Given Nextag’s Lack Of Transparency, Its WSJ Opinion Piece Asking For Google Transparency Isn’t Wise

Nextag CEO Jeffrey Katz is out today in the Wall Street Journal with an opinion piece taking Google to task over a lack of transparency and fairness. Perhaps it’s not the smartest move, given that all his arguments can be neatly turned back against Nextag. Moreover, unlike Google, NexTag is probably in violation of US Federal Trade Commission guidelines on consumer disclosure.

Getting 65% Of Your Traffic From Google Is A Stacked Deck?

Let’s do the dissection. Writes Katz:

At my company, Nextag, a comparison shopping site for products and services, we regularly analyze the level of search traffic we get from Google. It’s easy to see when Google makes changes to its algorithms that effectively punish its competitors, including us.

Our data, which we shared with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 21, 2011, shows without a doubt that Google has stacked the deck. And as a result, it has shifted from a true search site into a commerce site—a commerce site whose search algorithm favors products and services from Google and those from companies able to spend the most on advertising.

I’ve asked Nextag today to tell me the percentage of traffic it currently receives from Google now and for the past five years, so that we can all understand how Google stacking the deck has harmed the company. All the Nextag people are out for the day, it appears, unfortunately. Two separate PR people assigned to Nextag, when I emailed them, generated “out of the office” messages. The third I was told to email generated an undeliverable response.

No matter, I know that, as late as last year, 65% of Nextag’s traffic comes from Google. That’s what Katz testified to the US Senate.

If Google stacking the deck against a competitor is to send the competitor 65% of all its traffic, I submit that Katz has no idea what stacking the deck really means. Perhaps a trip to Las Vegas would be instructive. I’ve love to walk away with 65% of the money I gamble there.

Postscript:Some people in the comments are somehow getting confused thinking I said that Google send 65% of Google’s traffic to Nextag. That’s not what I wrote, but to clarify, Nextag has stated that it received 65% of Nextag’s traffic from Google. I’ve also change the subhead from “65% Of Traffic From Google Is A Stacked Deck?” to what appears above to perhaps further clarify.

I’m not sure where the other 35% comes from, but for any site to get 65% of its traffic from Google is fairly out-of-the-ordinary. Most sites I know get anywhere from 15% to 35%. They have a balanced stream of visitors, including a set of visitors coming directly to them.

Oh, Nextag Doesn’t Like Paid Inclusion Now?

This is one of my favorite parts:

Most people believe that when they type “convection microwave oven” or “biking shorts” into Google, they will receive a list of the most relevant sites. Not true. That’s how Google used to work. Now, when someone searches for these items, the most prominent results are displayed because companies paid Google for that privilege.

For one, that is how Google still works for the “organic” listings that are part of its main search results. Katz, of course, is glossing over that and potentially libeling Google in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. I’ll leave that for Rupert Murdoch to deal with.

What I believe Katz is actually talking about is Google’s announced plans that Google Product Search is to change to Google Shopping, where it will only list sites that have paid to be included. Read more about that in my post from last week, Google Product Search To Become Google Shopping, Use Pay-To-Play Model.

In that post, I explain more about this “paid inclusion” model, though Google is unilaterally trying to redefine what “paid inclusion” means, since years ago, Google said anything that’s paid inclusion is evil. That’s embarrassing for Google, and the whole redefinition thing is going exceptionally bad with me, each time the company tries it.

But paid inclusion is exactly how Nextag already operates. IE, let me rewrite Katz’s own words:

Most people believe that when they type “convection microwave oven” or “biking shorts” into Nextag, they will receive a list of the most relevant sites. Not true … when someone searches for these items, the most prominent results are displayed because companies paid Nextag for that privilege.

Unlike what Katz said about Google, what I’ve rewritten his words to be about Nextag are true, to the best of my knowledge. That’s because the only way you get listed as a merchant in Nextag is if you pay to be there. But someone searching on Nextag doesn’t know this, because Nextag doesn’t disclose this.

Let’s Play Pin The Tail On The Disclosure

When Google finally makes the switch to paid inclusion with shopping search (it’s not there yet), it will disclose that the listings are paid for with a small “Sponsored” icon as shown at the top right of the box below:

What’s it like at Nextag now, where paid inclusion already operates? Here’s the top of the results:

There’s nothing that tells you that only merchants who paid to appear are showing up. The “Sorted by: Best Match” drop down doesn’t reveal this. Nor does the disclaimer at the bottom of the page, which says:

Nextag makes reasonable efforts to maintain the accuracy of product and pricing information displayed on our site, and we do not guarantee that any information is correct. If pricing or product information listed on the Nextag site is different than pricing or product information on the store’s site, then the information on the store’s site will apply. We encourage users to conduct their own research prior to purchasing. Nextag cannot be held liable for any actions taken based on the product and pricing information provided and Nextag shall not be held responsible for any loss or damage resulting from any business conducted with any company listed at Nextag. Please refer to our Terms of Use for complete details. To report a pricing error, click here.

Nextag can take all that space to inform you that it’s not responsible for anything it lists, errors and so on (despite in the WSJ story spending so much time saying how it’s better than Google), but it can’t spare a few words to note that all of its results are bought and paid for?

2002 Called & Has Some Disclosure Demands

It should. It should because FTC guidelines created in 2002 say that search engines should ensure “the use of paid inclusion is clearly and conspicuously explained and disclosed” and:

The staff recommends that if your search engine uses paid inclusion programs that may distort rankings or placement criteria, you clearly describe how sites are selected for inclusion in your indices. Also, consumers should be able to easily locate your explanation of the paid inclusion program you use, and discern the impact of paid inclusion in search results lists.

I’ve been through the Nextag site three times in the past six months in search of the required disclosure, including last week, and I’ve never found it. I went through it a fourth time today. There’s nothing on the About page:

Expert deal-hunters since 1999, we make it surprisingly easy for you to find everything from tech to travel to tiki torches all at the price, place and moment that’s right for you. Browse, review, share, get the 411, get the deal: with Nextag, you’ll love the way you shop.

30+ million people consult us each month to make their online purchases, and we use our best-in-class search technology and proven expertise to ensure that each and every one of those shoppers is a happy one. This focus and commitment benefits our partners as well, delivering impressive sales volume and ROI for merchants and a streamlined user experience for search providers.

There’s nothing on the Help page:

What is Nextag?

Nextag is a price comparison site where shoppers find great deals on their favorite products. We provide side-by-side comparison of latest prices, including tax and shipping, from a wide variety of sellers and stores. We also provide helpful information on sellers to help shoppers decide where to order from.

Is Nextag a store? Do I purchase products from Nextag directly?

Nextag does not sell anything directly to users. We just provide a service for Internet merchants to list their products for sale on our website. If you want to purchase a product, please contact the merchant directly by clicking on the merchant’s logo or the “Go to Store” button.

Do I get charged to use your service?

No, Nextag is 100% free for buyers.

After A Week, Still Waiting For Nextag To Research Disclosure

If I’ve missed the disclosure, it’s not for a lack of asking about it. Nextag’s PR firm emailed me last week, the day my Google Shopping story appeared, asking:

Just wondering if you were interested to get Nextag CEO or CMO’s take on Google Shopping and the new developments there.

My response:

Sure, if you wanted to send a statement along, be happy to look.

I’d also like to understand how Nextag is doing disclosure to consumers about paid inclusion within its own results. I’ve been to the site to check on this three times in the past six months, including yesterday. Each time, I come away finding no disclosure, which would be in violation of the FTC’s guidelines. Am I somehow missing this?

I was told that the firm would “get you more clarity on that.” Apparently, there wasn’t time to clarify if Nextag was in violation of FTC guidelines but there was time to likely help coordinate a WSJ opinion piece attacking Google on transparency.

Transparency Is As Transparency Does

Katz goes on with some suggestions for the European Union, which has given Google until July 2 to response to its anti-trust concerns.

First, Google needs to be transparent about how its search engine operates. Today Google hides behind forked-tongued gobbledygook that is meant to obfuscate. Google should disclose, clearly and in plain English, when advertisers receive better placement in search results and when a result is a Google-owned property. And when a competitor’s service is the best response for the user, Google should highlight it instead of its own service.

For all that Google is made out as a black-box, it discloses a hell of a lot more about how it works than Nextag. Where it shows ads, it does disclose these, as required by FTC guidelines. I’ve never seen a violation here.

As for how Google is supposed to decide if a competitor has better results and highlight those versus Google’s own listings, Google has an algorithm that does that already. Katz doesn’t like how that algorithm works (I guess because anything short of 100% traffic to Nextag isn’t fair), but unless regulators want to step all over freedom-of-speech protections, there are serious issues trying to regulate “relevancy.”

Irony Alert: Please Show Fewer Ads, Send More Free Traffic

Next, Katz suggests:

Second, Google should provide consumers with access to the unbiased search results it was once known for—regardless of which company or organization owns the service. It should also allow users to reduce the number of ads shown or incorporate a user’s preferred services in search results.

There’s a chuckle. Katz would like Google to magically send his company even more traffic than the absurdly high amount that most sites would love to have, all for free — and also, could you reduce those ads that fund the whole thing? And all this from a company that lists no one that doesn’t pay to play? Incredible.

But let’s say Google agrees to this. How about a reverse? Is Nextag going to allow other shopping search results into its search engine, when its search results aren’t the best?

Show Everyone’s Ads

Finally, Katz concludes:

And third, Google should grant all companies equal access to advertising opportunities regardless of whether they are considered a competitor. Given its market share and public commitment to providing users with the most relevant, helpful information, Google has an obligation to provide a level playing field.

Sure, there’s a good argument for that. I suppose you could make the same argument that a dominant newspaper in one city must be required to carry ads from another newspaper, or a dominant TV network should carry ads for another network. Oh, not so easy now? But there might be some anti-trust rules that do require Google to accept ads. Maybe then Bing will be able to run ads on Google. Wait, they already do.

Dear FTC: Wake Up & Enforce Your Existing Guidelines

I’m waiting to hear back from Nextag about how it would actually expect Google to put these recommendations into practice. But I continue to be amazed that a company that gets more than half its traffic from Google protests that it’s being harmed. I continue to be amazed it looks for regulatory relief to get more free traffic when it doesn’t provide free traffic itself. I’m freshly amazed that it now wants to poke at Google about paid inclusion when it seems oblivious to the fact it’s likely violating the FTC guidelines about this itself.

Finally, would anyone else like to see the FTC wake up and actually review the search engines out there in terms of the consumer disclosure they should be doing? I sure would. As I wrote last week:

One thing about the change is that it will probably cause all the shopping search engines out there to better disclose the paid relationships they have. As I covered in my column yesterday, the FTC has seemed to ignore that some don’t have any disclosure at all, as required. Google’s move has the potential to raise the bar here, and that’s sorely needed.

Here’s hoping that happens, or that Nextag proactively starts the ball rolling on the transparency it so desperately seeks.

Postscript: After I finished this, I found Google has posted its own response that you’ll find here pushing back on Nextag claims about Google’s search results, including that its results are biased or that it refuses competitor ads.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Retail | Google: Antitrust | Search Engines: Shopping Search Engines | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Rob Gordon

    This has some good points, but it is mostly just an attack on Nexttag, rather than really addressing the issues.   Google should stop pretending their search results are “organic” – as if they came from nature.  There is no such thing as “organic” search results. 

  • Danny Sullivan

    Organic results are defined in the search industry as those where a search algorithm determines placement and there’s been no payment for inclusion. Google absolutely does have these, as does Bing.

  • Tien V Nguyen

    Couldn’t agree more here, while I don’t necessarily agree or even support all of what Google does, Nextag’s complaints are only on the basis that a) Google has a “competing” product, and that b) they may be reducing the amount of free traffic they send to Nextag.

    Nowhere does Katz provide anything resembling a decent argument that Google is being malicious and not acting in the best interest of the user.

  • Durant Imboden

    I’m a little mystified by the notion that Google should list third-party search results (paid or otherwise) in its organic results. From a user’s perspective, what’s the value in clicking on a result and being taken to another site’s list of results? 

  • Brian Borman

    I never understand these types of arguments against Google. People act as if Google is the “internet” rather than a company on the internet. Google is only as biased as its users allow it to be. Once they cross the line they will see an impact to their business. In a perfect world they wouldn’t have to have any bias at all, but they are a business and businesses have to make money to stay in business. Keeping the user informed is the best we can hope for and it appears Nextag doesn’t even do that.

  • David Rekuc

    At the most basic level, the new Google Shopping product is disclosed per FTC regulations, Nextag’s listings are not.

    I’m not sure I understand the distinction of why you’d consider Google Shopping paid inclusion instead of an ad.  Because the service used to be free or because the targeting is defined by Google’s algorithm?  The advertiser controls the data in the feed and can even optimize by adding negative keywords and seeing performance at a keyword level.  So, it hardly feels like its entirely at the mercy of Google’s algorithms.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Paid inclusion means you pay for inclusion but an algorithm decides if you’ll rank well.

    Paid placement means you pay for guaranteed placement on the search pages.

    At the time these definitions were made, the ad placement was much more tied to money. These days, an algorithm determines whether you’ll rank well, as with paid inclusion. I suppose the key difference is that by paying more, you can influence that algorithm more than would typically be allowed in paid inclusion.

  • Rob Gordon

    The point is that Google can make those “algorithms” do whatever they want, and the do all the time.  

  • David Rekuc

    Thanks for the clarification.  From my perspective, it seems hard to see it as paid inclusion when I have just about the same control as if I were using broad match keywords.  Adjusting a bid, negative keywords, and transparency to the search queries driving results.  Whereas my experience with CSE’s (nextag, etc) is that you’re basically paying rate card to be included or your not, which feels a whole lot more paid inclusion-y than product listing ads.

    Again, thanks for clarifying, especially since its tangential to the discussion.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Which is exactly how every search engine, including Nextag, operates.

  • Durant Imboden

    Paid inclusion means you pay for inclusion but an algorithm decides if you’ll rank well.”

    Isn’t that how AdWords has always worked?

  • Danny Sullivan

    Over time, the algorithm has grown to override more and more of the ability for payment to trump all. Payment has a much bigger role in ranking than with paid inclusion. But the definitions also need some updating to the current reality on search engines.

  • Jack N Fran Farrell

    Danny is right; your wrong. I suppose you hold the copyright on the word organic.

    Each assertion of Katz was calculated to be an unintentional libel. Danny refuted them point by point. Whats your problem with that?

  • Webstats Art

    Yeh – Absolutely! There is also no computer on this earth that can generate a purely random number. 
    When will people understand that google is simply juggling lists?

  • Rob Gordon

    Well I guess I am dealing with an intellectual heavyweight here.  How can I possibly respond to such a brilliant assertion?   Silly me, I would thing that “calculated to be unintentional libel” would be an oxymoron.  Is “Danny” your Uncle or something?   By the way, “your” in this context should be spelled “you’re”.

  • Rob Gordon

    Thanks you – that is all I was really saying.  This is the first time I have been on this blog – didn’t expect to be trolled for such an obvious statement. 

  • Kevin

    “Silly me, I would *think*”

  • Sam Peck

    You’re spot on calling out NexTag, and Google is as transparent as they have to be. For all the hoopla Google is simply moving Product search to Adwords.  Most other shopping comparison engines out there either charge a fee or a commission on completed sales. NexTag has basically been engaged in marketing arbitrage all this time, they should have seen this coming.
    You’ve got some misleading verbiage around the 65% of traffic figure. I read it a couple times and it came off sounding like you were claiming that 65% of Google’s traffic goes to NexTag, which is obviously false.  I’m guessing you meant that as the percentage of NexTag’s traffic that has Google as the referring search engine. 

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  • Danny Sullivan

    No, I was saying that 65% of Nextag’s traffic comes from Google. I read it again, and it still seems to read OK to me.

  • Webstats Art

    You are welcome Rob. There is a vote buying system in place on the net. If you are not in the loop, then your comments are probably going to be more organic than others. Money is the key. Whoever pays everyone more money (directly or indirectly) gets the vote. Some people don’t really depend entirely on google for money and their contributions are invaluable because they are not tainted.

  • Millard Baker

    It doesn’t. At the very least, it’s misleading. And it doesn’t support your argument.

    If someone gives their leftover scraps to the homeless guy living behind the office building and it represents 65% (or 100% of his daily food), that doesn’t mean they are giving him most of their food or the highest quality food. Sure, he may be grateful. Certainly, it’s generous to help out. But you can’t argue that they are equitable sharing a meal.

  • benlanders

    - I think this is the statement causing the confusion: “If Google stacking the deck against a competitor is to send the
    competitor 65% of all its traffic, I submit that Katz has no idea what
    stacking the deck really means. Perhaps a trip to Las Vegas would be
    instructive. I’ve love to walk away with 65% of the money I gamble

    I think this statement could be worded differently – some people might (mistakenly) interpret “its” as Google when “its” was intended to refer to NexTag. Danny – if it’s really true that you’d love to walk away with 65 percent of the money you gamble in Vegas, I hope (for the sake of Search Engine Land’s future) that you NEVER gamble when you’re in Vegas!!!

    Semantics aside, I think Danny is spot on with this analysis. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you (or at least don’t do it in the WSJ!).

  • V Rad

    You’re wrong. Google is NOT sending 65% of its visitors to Nexttag – NextTag is RECEIVING 65% of its visitors from Google. 
    For all we know, Google might be sending 1% of its visitors.

  • Scott McKirahan

    Here, here! I’m glad someone called out Nextag on this. Could they BE more hypocritical? (read in the voice of Chandler Bing).

    One of these days, after the tears are all mopped from the floor and all runny bent out of shape noses are wiped, people are going to realize that Google is not the internet. They are a business that provides a service. Use it or don’t use it. They are no more obligated to list a website, paid or otherwise, than any e-commerce website owner is obligated to sell products from a manufacturer that they do not want to carry.

    I wrote a post about this, utilizing a fictitious website, that I did not finish until too late to get it published Friday. It will be on the Store Coach blog Monday morning.

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  • Coty Lance

    Danny, your title translates to “Nextag isn’t transparent, how dare they ask Google for transparency?”. The two do not exclude eachother logically, ethically maybe. It is a fact that Google can shape their engine to whatever they like. It affects some people more than others and it is natural to outcry in that situation. In my (limited) experience Google generally tries not to abuse that power, none the less there are some questionable cases.

  • Danny Sullivan

    No, they don’t. But it’s fairly idiotic to be screaming about consumer transparency when you’re a search engine that’s not doing the required consumer transparency.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Most times when I gamble, I don’t walk away with 65% of the money I spend. And absolutely no one overall walks away with more money than Vegas casinos make, because the odds are in the casinos favor. That’s stacking the deck.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I didn’t say that. You’ve misread it.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Nextag argues that Google is acting in an anti-competitive manner by blocking its visibility in search results.

    Go talk to some of the people hit by the Penguin Update, where Google is wiping them out because of perceived spam issues. They don’t get 65% of their traffic from Google. They might not be getting any of their traffic from Google.

    It’s difficult to entertain a claim that a Google has acted anti-competitively Nextag when Google sends Nextag the majority of all of Nextag’s traffic.

  • Douglas Karr

    Danny, you have to know that there are hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in the SEO industry on backlinking schemes. That’s not “organic”.

    Because Google doesn’t get paid, doesn’t mean the rankings aren’t manipulated.  I don’t think this is Google’s fault, but I do believe they’re asleep at the wheel from stopping it from happening.  I can go look at inbound links in Blekko on my clients’ competitors and see that they’re cheating in a matter of minutes… why isn’t Google doing this work?

    Like you, I don’t agree with Nextag.  However, the stakes on owning a #1 rank on competitive search terms drives unscrupulous companies (and their SEO companies) to cheat… and they benefit from it.  Google needs to put an end to this and begin applying more resources to block that activity.  

    Google has done some good work here with Panda and Penguin, but there’s a ton more work to do. If they choose to turn a blind eye, Mr. Katz won’t be the only one yelling for regulation and transparency… everyone will. 

  • Millard Baker

    The hand that feeds is not necessarily benevolent or ethical. It is a risky proposition to bite said hand. It often makes matters worse.

    Not saying that’s the case here, Danny makes good arguments. I just think how much traffic Nextgen receives from Google isn’t necessarily relevant or supportive of it.

  • Sam Peck

    As I said in my first comment, NexTag should have seen the demise of their marketing arbitrage scheme coming from a long ways off–so what’s with all the whining?

    That said, looking at this a bit closer, I think you may have called out the wrong shopping comparison engine.  From your own observations and some limited fact checking on my part Nextag might actually be in the clear when it comes to FTC regulation.  Here’s why:
    1.) In order for your product to appear on NexTag you’ve got to give them a commission on any “qualified leads” they produce for you.

    2.) That leads to the assumption that none of NexTag’s results are indeed organic.

    3.) Which means that they are purely a paid listing service and as such are not required to differentiate paid content vs. “editorial”, “free speech” content. It’s all paid.

  • Danny Sullivan

    The guidelines on paid inclusion are applicable even if you’re a completely paid inclusion search engine. You should be providing clear and conspicuous notice of that to consumers, who might assume that some or all of the listings are free in nature. Those are the FTC guidelines, and Nextag doesn’t seem to follow them. After more than a week, it certainly hasn’t responded to my assumption that they fail to follow this, also. 

  • Danny Sullivan

    Douglas, the FTC rules for search engines are about money they take directly from advertisers and the degree to which that money directly received has an impact on search results.

    There’s a separate issue about the role money or time or effort might play in the quality of search results that the search engines should enforce. That’s part of what Penguin was about. But that’s not something the FTC mandates.

  • Douglas Karr

    Thanks Danny. I’m not speaking about the search engine guidelines of the FTC, I’m speaking to the disclosure regulations for sites that publish content and they are paid for it. If a company is paying an SEO vendor and that vendor is spamming comments and backlinks all over the web, per disclosure regulations they should be disclosing that paid relationship. I know that’s not happening and no one is talking about it – mostly because the FTC is ignorant of how search engines work.

    The more important point here is that Google’s rankings are impacted significantly by blackhat techniques. I cheered as Penguin rocked the industry – but it’s only a start at actually destroying the backlinking industry.

  • Danny Sullivan

    If someone’s paying an SEO company for work, that probably doesn’t fall within FTC guidelines, if they are building up links where payment isn’t involved.

    If any publisher is accepting payment for something that appears like editorial content, that probably does fall within FTC requirements, agreed.

    If someone is building up content by spamming comments, sadly, FTC guidelines probably don’t apply. The publisher isn’t being paid for those comments, so there’s nothing to disclose. It’s just crappy behavior.

  • Durant Imboden

    Sounds like a good reason for Google to ignore NextTag altogether. Google doesn’t index its own ads in the organic search results, so why should it index NextTag’s?

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  • Karthik kumar

    But we can’t dispose paid inclusions as ads altogether, can we?

  • cryptblade

    Google provides organic results. If you can’t get organic results from Google, you don’t belong here and don’t deserve to spit out your opinion. Sit down and learn. 

    And if you think Google owes you any traffic – you need to seriously have a lobotomy and stop calling yourself an entrepreneur – because any serious entrepreneur and business person knows NO ONE owes you a damned thing.

  • Durant Imboden

    Why not? Will searchers be harmed if paid-inclusion results on sites like NexTag are excluded from Google’s organic index? And why should  Google exclude its own “Google Shopping” listings from organic Google Search results while including similar paid listings on sites like NexTag? That just wouldn’t make sense, for Google or for users.

  • cryptblade

    Well it’s clear Nextag is feeling the pinch of irrelevance and is lashing out at Google. Why not lash out at Facebook? Or ….just blame Bush!

    Nextag has nothing, no leg to stand on. As a price comparison engine, it takes a backseat to Bizrate. And Pricegrabber and are possibly stealing more. But even more so, remains a very strong competitor – and far better and more trustworthy than any price comparison engine.
    Ever shopped at a Nextag and then at an Amazon? Even if you find a vendor with the lowest price, beware of the S&H charges – the final price could be higher. Amazon offers free shipping for products over a certain price. And you get Amazon as the power behind you when you are the consumer.

    What does Nextag offer compared to Amazon? Nextag wants to attack Google – sounds like a a Democrat – attack the rich while he himself is worth millions and asking other millionaires for campaign contributions.

    If Nextag wants to seriously attack Google – they should consider becoming first in class of price comparison engine sites in the first place – or even first in class for ecommerce sites. THEN they have clout to talk. Otherwise, it just sounds like whining from a sore loser.

  • Rob Gordon

    What a crap site and what a crap discussion.   This is the first time I have made a comment here and when I woke up this morning this is what I receive from “cryptblade”: 

    “Google provides organic results. If you can’t get organic results from Google, you don’t belong here and don’t deserve to spit out your opinion. Sit down and learn.  And if you think Google owes you any traffic – you need to seriously have a lobotomy and stop calling yourself an entrepreneur – because any serious entrepreneur and business person knows NO ONE owes you a damned thing.What is this, a cult?  People aren’t allowed to express any opinion that might go against your religion?   I’m sure there are some smart people here, but I sure am not impressed by the level of discussion here at all.”

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  • unprogram

    Do you acknowledge the difference between a general search and a vertical search (shopping, travel etc.,)? When you type something into a search engine, your intent is not clear.
    Do you want more information? Do you want to buy something? etc., But
    once you clicked on a link after reading a brief snippet about that link
    such as ‘Compare Products’ – then your intention is more clear and
    hence you can be presented with results from a specialized search service. A specialized search such as product search can normalize the items around product attributes such as price, color, memory size so that you can find what you need much quicker. Google does this on its own even if other vertical search providers don’t exist.

    May be what you are saying is that you trust Google’s services so much that you don’t think they need to point to anywhere else. If so, would you have said the same if Google didn’t offer such a service whether it is in comparison shopping or travel or whatever?

  • unprogram

    I am a long time reader of Search Engine Land and feel compelled to post after reading this article. This is one of the worst articles done by Mr. Sullivan. It is quite sad how Mr. Sullivan chose to attack Nextag instead of discussing the legitimate concerns raised by Mr. Katz. Whether or not Google is involved in anti-competitive practices is a legitimate public concern. Certainly Mr. Sullivan is aware of EU’s ultimatum and the on-going investigations in the US against Google. So Mr. Katz’s opinion is not entirely without merit and his remarks as a competitor to Google are hugely relevant.  If Mr. Sullivan disagrees with the claims made by Mr. Katz, then he would have done a huge public service if he focused on the specific issues raised by Mr. Katz. Instead he choose to attack Nextag on a tangential issue where it is unclear what the definition of ‘paid inclusion’ is and what position FTC has governing vertical search providers where all inclusions are ‘paid only’. Certainly Nextag seem to be not alone in this alleged non-compliance.

    In my eyes, Mr. Sullivan lost lot of credibility with this article.

  • Danny Sullivan

    I did focus on the specific things that Katz raised and debunked them. For instance, Katz says that Google has changed its search results to favor advertisers. I explained why this wasn’t the case. Katz suggests Google isn’t transparent. I argued that it’s more transparent that Nextag itself. Katz has suggested that Google is somehow deliberately trying to drive his company out of business by somehow favoring itself. I explain that a search engine showing search results is simple doing its job and that in any case, it’s hard to see how Nextag — getting 65% of its traffic from Google — is somehow the result of Google being anti-competitive.

    I’d suggest you review the “Dear Congress” article I listed at the end of my post for more in-depth analysis of this. The fact that the EU has issued an request for Google to respond isn’t the same as saying that Katz is right or that Google is necessarily wrong. That’s the point of an investigation, and there are signs that the EU actually might believe it has a weak case if it were to go further. We’ll see.

    But let’s be absolutely clear. Nextag chose to attack Google over transparency in a letter to the Wall Street Journal. It did that knowing that a week prior, I’d requested information about why it deemed itself to be meeting the FTC’s express guidelines for search transparency — and I did that after Nextag PR deliberately reached out to express its views on Google.

    I’m still waiting for any reaction from Nextag. It couldn’t be bothered to respond after initially reaching out. It couldn’t be bothered to respond to the still open question about its transparency compliance.

  • unprogram

    Mr. Katz is a legitimate competitor to Google in the
    shopping vertical. Please take a look at this industry leading blog analyzing
    the relative merits of each comparison shopping offering from the merchant’s
    Nextag is ranked #2 overall behind Google Shopping. Mr. Katz is claiming that
    Google is stacking the deck against the competition. The percentage of traffic
    Nextag currently receives from Google is irrelevant to examining the truth
    behind this claim. May be the trend line is negative. Mr. Katz admitted he
    depends on Google. That is precisely the point. The matter of concern for the
    public is whether or not Google driving out competition by stacking the deck
    against it, favoring its own offerings in the algorithms against competing
    offering. We need to look at the right evidence. For example we could check
    what the average traffic levels to the competing Comparison Shopping Engines that
    compete with Google to where they used to be a couple of years ago.  We can look at what is happening to the
    companies in other verticals that built their businesses based on the expectation
    that Google’s general search stays neutral? (Yelp, Kayak). The bottom line is -
    this is neither about Google nor about Nextag nor about any other company. It
    is about the consumer. Is the consumer better served by more competition or
    less competition? 

    On the issue of Transparency – Again the concerns you are
    raising may be valid – but those are completely tangential to the main issue
    raised. The main issue is – can consumers and Google’s competition trust Google’s
    word that its algorithms are neutral or Google needs to do more?

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