The Federal Trade Commission finally ended its investigation of Google last Thursday, leaving some people very satisfied, and some haters hating even harder.
Since 2011, the FTC has been investigating Google to determine whether the company has been doing evil things to manipulate its search results and crush its rivals. Finally, after what the FTC called an “exhaustive investigation into Google’s business practices,” the agency settled with the search giant and Google walked away largely unscathed.
Regarding the investigation into Google’s search practices, the FTC said that it found that, for the most part, it does not manipulate its search practices in such a way that would require FTC intervention. This unanimous vote angered some of Google’s search competitors, most notably Microsoft, who called the FTC’s resolution “weak and unusual,” and Yelp, who said it was displeased that Google wasn’t found guilty of search manipulation on a larger scale.
The company has voluntarily agreed to make some minor changes to its ad search policies and, for the first time, will allow search advertisers to “clone” or copy campaigns from Google to other search engines such as Bing or Yahoo. Websites will also be able to remove content from specialized Google results pages and still appear in Google’s general Web search results. Digital marketing agencies like Kenshoo, which was once forced to duplicate efforts to manage identical ad campaigns across multiple search engines, was happy about this change that is sure to make their lives easier.
“We commend Google for addressing the issue of advertising data portability and recognizing the value that companies like Kenshoo bring to the digital marketing ecosystem,” said Yoav Izhar-Prato, CEO of Kenshoo, a provider of digital marketing technology used by companies and agencies such as Starcom MediaVest to create ad campaigns.
Google also agreed to stop scraping data from websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor and presenting it as its own. In the past this has caused users to believe that the scraped content was Google’s, and the sites lost traffic while Google got a boost. According to Yelp and some other sites that faced similar issues, when they tried to tell Google to stop scraping their data, Google threatened to pull their data from Google.com altogether- a move that would have destroyed them. Now, Google has agreed to allow companies to opt out of having their data scraped minus the threats.
The FTC’s decision will result in a “fairer playing field in Internet search and search advertising,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. While some of Google’s competitors are not happy with the outcome of the settlement, it seems that online marketers and business owners are. It should now be easier for them to manage online ad campaigns and to get Google to stop scraping their data without being threatened.
One thing that this investigation has shown us is that even the U.S. government can’t rein in Google Inc.’s dominance of online search. Google grabbed almost 75% of the $17.58 billion U.S. search ad market in 2011, according to eMarketer. Google controls more than half of the U.S. mobile ad market, too, representing a nearly 57% share, according to eMarketer. When it comes down to it, haters are going to hate, but they obviously can’t compete.