"Google it." The simple phrase is basically the default answer whenever someone you know is searching for information. But, can you really trust Google to deliver the best results? A new research paper argues that Google is manipulating its search results to prop up its own products at the expense of competitors like Yelp. If these claims are true, it could be grounds for legal action against the search giant.
The paper was written by former FTC advisor Tim Wu. It suggests that Google is delivering an inferior product to consumers because it doesn't deliver the best results available in local searches. The study was prompted by a browser plug-in called "Focus on the User" built by Yelp.
The local reviews company — and longstanding Google adversary — built a browser plugin meant to recreate Google’s organic search page stripped of its OneBox, the listings and map pairing Google began inserting in 2009 for searchers that triggers local results.
Using data from its plug-in, Yelp found that a test group of consumers was 45% more likely to click through on its "Focus on the User" map than on the standard Google search results map. Yelp and Wu both argue that this is evidence that Google isn't delivering the results most relevant to users.