Microsoft this week, during the holiday season, increased the public pressure on Google with its “Scroogled” campaign. The campaign publicly points out, correctly, that Google Shopping results are entirely paid inclusion products here in the U.S. This is all before they are set to expand into further countries in 2013.
Bing’s Merchant is their answer to Google Shopping. And while it is free, it does require a Bing Ads account set up with credit card information and is no longer accepting new merchants. As such, there may be merit to what at least one industry pundit has cited a "pot calling the kettle black."
In fairness, merchants will continue to be listed in Google’s free web search results, but it is a reversal of Google’s philosophy for the sake of quality and adherence to rules. This is similar to Apple’s rules for the App Store in charging to enroll before submitting apps, as well as Google Play where it states, "We charge this fee to encourage higher quality products on Google Play (e.g. less spammy products)."
Speaking of fair, there is a group that has emerged called FairSearch, which claims to be "a group of businesses and organizations united to promote economic growth, innovation and choice across the Internet ecosystem by fostering and defending competition in online and mobile search. We believe in enforcement of existing laws to prevent anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers."
This organization claims to be based on two principles of transparency and innovation, while lobbying policymakers to act now in protecting these principles from the "growing evidence that Google is abusing its search monopoly to thwart competition."
What companies are trying to "protect" these lofty search principles? Microsoft, Oracle, Nokia, Expedia, Hotwire, Kayak.
The group put out its remedies "to resolve the harms that result from Google’s anti-competitive search and business practices" just a week before the Scroogled campaign. It proposes "requiring Google to license data that it has obtained in significant part through its improper actions and to divest its vertical products that have benefited from Google’s abuses."
While the group’s concern is understandable, Google is a business after all and as the saying goes, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." That said, Goggle’s organic search results, most of its software, and the popular Android platform are "free," although Google in turn does obtain your data that helps them monetize with advertising.
I prefer innovation over scare tactics or litigation (don’t get me started on Apple). Bing should take the opportunity to highlight its Tag feature, the increased transparency in its Webmaster Guidelines, link disavow and SEO analyzer, as well a great public advocate and communicator, Duane Forrester.
In my view, this a better approach to helping the search engines improve, while keeping each other in line.