more clearer in understanding this. I can only assume you were in such a rush to disagree with anything that I wrote that you didn’t bother to read.

    ^ I read it but you forgot it when you mentioned TV stations (USDOJ would not let ABC buy CBS and CBS for example) having to provide ads for competitors and Yelp expecting ‘free’ traffic. You are not the same Danny you were once. I have yet to see one story questioning Google’s move with Panda that destroyed many small business since February as Google’s advertisers (brands) are pushed up and as sites like Daniweb, Cultofmac and others are manually fixed to avoid bad publicity for Google. How fair is that from a monopoly that controls 70% of search???? Others work just as much if not more than Dani at their sites, and depend on it too pay their bills, why aren’t theirs getting the same treatment as hers?


    “What you seem to overlook is whether the positioning of vertical search is deemed an abuse by Google remains to be seen. ”

    ^So far, but I have my opinions. Would consumers be hurt if MS banned /demoted /made it harder for all other browsers? Let’s take a wild guess Danny


    “But I haven’t seen some independent research report saying that NexTag is better.”

    ^ Fine, can we agree that someone, somewhere has better pages for local and products than Google? Why isn’t Google posting those if they care so much about the users ? Why are Google users shown inferior listings on about half of the page in many searches? We know the answer, they want to build their service and drive competitors out of business by pushing them down, via Panda or other algorithmic crap.


    “Beyond that, I might very well still be getting to the best site through Google Product Search. That’s because the best site when I search for something like ‘iphone 4 cases” isn’t necessarily another shopping search engine, where I can do a search all over again but rather a set of actual merchants who are willing to sell me what I’m looking for. And Google Product Search provides that.”

    ^Why is that the best Danny, is it cheaper, offers free shipping, no taxes, more products /stores to compare…or what????? Ha! Trust Google when it pushes its own service.


    “That’s why later in the piece, I suggested people read my story about how we ended up with blended search as a response to consumer needs, rather than some desire for any search engine to try and harm competitors.”

    ^ Is that how Google will make another $10 billion this year? Let’s drop the pretense Danny.

    Regarding links being barely different, isn’t that a scam that hurts consumers and organic sites? Once you do those things, what else are doing doing behind the scenes?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Timmy, no search engine is in the business of ensuring that some site that used to get a lot of its traffic from that search engine is guaranteed to always get it in the future. The job is to provide searchers with good results.

    I have never, ever advised anyone to solely build their traffic on search engines. In fact, for as long as I’ve written about search engines — even before we had Google — I’ve advised that search engines are fickle creatures.

    So write about the fact that Google wiped out many small businesses with Panda? For each loser, there’s a winner. It’s just that the winners don’t complain.

    We have repeatedly written about winners and losers, however, when there’s been good data about this — and in particular when people have asked if the “winners” somehow seem to be favoring Google.

    I just wrote this last week:
    http://searchengineland.com/google-panda-losers-today-show-winners-youtube-95257

    “There’s also a winners list. Once again, Google’s own YouTube site is winner. It tops the latest list, something that’s sure to raise controversy in a climate when Google’s facing criticism that its search results favor itself. Google’s Android.com is also in the top winners list. So is Google-partner AOL.com.”

    Not enough for you? I mean, it was in the headline, too.

    Wait, not mentioning the Cult Of Mac manual fix? You mean like this:
    http://searchengineland.com/google-weve-made-no-significant-changes-to-the-farmer-update-66591

    They denied doing any such thing. Maybe Google’s just lying about it. But we did ask, and we did report on it.

    As for Dani, I actually talked with her a few weeks ago at one of our conferences. She didn’t give me any impression that she felt like Google had done some manual fix for her site, but rather than she read a lot of advice, and worked hard to improve things and rise back up.

    If anything, the sad story is despite coming back up, she apparently got hit again:
    http://www.webpronews.com/daniweb-panda-2011-09

    So she really doesn’t appear to be getting any special treatment.

    You’re stuck on me somehow thinking that Google deserves special treatment, or at least that’s the impression I get. I don’t. Google is sucky in many, many ways. Here’s a few places you can start at, if you want a personal take from me:

    http://searchengineland.com/25-things-i-hate-about-google-revisited-5-years-later-67969
    http://searchengineland.com/google-sewage-factory-the-chocomize-story-47403
    http://searchengineland.com/hey-firefox-let-us-pick-our-own-search-engine-14156
    http://searchengineland.com/google-as-open-as-it-wants-to-be-ie-when-its-convenient-12624

    Google may be under special attention about what it can do in relation to sites that it competes with, because of its monopoly status. That’s true, and that’s part of what the current debate is about.

    But as I said at the end of my piece, that’s a lot of attention over an area where it probably isn’t harming competitors as much as they’d have you believe. And it’s a lot of attention away from the many millions of other businesses that are part of the Google and greater search ecosystem that perhaps need better attention.

    Those businesses really don’t have a lot of protection, because they can’t concoct some “Google hurt me” argument based on competitive grounds. Google, like any search engine, has no compulsion to list anyone. Even if deemed a monopoly, Google probably wouldn’t be forced to list any site — it just might not be able to do things that seem inclined to favor itself.

    But whether sites can be cached, opt out of some but not all of Google’s services, whether they should get express support on issues of spam or listings — none of these are going to come because there’s an industry group running around trying to get rights for publishers as a whole. FairSearch isn’t doing that. SEMPO isn’t doing that. No one’s doing that.

    Publishers as a whole might get some rights because of some specific actions. The ability to drop out of vertical search on Google (and perhaps as a standard for the industry as a whole) probably owes a huge debt to Yelp pushing hard on that issue.

    But publishers as a whole have gained a huge number of things from Google and other search engines because the SEO community has kept the pressure up, not because a trade group representing an incredibly tiny number of Google competitors has done anything.

    Anyone who’s an old fart in this space remember when we had no support at all. The tools we get direct from Google and Bing today are amazing. They were inconceivable 10 years ago, unimaginable that we’d get them at all. The old farts know how far we’ve come. Anyone who wants to complain that Google doesn’t provide support, doesn’t give information about how it interacts with its web sites simply isn’t educated.

    Despite that, I’d like to see even more attention focused on that SEO community. That way when it bitches about things like Google’s bad search results

    http://www.highrankings.com/dear-google-290
    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/im-getting-more-worried-about-the-effectiveness-of-webspam
    http://searchengineland.com/reviewing-some-bad-google-search-results-with-sergey-brin-27397

    We’re not having to sit around until a year later, when the New York Times decides to write an article, and Google thinks oh, now we’ll care.

    You know, like this:
    http://searchengineland.com/googles-locksmith-spam-problem-hits-the-new-york-times-85026

    Those types of things deserve the attention that gets lavished instead on Google’s anti-trust allegations. Those types of things, we could use even more webmaster support for. Maybe the anti-trust actions will gain us further responsiveness. But it seems a lot of energy expended on an issue that impact relatively few companies which in turn already get the type of traffic from Google that most sites could only wish for.

  • Khalid

    Excellent article, Danny. I always find your perspective fair and I’d have some sympathy for Bing if not for the fact that, as you say, they(or other members of their coalition) weren’t doing most of what they accuse Google of doing.

    I realise your time is limited, but I always enjoy seeing you on shows like Tech News Today and This Week in Google; your perspective is interesting and it’s nice to hear it delivered by someone with such experience who actually sounds interesting. Some people have great experience and thus perspective, but unfortunately don’t deliver what they have to say in an interesting way. You certainly do that. This is primarily why I stay subscribed to Search Engine Land via Google Reader, even though I’m not at all into SEO and many articles are naturally about that.

  • http://hauntingthunder.wordpress.com/ Maurice Walshe

    If they complain that Ads is worse sponsored links – they must be smoking those naughty Jazz cigarettes.

  • Simon Temple

    Well… It’s an opinion and an analogy… “It’s like saying that Comedy Central is upset that NBC is running promos for its Saturday Night Live comedy show on NBC and not Comedy Central’s own The Daily Show.”

    Is it? Did NBC build a product on Comedy Central and then reduce the visibility of that show to almost nothing with a replacement show that was a direct plagiarism? Even worse, they stole the scripts, (Google seeds business listings by scraping them from citation analysis and then presents them above the fold as a tease for business owners to claim).

    What about if Google stepped into the SEO world with Google help pages appearing above the fold for all SEO related queries? The consumer/user has a choice, yes, but habit is well formed on a parasitic model of confidence and then verticalization. Google have the scale and cash to copy the best business models or buy them. The question is has this been monopolistic in nature and most agree that it has.

    There is good reason Google doesn’t accept advertising in the Google News vertical, (They did try once). Bullies pick their victims carefully.

  • A.T.

    Awesome article. I think their hope is that if they throw as many allegations as possible then something will stick. Glad people like you can condense the facts like this to make it perfectly clear much of this is bogus.

    Also just wanted to throw out a “Woot woot!” for that smack down on the comment board.

  • TimmyTime

    Danny even Bill O’Reilly covers Obama events and Keith Olberman covered Bush events, the tone is key. You can go “Google favoring brands: A conflict of interest ?” or “Google gives more emphasis to trust.” Look at this title: “Does The FairSearch White Paper On Google Being Anticompetitive Hold Up?” and compare it to the other one you wrote “Does Google explanation of Panda hold up?”

    But you are not a monopoly, so you can pick sides :)

    *****”If anything, the sad story is despite coming back up, she apparently got hit again:
    http://www.webpronews.com/daniweb-panda-2011-09
    So she really doesn’t appear to be getting any special treatment.”

    Yeah, a few days after getting hit again in September Google pushes a ‘new update.’ How stupid do you take us for Danny?? The fact that she and many others that came back in July got hit again shows that….Google forgot to include the manual tweaks from July, or that Panda is schizophrenic and it’s nearly impossible to come out of it. It’s even sadder the story of those that lost those few hundred visitors from Google’s Panda despite many changes.

    ***”Google, like any search engine, has no compulsion to list anyone. Even if deemed a monopoly, Google probably wouldn’t be forced to list any site — it just might not be able to do things that seem inclined to favor itself.”

    Here lies your problem, as if I said my site deserves #2 for life. There is a difference, huge I might say, between penalizing a site because they truly believe it’s and penalizing them because Google has a financial interest in penalizing them. The same for promoting brands. What if Google talks about these things behind the scenes and updates are done with that in mind? Just let Google do what they want because is their engine or trust them when they say no?

    What if MS in their duty to protect Windows users decided to post a warning each time ones uses Chrome or Google.com for the tracking that they do or based on a secret formula that they cannot share? Google after all decided that Live.com was low quality and increased the adwords bid to $5 and routinely penalizes sites. What would you say? Their right or ant-competitive? Who’s fault it is that Google depends on MS for 85% of their traffic?

    How much traffic they get from Google is truly irrelevant. If it were not Google it would be Foogle or Doogle, just as many people got most of their business from AT&T phone lines or Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages. What matters is how much more traffic they’d get if Google didn’t cook the results. Do you know that Google gets about 99% of it’s traffic from (people using) Microsoft Windows and from Verizon, AT&T, Comcast etc lines?

    Fairsearch is making a very reasonable request: let’s look at the emails, logs and talk to people under oath to see if money is the motive behind many ‘editorial’ changes. Google has at least 3 times more power than all other search engines so they deserve the special scrutiny.

  • http://www.tylerherrick.com Tyler Herrick

    The Yelp traffic comment is irrelevant; if I want an answer from Yelp, then I’ll go to Yelp.com to search for a business/review. If I want to know the phone number of the local dominos, I don’t care who gives me that answer as long as I can get that number as quickly as possible. I think FairSearch is manipulating it’s report, manipulating the situation, and specifically targeting Google and NOT general industry tactics. I think that if people really felt Google was evil and not to be trusted, they wouldn’t be the largest search engine in the US. Why do people think that people are trapped or forced into using Google? Most of the time it’s because it’s easy, it works well, or by default it was the search engine. That doesn’t mean someone couldn’t go use Bing or Blekko or Wolfram Alpha or Yahoo. I use Google because I know they will give me the correct answer faster than anyone else can, without me having to wade through all the crap on the internet. Ever tried using Google for apartment searches? It’s a joke. Someone has to sift through all the junk and give a solution that stands out for people. If you are Yelp and are complaining because some other business started up in your same industry, boohoo that’s commercialism. I’m so sick of these companies trying to “loophole” their ways forward, why don’t they come up with a better product instead? Next thing you know they’re going to be suing Google for their algorithm specifically because their ranking factor of distance from the centroid of the city isn’t fair to suburb businesses. COME ON!! I’m sick and tired of this!

  • http://www.redeyeops.com Jacob C Lowe

    I have a website that I run for my employers. What I really hate about search is when I search for a our business on Google and get like 20 yelp listings then some yellow book, then some citysearch. I would like to drive my listing to the top but half the time these listing are completely pushing down the actual site. I would love the traffic that they are stealing from our small business.

    I love how Google put place at the top because it actually will put out listing above those. When the link is clicked it will actually go to our sites page. I look of places as not a service but more of a section of their algorithm that actually finds relevant data.

    I hate when you have large companies like Bing complaining about traffic. Our small business would like that traffic as well. I guess since we cant afford lawyers to cry for us we get no say.