The Google Investigation: An Ongoing Story
In case you thought that anti-trust acts were a thing of the distant past, think again. The Department of Justice (sounds serious, and it is) has opened a case against one of the internet’s biggest giants. Their Google investigation aims to discover, among other things, whether the search engine pays favorites among business listings.
It’s not the first time. Competitors and government bodies alike accused Google of dominating search engine operations in 2015. At that time, however, U.S. regulators determined that these accusations of monopolization were unwarranted.
But now, new questions arise.
Is Google unfairly boosting certain affiliated businesses over others? Is its position as the most popular and successful ad seller hurting small and medium-sized businesses?
The Google Investigation
It didn’t occurred to the public, or to regulators, to ask these questions about internet protocol until after the 2016 presidential election. After all, Google never claimed involvement with or relation to the functionality of the United States’ government.
Accusations of election interference and manipulation, though, triggered an investigation into Google’s potential bias. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission joined forces to address the larger public issue: did Google ingrain an SEO bias into its indexing algorithm?
In addition to questions of bias came questions about monopolization. That initial antitrust investigation had one simple intention: to assess whether Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was violating the United States’ restriction on corporate monopolies.
This investigation came up empty. However, in 2019, we’re seeing brand new potential for cross-examination of the platform.
Criticisms of Google
To this day, platforms such as Yelp – that is, popular review platforms with significant impact on SEO and SERP rankings – claim that Google’s search engine algorithm deliberately prevents users from viewing unbiased SERPs. While Bing serves voice response queries through Alexa, Cortana, and Siri, Google still dominates mobile and desktop e-commerce. If Alphabet chooses to promote Google-approved businesses and ads over organic content, then the platform is undercutting the sales of business owners everywhere.
Google’s influence on mobile e-commerce also faces criticism. With a sharp increase in mobile sales, Google has the opportunity to overuse your limited screen space. All the easier to shove smaller businesses out of the spotlight, in favor of approved partners. After all, pixels are limited.
But none of this is proven—yet—and 2019 investigators don’t seem optimistic. That’s not saying the Google investigation won’t be thorough—in the unflattering limelight of 2016 politics, U.S. regulators will dig deeper than ever into Google’s architecture. Even so, few people involved with the case anticipate that the search will have an impact on the platform’s day-to-day operations.
The Broader Impact
If nothing is expected to change, why should we focus on Google’s cross-examination?
When we talk about SEO, we usually default to conversations about Google. Google crawlers and algorithms to determine the size of our revenue-generating audiences. Google created the architecture we now much operate in, and in doing so outstripped its competition.
A break-up of Google wouldn’t completely change the way businesses of all sizes look at SEO or SERP rankings. However, dissolution of the company’s shares could elevate other search engines to a higher standing, making their algorithms equally important and influential.
It’s a complicated topic and a long-lasting fight with consequences that we’ll see in the years to come.
But for now, if you want your business to make its way above the noise of the internet, it’s Google’s way or the highway.
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Image attribution: Sven Bähren – stock.adobe.com