Yelp-Sponsored Study Puts Google’s Feet To Fire For Willfully Manipulating Search Results

Back in April, the EU hit Google with antitrust charges for alleged favoritism it gives its own services in search results. Being that Google is so dominant in the search game, this is a big deal to companies that feel that it's placing its inferior services above their own.

Yelp is one of those companies, and one that's a complainant in this antitrust charge. It decided to go a bit further than the others though, and commission well-respected Professor of Law Tim Wu to investigate things further.

With the help of a Yelp-produced browser plugin, Wu discovered that if search results were skewed to favor Yelp rather than Google+, users would be more apt to click on the map results -- 45% more likely, to be precise. With this knowledge in hand, Wu and Yelp both believe this is the fuel this antitrust case needs, as it could prove that Google is actually harming the consumer experience by favoring its own services over another.

Google HQ
Flickr: Robert Scoble

According to the paper, which was released to the EU last week, Google's doing the opposite of what it claims to do. "The easy and widely disseminated argument that Google’s universal search always serves users and merchants is demonstrably false." It continues, "Instead, in the largest category of search (local intent-­based), Google appears to be strategically deploying universal search in a way that degrades the product so as to slow and exclude challengers to its dominant search paradigm."

Being that Wu and his team were paid for this research, it might be unwise to jump on the anti-Google bandwagon right now. With this information in the EU's hands, and Google still yet to comment, we'll have to wait and see how things proceed from here-on-out. It does seem certain that even if Google is in the right, it's facing an uphill battle. The EU hasn't been kind to massive US businesses, so this process will undoubtedly prove pretty interesting.