On Wednesday 5th February, it was reported that Google is to make ‘significant changes’ to the way in which rival products and services appear in search results.
The move follows a three-year EU investigation in to how Google presents content from rivals in the search results page. The investigation was launched in response to complaints from 18 companies, including Microsoft and TripAdvisor, who claimed that Google was giving preferential treatment to its own products in the search results page.
Another key focus of the investigation has been how Google displays content from other websites without permission.
The announcement suggests that Google is now close to reaching a settlement with the EU on the changes that it will make under EU competition rules.
As part of the changes, it is proposed that services offered by Google would be graphically separated from other search results in order to allow services from rivals to be clearly displayed. Google will also put a label on its web pages to remind consumers that its own products will be given preferential treatment.
In a sign that suggests that the EU supports the proposed changes, the European Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, said that he will not seek feedback from the complaining companies as part of this deal.
The Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (ICOMP) has described this decision by the commissioner as a ‘massive failure’.
This is clearly an interesting time for Google, though we imagine that ultimately they will keep their role as main gatekeeper for search results. We will continue monitoring these developments in order to evaluate what these changes could mean for advertisers. With increased competition on the search results page we will watch with interest to see how the visitor distribution by traffic source changes, what effect it will have on Google CPCs, and ultimately what opportunities open up for advertisers.
The Commission is due to make a final decision in the coming months. We will update this story when we learn more.