djbaxter

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A Commitment to Trust and Transparency in Search
by The Bing Team
December 4, 2012

Six days ago, we launched the ?Scroogled? campaign to let you know that, just in time for the holiday rush, Google has made some unprecedented changes to Google Shopping.

How did Google respond? They distributed a statement praising their service. They highlighted how great products look on Google Shopping without really explaining how the products get there in the first place. They did not contradict or argue any of the facts and information we laid out. The silence is disappointing given how important this issue is to consumers and the online industry as a whole.

In short, Google?s silence is pretty clear acknowledgement of the changes they have made to introduce pay-to-rank to their system.

After calling the practice ?evil? for years, Google Shopping is now allowing merchants to pay to influence where their products show up in Google Shopping?s rankings.

We believed, and surveys confirmed, most consumers were unaware of these changes because the appearance of Google Shopping looks much like other Google search services. And we?ve seen a lot of interest in the topic from people in and outside the industry. As search is the primary way for people to explore and engage in our increasingly complex digital world, the need for transparency on how ranking decisions are made has never been more critical.

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djbaxter

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Google?s Curious Defense Continues to Scroogle Consumers
by The Bing Team
December 7, 2012

It?s been 10 days since we highlighted to consumers Google Shopping's pay-to-rank practice and challenged them to change their policies. To date, Google?s only response to the concerns highlighted by the Scroogled effort had been to avoid addressing the issue at-hand and praise their shopping service. Finally, according to a report from Politico?s Dec. 6th edition of Morning Tech, Google responded directly to the issues we raised. What we find curious, however, is what Google said. Instead of owning up to consumers about their pay-to-rank policy, Google delivered a misleading and inaccurate statement.

Google told Politico:

Google contends that it clearly labels the search results on the shopping service, which comes with a disclaimer that ?Google is compensated by some of these merchants.? ?Our new paid Google Shopping results are ranked first and foremost by relevance, are clearly labeled as sponsored, and are clearly separated from our unpaid search results,? a Google spokesman said.


Here are the facts:

First, from Google: ?Starting on October 17, Google Shopping results in the US will come only from merchants who are Product Listing Ads advertisers. We will be ranking these results based on relevance, with bidding as an additional factor.? That means that all of the listings on Google Shopping are now paid ads and payment is a factor in the ranking and ?relevance?. As Google themselves have said, payment playing a part in determining relevance is at odds with the core principles of objective search.

Second, to the casual observer, the statement that Google Shopping results ?are clearly labeled as sponsored, and are clearly separated from our unpaid search results? makes it look as if there are both paid and unpaid results within Google Shopping. There are no unpaid Google Shopping results. Google Shopping results are all ads and that, by their own admission, ?Google is compensated? by all of the merchants ? not by ?some of these merchants? as they said in their Politico statement.



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