Back in 2017, when the EU fined Google for what it saw as ‘antitrust abuses’, there was a great deal of speculation about what this would mean in terms of real changes.
Initially, Google was firm in its response, saying that they didn’t consider the ruling as accurate and may appeal. Over time, however, the search engine’s tone and approach has softened.
Now, we’re at a point where we can see some real, quantifiable changes to how Google displays its ads, how much competitors can compete for ad space and more.
When the EU made its ruling, it didn’t give Google a list or mandate of remedies it wanted to see introduced. Instead, the EU regulators required the search engine giant to propose and implement its own solutions. Some considered this as too much of a free hand for Google, while others pointed out that any EU recommendations forced onto the platform may not be fit for purpose as no-one outside of Google truly understands the intricacies of its paid search system.
Whatever your view, Google has indeed taken steps to remedy the issues raised by EU regulators. One of the more significant changes Google made was overhauling its system for injecting Shopping ads into the top tier of Google search results in European countries. Now, anyone can bid on the ads displayed at the head of product-related Search results. Essentially, this means that Comparison Shopping Services can now bid for top billing on fair and equal terms with Google.
As far as the impact on search results goes, this change (in theory) means that Google’s Comparison Shopping Service competitors have an equal chance of high visibility ads, with the associated traffic and sales boosts you’d expect.
What About Other Services?
The ruling doesn’t have specific implications for Google’s other primary services like Google Flights, Hotels and Maps. The rub could be in the manner that Google similarly dominates these areas and how competitors in these fields respond. TripAdvisor, for example, has a major issue with what it sees as Google stealing market share. Similarly, other organisations like Groupon, Yelp and GrubHub face an uphill battle as Google folds more functionalities like reservations, online transaction services and more into Maps.
Because Google sits upstream of all of these businesses, they are fundamentally reliant on its largesse to enable them to function and grow. It could be that we see more cases in the future where competitors raise issues with regulators to help curb Google’s dominance.