Yelp Says Google Games Searches To Favor Its Own Content

A study led and funded by Google competitor Yelp says that the search giant is promoting its own content when generating universal search results. By showing results that are different than what would be produced through a purely organic search, Google is "leaving consumers with lower quality results and worse matches," according to the study.

Published Monday, the study -- titled "Is Google degrading search? Consumer Harm from Universal Search" -- was conducted by members of Yelp's data science team. Also contributing to the research were Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, and Michael Luca, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

The timing of the study's release isn't good for Google, as the company is currently facing a complaint by the European Commission that its search results give an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service over those of its competitors. Google's response to that complaint was due last week.

Degraded Search 'Harms Google's Users'

Yelp's study observed the behavior of 2,690 Internet users and found that people were 45 percent more likely to engage with universal search results when those results were varied to ensure the content produced was organically generated. By contrast, "Google's current policy of favorable treatment of Google content to results in which external content is displayed" is reducing the value and utility of its results for users, the researchers said.

Launched in 2007, Google's universal search feature blends content from other sources such as Images, Maps, Books, Video and News with the organic results produced by a Web search. Google described universal search as its attempt to "break down the walls that traditionally separated our various search properties and integrate the vast amounts of information available into one simple set of search results."

The authors of Yelp's study said that by its nature,...

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