Questions and Answers
- What is the Federal Trade Commission looking at?
- Does this mean that the FTC will bring an antitrust case against Google?
- Is this the first federal antitrust investigation of the company?
- Does Google have a monopoly in search?
- Does Google have a monopoly in search advertising?
- Search results are incredibly important. Shouldn’t Google be regulated as a utility?
- What do you think about the possibility of Government regulation? Do you think that’s possible?
- Do you believe there is a legal basis for treating Google as a utility?
- Are Google’s results objective?
- Does Google favor its own content in its search results?
- How do you respond to complaints from websites that you are taking an unfair approach to ranking?
- Does Google ever penalize its competitors in its search results?
- Do quality scores allow Google to manipulate its ad auction?
- Can Google’s advertisers export their ad campaign data to other services?
- Are Google’s natural search results ever affected by payment?
- People call Google a ‘black box’. How do you respond?
What is the Federal Trade Commission looking at?
The FTC has begun a review of our business practices, including sending civil investigative demands (CIDs), to ensure that Google is operating in a way that serves consumers and preserves competition.
Does this mean that the FTC will bring an antitrust case against Google?
No. This is just the beginning of a process where the FTC will take a closer look at our business practices.
Is this the first federal antitrust investigation of the company?
This review is similar to reviews currently being conducted by the European Commission and the Texas Attorney General. We are continuing to cooperate with those reviews as they progress. The U.S. federal government has previous conducted antitrust reviews of our acquisitions of DoubleClick, AdMob and ITA Software, as well as our proposed search partnership with Yahoo!
Does Google have a monopoly in search?
No. On the Internet, competition is one click away. Users aren’t locked in to using Google search, and the cost of switching to a different search engine is zero. Traditional search engines also compete against many ways of accessing information, including specialized search sites (Amazon or eBay for products; WebMD for health; Zillow for real estate, etc.); social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are an important way of learning about information or receiving recommendations); mobile applications (which allow you to bypass search engines completely); and, of course, direct navigation to websites.
Does Google have a monopoly in search advertising?
No. There’s no doubt that we’ve been very successful in search advertising, but we know that most large advertisers tend to advertise in lots of different places. Furthermore, advertisers are constantly shifting their ad dollars among different types of media – print, TV, radio, and online – and Google is only responsible for about 3% of all ad revenue. In fact, the shift of ad spending from newspapers to the Internet is evidence that advertisers see different forms of advertising as competing with one another.
Search results are incredibly important. Shouldn’t Google be regulated as a utility?
Search is much different than a utility. With you electricity provider, your telephone provider and your cable provider, there’s generally one cable coming into your home, and you have only one or two choices about which provider to pay for services. With the Internet, web services are only a click away. Google is like a GPS to the Internet – a helpful guide, but not necessary if you know where you’re going.
What do you think about the possibility of Government regulation? Do you think that’s possible?
Our users tell us that Google makes their lives easier, saves them time, and gives them the answers they need. So naturally we worry that governments dictating search results could make it harder for us to give people the answers they’re looking for.
Do you believe there is a legal basis for treating Google as a utility?
There is no legal basis for a website like Google to be treated as a utility, and several federal court cases have ruled that our search results are a type of “scientific opinion.” We and our competitors are continuing to innovate and invest in search quality, showing that search remains an unsettled, highly competitive space.
Are Google’s results objective?
Our search results are designed to answer people’s questions, and that’s the only consideration – not political viewpoints, not advertising dollars. Before we launched Google, many search engines took money for inclusion in their results without making that clear to users. We’ve never done that, which is why Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote in their 2004 Founders Letter that Google’s results “are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating.” Of course, the goal of search results is to rank the most relevant results above the less relevant results, and since our results are driven by user feedback, they are a type of mathematically-derived opinion.
Does Google favor its own content in its search results?
We rank search results to deliver the best answers to users, and that is the only consideration – not political viewpoints, and not advertising dollars. Sometimes the best, most relevant answer to a query is our traditional “ten blue links”, and sometimes it is a news article, sports score, stock quote, video, or a map, which we may place above or among the other results from across the web. Today, when you type in “weather in” or “15 grams in ounces” you get the answers directly (often before you even hit Enter). Every search engine has shifted away from “ten blue links” to embedding answers and different types of information directly in the search results, which helps give consumers the answers they’re looking for.
How do you respond to complaints from websites that you are taking an unfair approach to ranking?
We rank search results to deliver the best answers to users, and that is the only consideration. We built Google for consumers, not websites. Not every website can come out on top, or even appear on the first page of our results, so there will almost always be website owners who are unhappy about their rankings. The most important thing is that we satisfy our users.
Does Google ever penalize its competitors in its search results?
We never take actions to hurt specific websites for competitive reasons. Our search quality and ad quality systems assess the quality of web pages and ads without regard to whether a site competes with Google, only on the basis of what is useful for consumers.
Do quality scores allow Google to manipulate its ad auction?
Quality scores benefit consumers, by highlighting the ads most likely to be relevant to them and minimizing misleading ads. Like Yahoo and Microsoft, Google assigns an algorithmic quality score to each ad as a way to predict its click-through rate. Over the past few years, we have built more transparency into our ad system, and we now show advertisers a quality score for each of their ads, on a scale of 1-10, and offer tips for how they can improve their quality scores. Quality scores are based on a number of factors including historical click-through rates, relevance and landing page quality.
Can Google’s advertisers export their ad campaign data to other services?
Yes. We make it easy for advertisers to move their ad campaign data out of Google’s services. Our Data Liberation Front provides step by step instructions for how advertisers can export their ad campaigns via CSV file. Advertisers also have the ability to export their ad data through our AdWords Application Programming Interface (API). In fact, Microsoft provides instructions for advertisers on how to import their Google ad data into its platform.
Are Google’s natural search results ever affected by payment?
No. Payment never affects where a site appears in our natural, or “organic” search results. We always distinguish advertising content from our organic search results. As we experiment with new ad formats and types of content, we will continue to be transparent about payments.
People call Google a ‘black box’. How do you respond?
We do provide transparency, through our webmaster central site, blog, diagnostic tools, support forum and YouTube channel, and we’re always trying to strike the right balance between giving websites tools and blocking spam and other bad actors. Google grew very quickly, and some of what we have learned in our rapid expansion is that you can’t neglect customer service. We’ve made a lot of strides in this area and we know there’s always room for improvement.