Google versus Microsoft on Internet Shopping Dominance
Google and Microsoft are not only fighting for dominance in the search engine business. They are also fighting in several other areas which include mobile operating system and now into internet shopping.
Microsoft started the fight when it came up with a ad for its Bing search engine “to highlight Bing’s commitment to honest search results.”
Microsoft attacks Google Shopping’s ‘pay-to-rank” practice, informing web users the inherent danger involved in its online transaction. To do this, the company developed a web page called “Scroogled” which describes how Google has changed its policy of including paid ads in its search results.
“Google Shopping is nothing more than a list of targeted ads that unsuspecting customers assume are search results,” the Redmond based company says. Google announced earlier this year it would overhaul its product search to become a shopping service with paid listings. Apparently, this move eliminated notable merchants like Amazon.
Google said it finished the switch October 17 in the US, and will be rolling out the same model in Britain, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, Australia and Switzerland.
“We think this will bring the same high-quality shopping experience to people – and positive results to merchants – around the world,” a Google blog posting said.
Microsoft is promoting its campaign online and offline with ads “demonstrating why consumers should be concerned and helping them take action” on the Google shift, a Microsoft statement said.
“We’re also calling on Google to stop this ‘pay-to-rank’ system for their shopping results and give shoppers what they expect – an honest search.”
Google argues that merchants will not see its rank increase by simply by paying more, and that sellers who have a financial stake in the results will keep their information up to date.
“Google Shopping makes it easier for shoppers to quickly find what they’re looking for, compare different products and connect with merchants to make a purchase,” said an email from a Google spokeswoman.
But some analysts say both companies are less than clear about how their shopping engines work, and that Microsoft is not blameless.
Danny Sullivan, analyst with the website Search Engine Land, said of the Microsoft effort: “Great campaign, if it were true. It’s not. Bing itself does the same things it accuses Google of.”
Sullivan told AFP that “at least Google has the fine print that you can read; Microsoft doesn’t have it at all.”
Microsoft, according to Sullivan, does not include new merchants from Bing product results results if they don’t compensate for its inclusion with its partner, Shopping.com, even though this is not fully transparent to consumers.
“Payment is a factor for ranking,” in Bing, said Sullivan, who argues that Microsoft’s campaign is deceptive.
Microsoft said its own shopping results through Bing are not influenced by payment.
“Bing includes millions of free listings from merchants and rankings are determined entirely by which products are most relevant to your query,” said Stefan Weitz, senior director at Bing, in an emailed statement.
“While merchants can pay fees for inclusion on our third party shopping sites and subsequently may appear in Bing Shopping through partnerships we have, we do not rank merchants higher based on who pays us, nor do we let merchants pay to have their product offers placed higher in Bing Shopping’s search results.”
Sullivan argues that Google, ironically, may have moved to paid listings to deflect attention from regulators and others who complain it had been skewing its search results.
“If you have people complaining you search results are unfair, you can turn them into ads,” he said.
But Sullivan noted that Google merely adopted the same policies of most shopping sites, which use paid listings even if they appear to be an impartial search.
The overall message from the latest row, according to Sullivan: “You need to shop around. Use multiple search engines. All of them that suggest that they are gathering stuff from across the Web but may not be doing that.”