Google is inarguably the biggest search engine in the world and we have turned their name into a verb. It is also Alphabet’s biggest cash cow where it raked in $98 billion last financial year. Their power in the search media ads business is immense and it shows.
The Markup found that Google “dedicated almost half of the first page of results on its own products” which is not a surprise at all.
They examined more than 15,000 recent popular queries and found that Google devoted 41% of the first page results on mobile to its own properties on what they call as direct answers. Direct answers are information copied from other websites and are posted at the top for people to quickly get the information without needing to click on the website that is providing the information.
According to the publication, when people search something like a medical condition, it returned a Google’s dictionary definition, a “people also ask” box, a knowledge panel and related conditions. All of these appeared before search results by the likes of WebMD, Harvard University and Medscape.
Google has been heavily criticized for this practice, and one famous spat was between them and the website Celebrity Networth. Google has defended their stance on the featured snippets on their search results.
“Providing feedback links, helping people reformulate queries or explore topics, and presenting quick facts is not designed to preference Google. These features are fundamentally in the interest of users, which we validate through a rigorous testing process,” a Google spokesperson told the Markup when they queried about this issue. “Sometimes, the most helpful information will be a link to another website—other times, it will be a map, a restaurant listing, a video or an image.”
The publication found out that the effect of Google placing its own products on the search page can be stark. 9 years after Google Flights and Google hotels launched, those sites have become market leaders where they garnered almost twice as many US site visits last year as each of their largest competitors (Expedia and Booking.com)