After a European anti-trust investigation, Google has put forward a number of potentially game-changing proposals regarding the way it displays search results for its own products and services in Europe.
The investigation was sparked by a number of complaints from Google's rivals that it was unfairly promoting its own services.
A separate investigation was also carried out by authorities from the US.
However, the US Federal Trade Commission cleared Google of any search bias back in January (2013).
In the set of proposed changes it put forward to the European Commission, to address concerns of favourable treatment towards its own products and services, the search engine giant has offered to clearly mark the links to its specialist search services.
This will enable searchers to differentiate more easily between the links to the likes of Google Maps, and those displayed amongst organic search results.
It's also pledged to show links to three rival services – similar to those it offers – in clearly visible positions.
Should the European Commission accept the proposals, Google will be legally obliged to adhere to them for five years.
In addition, Google has proposed that it will allow all sites to opt-out from allowing it to use their content in its specialist search services – i.e. restaurant reviews.
Under this particular point of the proposal it has been stressed that those sites that decide to opt-out won't see their organic rankings 'unduly' affected as a result.
Google has also:
Offered specialised search sites – focussing on product search or local search – the option to mark categories of information not to be indexed or used; offered to no longer include written or unwritten obligations in agreements with publishers, that would require them to source search advertisements exclusively from the search giant; and has also offered to no longer restrict advertisers from managing search advertising campaigns across rival platforms.
Commenting on its reasons for taking a different view to the US Federal Trade Commission, the European Commission stated: “Bing and Yahoo! represent a substantial alternative to Google in web searches in the USA; their combined market share is around 30 per cent. In contrast, Google has been holding market shares well above 90 per cent in most European countries.
It continued: “The way Google present is web search results therefore has a much more significant impact on users and on the competitive process in Europe than it does the USA.”
The European Commission has in return proposed that the concessions offered by Google be tested for a month.
If implemented the proposals could benefit the search engine marketing efforts of Google's rivals.
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