TripAdvisor: Google abusing its power with Google Places

Google is playing with its own algorithm and market leading position to ensure Google Places wins over competing sites, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer says.

google places reviews

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 you’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 we’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. We’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, it’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 haven’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.”

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  6. tripadvisor uk

    Thanks for kevin share.Google is playing with its own algorithm and market leading position.which let tripadvisor lost lots of traffic.but I think tripadvisor is a great well known have enough traffic wihtout google.right?

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  8. marlenie

    i am a trip advisor user and was very angry today when i found out that they linked to my facebook account and revealed my full name and photo on my reviews – i do not recall giving permission for this – seems as if facebook and trip advisor are partner sites now. they wrongly assume that everyone likes this arrangement. seems as if you have to OPT OUT of this rather than OPT IN – something is really wrong here. i tried to email trip advisor with my complaint and gave up trying to find a place to email to that would not kick back my email – so resorting to snail mail.
    yup – taste of his own medicine – that’s cool.

  9. Nawar Alsaadi

    Curiously, Kaufer now says that Google is “forcing TripAdvisor to allow its reviews to be on Google Places”.

    lol…it is a pleasure to see Kaufer get a taste of his own medicine after forcing countless number of hotels on his site (and commercially profiting from the listings) without the hotel owner approval.


  10. steve sherlock

    it that trip advisor speaking or is it part of the campaign run by expedia? (owner of TripAdvisor).

    guess its hard to know for sure when things get political.

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  13. iHotelMarketing

    Hmm, so if Tripadvisor is blocking those Google bots, and Tripadvisor isn’t getting it’s 70% traffic share from Google – isn’t it time for hotels to relook at what they pay TA for paid listing? Shouldn’t the listing fee value go down proportionate to the lost traffic? Jus’ thinkin’ aloud…

  14. Sam Daams

    I always wondered how Tripadvisor was blocking Google from getting their content for Google Places. Looks like the only alternative is block off the pages from Google’s bot, ie. lose all your organic traffic. There’s reports out there that Tripadvisor relies on Google organic listings for well over 70% of its traffic, so you can see why it’s being termed ‘forcing’. Either way, Google’s reply is obviously that they can do whatever they want on their own site… just like Tripadvisor does whatever it wants to hotels on its site 🙂 And they might throw in a line about sites needing to diversify their traffic while they are at it, by buying more ads on Google of course…

    It’s also interesting TA is calling Google Places “an inferior product”. There’s some that might feel that being able to read the very same reviews (+ a bunch of trusted ones from OTAs) on a clean page virtually free of ads and pop ups is actually quite nice.


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