A recent report from the Wall Street Journal outlines how travel sites that previously benefited from Google’s search engine rankings are now finding themselves being limited by the company’s algorithms as Google creates its own products in direct competition with them. Travel is yet another web niche that is feeling the might of Google’s monopoly power.
In a recent article titled ‘”Google Was a Godsend for These Companies. Now It’s a Rival,” travel websites such as the Berlin-based HomeToGo GmbH claim that while Google used to drive traffic towards their site, now they find themselves buried amidst thousands of search results.
The vacation-rental website largely depends on Google to direct new customers to its services, but it claims that the business has been affected by Google placing a box of listings from third-party travel sites atop many pages of search results for vacation rentals.
The Wall Street Journal writes:
In Google searches conducted this past summer, the rate at which people clicked when HomeToGo was the top regular result fell as much as three-quarters when Google’s vacation-rental listings box was present above, compared with when it wasn’t, according to calculations HomeToGo provided to The Wall Street Journal.
“Suddenly Google puts a less-good product more prominently above everything, and you’re thinking, ‘Is this fair competition?’” said Patrick Andrae, HomeToGo’s co-founder and chief executive.
Critics like HomeToGo say that Google’s travel boxes and other kinds of specialized search products increasingly keep users within the Google ecosystem, encouraging them to use Google products rather than clicking to other sites to transact business.
Google says it sends a growing volume of traffic to other websites and that, when it comes to travel information, its search engine faces tough competition from travel sites. A spokeswoman says Google developed new ways to display search results to satisfy users’ desire for quick access to helpful information. “Removing these results would create a worse experience for consumers and send less traffic to travel companies,” she said.
Breitbart News reported last month that the Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google within the next few weeks after Attorney General William P. Barr reportedly overruled lawyers who said they needed more time to build a case against the tech giant.
Google has control over approximately 90 percent of web searches worldwide, many rivals have complained that Google extends its dominance by making its search and browsing tools defaults on phones running its Android mobile operating system.