PublishedSeptember 21, 2011

Search Engine Experts Tell Staffers If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Top experts on search engines told Capitol Hill staffers at an event organized by CCIA Tuesday that there is healthy competition among search engines.

Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of Search Engine Land, a website that reports on the online search market, said that it has never been unusual for businesses or advertisers to complain about where they come up in search results. What is new here he said is that businesses are arguing that their low rankings are an antitrust issue for the government to fix.

The panel discussion comes a day ahead of a senate antitrust hearing about whether Google is using its position as the leader in search to harm competitors.

Sullivan said if Google really wanted to harm competitors, users would not be able to easily find Google’s real competitors like Facebook, Bing and Yahoo during a Google search.

Google is sending more traffic out to other sites than the percentage of traffic it initially receives, Sullivan said.

George Michie, CEO of the Rimm-Kaufman Group, which helps businesses improve their search rankings, agreed. “The people screaming the loudest about Google’s unfairness are companies whose only reason for existence is gaming the system.”

The panelists explained how search used to be predominantly paid results, but Google gained customers by designing an algorithm that examined where customers actually clicked to find relevant information.

“We rely on search engines to make editorial judgments rather than deliver just a bunch of spam filled key words,” New York Law professor James Grimmelmann and author of “Search Engine Law” said.

While Google is a big company which arguably has influence in how it organizes search results, Grimmelmann said there is no correct way to organize the Internet.

Grimmelmann agreed there could be antitrust issues at some point down the road “if there was a real shakedown” of advertisers by Google. Michie agreed saying that advertisers and businesses bid in a real time auction and as long as that is the system, most companies see that as fair.

To view the webcast of this pane discussion, go to: http://bit.ly/nlaC4z

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