In a significant attack on the search giant following weeks of negotiations and confusion over whether TripAdvisor had continued its restriction of review content from reaching Google Places, Kaufer says Google – with 70% of searches in the US and dominant position around the world – is “abusing this power”.
The TripAdvisor boss says websites need to be both useful to the consumer and rank highly in search engines in order to be successful, but believes Google is playing unfairly.
“With both of these elements, Google is manipulating its systems and position to promote Google Places over other competing sites.”
Kaufer says links to Google Places appear at the top of organic search results “despite being an inferior product to sites that are dedicated to review collection”.
Curiously, Kaufer now says that Google is “forcing TripAdvisor to allow its reviews to be on Google Places”.
Close watchers of events in recent weeks will notice this is quite a major change to earlier statements where TripAdvisor stated that it was blocking Google, rather than Google forcing it.
A TripAdvisor official claims Google recently advised that it would be scraping content from TripAdvisor in order to pull in content to Google Places.
TripAdvisor’s existing organic search position will also be significantly impacted if it tries to block Google from accessing content, the official confirms.
Kaufer’s broadside at Google comes during a hugely sensitive period in relations between the search giant and the rest of the industry, with the US Department of Justice still mulling over the proposed acquisition of ITA Software.
TripAdvisor is a member of the FairSearch lobbying group formed to oppose the deal. The concerns outlined by Kaufer this weekend around abuse of power and dominating the marketplace mirror much of the rhetoric of the FairSearch group in recent months.
For its part, Google sent the following (and unusually lengthy) statement:
“We have not designed this feature to compete with other services. Our goal is to help people find links to sites with local information faster than ever. Place Search benefits users and complements existing review sites because it helps people find those sites more easily. Place Search shows more links to review sites than ever before, often with thirty or forty links on a single results page. One great thing about Place Search is that youâ€™ll often find links to great sources of reviews you may not have immediately thought of.
“We developed Place Search in-house as a comprehensive way to find sites with local information. Review sites are an important source of local information for our users, so weâ€™re regularly in contact with sites like Yelp and CitySearch for feedback and collaboration.
“As before, the main link for these search results in the blue title points to destination websites. Weâ€™ve merely improved the snippets for places by adding basic information and links to additional review sites.
“Most of the advice we have to offer to users is the same as always. For example, itâ€™s a good idea for business owners to claim their Place pages. One new thing to consider is that we can only show links to sites that we have determined have content about a specific place. If our algorithms havenâ€™t detected that your site has content for a place, you can increase the chance your site is detected by adding markup to your page with the appropriate information.”