Google Bows to Pressure, Adjusts Search Practices

Dennis Faas's picture

Google has agreed to make significant changes to the way it displays search results. The move is designed to ward off sanctions from European officials.

For some time the European Commission has been carrying out an investigation of Google's operations. The goal of that investigation has been to determine whether or not Google's dominance of the search market harms competition.

The commission says it identified four main ways in which Google's behavior might breach regulations. The most important involves claims that Google intentionally lists sites and services that it owns higher up in the results list than those of rivals. (Source:

It's also alleged that Google used content from other sites on its own pages without permission. For example, it's been reported that the firm lifted extracts from reviews of products and services.

It's also been claimed that Google used deals that unfairly restricted websites to only carry advertising provided by Google, and that it made it too difficult to carry out a single ad campaign across Google's advertising network and those of rivals.

Google Promises To Change Ways For Five Years

Although it hasn't formally admitted to breaking any rules, Google has offered to introduce new policies. Specifically, it has agreed to relax restrictions on advertisers. (Source:

It's also said it will give site owners the ability to block Google from using its content without permission. This can work on a page-by-page basis and Google has promised it won't penalize these sites in its search rankings.

The biggest change, however, involves how Google displays search results. It's agreed to use labels and graphical features, such as a box, to make it totally clear which results are links to a Google-owned site.

The settlement covers any site that offers a specialist search service; for example, price comparison or flight-checker services.

Search Results Will Highlight Rival Services

Google has also promised that whenever it lists its own sites in its search results it will make sure that listings for at least three rival sites appear nearby.

This is the first time that Google has ever bowed to regulatory pressure to change the order in which search results appear.

The European Commission is now accepting public comments on the proposed deal. In a month it will decide if Google's offer adequately deals with the issue.

If that's the case, Google will be legally bound by the agreement and could face huge financial penalties for going back on its word.

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