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What Google’s antitrust decision means

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Google is one of those tech companies that always seems to be in the news. For the last quarter of 2012 the news was almost all about the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigating Google for suspected antitrust activities. The case looked at many issues, the largest being whether Google tampered with search results so that their services featured higher than competitors.

In early January, the FTC came back with their verdict which has left numerous managers wondering if their company will be affected.

Much to the chagrin of Microsoft and Yahoo, the FTC voted to not take action against Google when it came to the issue of search result manipulation. This doesn’t mean Google is off the hook though, as FTC Chairman, Jon Leibowitz, noted that there was some evidence that suggested that Google did in fact use its search engine to push competitors out of the game. Action wasn’t taken on this evidence because the primary purpose of the search algorithms Google uses to rank search results were written to make the user experience better, not to snuff out competition.

With the FTC’s ruling came news that Google had reached a settlement. The search engine giant agreed to eliminate restrictions to the AdWords platform – their online advertising feature – and to stop using competitor content in specialized searches without approval.

What does this mean for my business? Before the settlement, Google didn’t exactly make it easy for online marketers to manage multiple online advertising campaigns from one central program. Essentially, if you wanted to get the most out of AdWords, you had to use the platform’s tools. This is an extra step many would rather do without. These restrictions will now be removed, meaning you now have the ability to run advertising on multiple channels through one central program. You should see software begin to emerge in the next quarter to half year that makes it easier to manage these efforts.

The use of competitor content in specialized searches comes from Google pulling information, such as review scores, to improve Google Local and Shopping. What this will do is make similar platforms like Yelp more viable places to market your business. For example, if you own a restaurant your customers will be using various websites to review your business. Before the settlement, these showed up on your Google Local page (you and your customers could view them all from one platform). Now, they will have to go to other platforms to find the same content.

These two changes are, for the most part, low impact, and you shouldn’t see much of a change to your overall online presence, or business for that matter. Bigger businesses may see a slight drop or increase in their pagerank, but not enough to register as a massive problem/gain. This means you can continue using Google’s excellent services and not have to worry for the time being. If you would like to learn more about using Google for your business, give us a call.