Microsoft has warned consumers about risks in Google Shopping’s alleged ‘pay-to-rank’ practice and highlighted its commitment to deliver reliable search results on its Bing search engine.
The software giant claims that Google’s shopping search results are ranked according to the highest payer and thus are dishonest and unreliable.
“Instead of showing you the most relevant shopping search results for the latest coffee maker you’re looking to buy mom, Google’s new redesigned shopping vertical now decides what to show you — and how prominently to display what product offers they show — based partially on how much a merchant selling the product has paid Google,” said Microsoft in a statement.
“Merchants can literally pay to improve their chances to display their product offers higher than others inside of Google’s shopping ‘search,’ even if it’s not necessarily better or cheaper. That’s not right, it’s not transparent, it’s not what you expect from search, and it’s not how we at Bing think search engines should help consumers get the best prices and selection when shopping.”
Microsoft is urging consumers to visit Scroogled – a term coined by the firm to describe Google’s alleged new practice to prioritize clients over consumers – to avoid Google’s supposed swindling of search results.
The Redmond-based software giant told the press how its Bing search engine will remain committed to more targeted search results.
“We won’t let who pays us for ads or other services affect what you see in your shopping search results. Search results are one thing; ads are another,” said the firm.
“We won’t switch to pay-to-rank to allow fees to influence the ranking of shopping search results. In short, we think that too many shoppers who use Google for their shopping are getting ‘Scroogled’ when they should be getting fair, honest, open search results.”
Microsoft pointed out how Google allegedly changed shopping results from Google Product Search to Product Listing Advertising in the weeks leading to the Thanksgiving weekend, specifically Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Product Listing Advertising is a pay-to-rank model that downplays the comprehensive results for products and merchants in Google Product Search, at least according to Microsoft.
With the alleged changes, retailers have to pay higher to rank higher on Google Shopping results.
Microsoft said, “Merchants must now pay Google to be listed in the shopping results, and how much they pay helps determine how they appear in the rankings, so now every “result” is really just an ad. This new policy means consumers are getting Scroogled.”
“And that’s an issue for shoppers who visit the site they have used for years, conduct what they think is a ‘search,’ and get a set of rankings that look like the objective results Google delivers everywhere else. Meanwhile, the lawyers at Google Shopping are now calling results ‘listings.’ They even call out, nontransparently hidden behind a disclaimer or buried in a footer, ‘Payment is one of several factors used to rank these results.’ Consumers are potentially getting a raw deal because ‘relevance’ is now determined partially by how much Google is getting paid, not by things that matter to shoppers.”
“We don’t let who pays us for ads or other services affect how your search results are ranked,” said Mike Nichols, chief marketing officer, Bing, Microsoft.
“Search, as a business, depends on consumer trust, and that requires keeping search results and ads separate. With Google Shopping the wall between search results and ads is gone — and so are several popular shopping sites. At Bing, we’re committed to keeping ads where they belong and will continue to deliver the most relevant search results possible.”
Microsoft’s Bing arm has announced a Don’t Get Scroogled campaign that it says will warn shoppers during the holidays about acquiring unbiased, comprehensive search results when shopping online. It also informs consumers about how changes at Google Shopping will leave fewer choices and higher prices this season.
“Beginning today and continuing throughout the holiday shopping season, the Bing-sponsored Don’t Get Scroogled activities will appear online and offline, demonstrating why consumers should be concerned and helping them take action. We’re also calling on Google to stop this ‘pay-to-rank’ system for their shopping results and give shoppers what they expect — an honest search. Consumers can also visit http://www.scroogled.com to get information about Google’s practices and updates on the situation,” said Microsoft in its press release.
The comScore U.S. search engine rankings in October saw Google with 66.9 percent of search queries, whereas Microsoft had 16.0 percent share for second place.
We’re waiting for Google to comment on the allegations.
In response to comments about Bing’s partnership with Shopping.com, Bing senior director Stefan Weitz told Search Engine Watch, “Bing includes millions of free listings from merchants and rankings are determined entirely by which products are most relevant to your query. While merchants can pay fees for inclusion on our third party shopping sites, and subsequently may appear in Bing Shopping through partnerships we have, we do not rank merchants higher based on who pays us, nor do we let merchants pay to have their product offers placed higher in Bing Shopping’s search results.”
Google has responded on the Microsoft’s Scroogled accusations to The Inquirer.
“We made the transition to Google Shopping to improve the shopping experience for our users. We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and up to date. Higher quality data – whether it’s accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability – should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants.”