Google hits back on favoured search results spat

Google has hit back at accusations over its search engine favouring its own content in local search results.

In a post by Google’s Carter Maslan, Director of Product Management, said Google’s main priority was ensuring consumers got the best deal, stating “we built Google for users, not websites.”

He added: “We welcome ongoing dialogue with webmasters to help ensure we’re building great products, but at the end of the day, users come first. If we fail our users, competition is just a click away,” Maslan added.

It has been suggested Google has displayed links to its own services, like local business information, rather than unaffiliated sources.

Online businesses including Yelp, WebMD, and City Search are reportedly annoyed that links to their own sites are being moved down lists of search results to make way for Google.

Chief Exec for travel site Trip Adviser, Stephen Kaufer, said that since Google had made changes to the way the search engine displayed search results for local business he had lost 10 percent of his online business.

“Google does seem to be chasing us and I do not like it one bit,” Kaufer said, adding that he had been in ongoing negotiations with the firm to address the situation.

Yesterday however Google hit back at the complaints in a public policy blog claiming that their intention when providing search results for local business is to provide the consumer with the most accurate and useful results.

“When people come to Google looking for information about places like restaurants, shoe stores, parks or museums, our goal is to provide them with answers as quickly as possible and presented in a way that’s easy to read and understand,” Maslan said. “Sometimes the most useful information is a direct link to a business – other times it’s a map or a list of review sites.”

Though a spokesperson for Google declined to comment, Maslan noted the search firm has taken steps such as introducing Place Search that can help people make informed decisions about places to go, which he says makes life much easier for the consumer to “find great sites with local interest”.

However, copyright lawyers have said that the firms may have a point as they could be protected by the fair-use doctrine, according to the WSJ, which Google has itself used in the past to sanction excerpts of online news content it uses in its own Google News service.