Is ‘find results on’ other sites still an ongoing experiment for the European Google local SERPs?
Author: Mariana Martin See Bio
🕐 3 minutes read
Last year we noticed another attempt from Google to find a solution to prevent a formal local search antitrust complaint. January 2020 and this ‘experiment’ is still on the go.
New SERPs which include some of our sites appear in Germany, Spain, and France. They prompt users to try alternative directories or search engines for the same local query.
Check out these screenshots, on both desktop and mobile.
While we appreciate their intention to improve the search, we can’t help but feel this is just a part of Google’s ongoing effort to comply with the European Commission’s (EC’s) antitrust decision in shopping search.
This ‘new link placement’ is very similar to their approach back in 2013 and 2014 and it’s still not the most user-friendly placement. These kinds of changes to the SERP are cosmetic and have an insignificant impact on traffic. We would really like to see much more notable changes to the SERP.
It seems this is not just my impression, Yelp also considers this a resuscitation of an earlier approach that was rejected.
At the top of the page appears to be a button with the logos and brands of alternative content providers. In the above screenshot, the bulk of attention appears to be on the map pack. There’s some attention to traditional organic results (below the fold) and some to the rival links.
Yelp argues, “the latest rival links proposal … receives a slightly improved but ultimately marginal percentage of clicks (around 5%), while Google’s capture of web traffic has increased by approximately 20% since the original proposal over five years ago. Seven in ten clicks go to Google (compared to about five in ten clicks from the ‘13-’14 proposals).”
Since Google’s antitrust backstory from 2017 when the European Commission (EC) fined Google roughly $2.7 billion for “abusing its dominant position” in shopping search, Google has implemented a number of changes to provide theoretically equal treatment for rival Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) in Europe. Those changes have met with qualified support from the EC but been criticized by the CSEs themselves.
Their most controverted proposal was the European “Antitrust” Search Results, which basically never saw the light of day, except for some mocks- up. The approach, informally called “rival links,” was heavily criticized in 2013 and 2014 while it was being tested in shopping and local search as insufficient to generate meaningful traffic for competitors.
Anti-Google lobbying group FairSearch.org sponsored a consumer study that argued Google’s presentation of three “rival links” to competitors in search results did little to drive traffic to competitors’ websites.
The Google proposals approved by Commissioner Almunia were eventually rejected because the solution of the rival link offered by Google in 2013-2014 did not do enough to halt the diversion of traffic to Google’s own search services.
It seems that Google is still eating more and more of the web in order to steer traffic to itself.
According to Rand Fishkin and research made by Jumpshot, Google properties combine for 93.4% of all US searches, and 96.1% of all search in the EU+UK. Numbers like this suggest it will be nearly impossible to compete with Google in the near term, because search quality is so dependent on analyzing user behavior and improving results based on the searches (and clicks, non-clicks, or query refinements you’ve seen).
What do you think? Is Google still refusing to create an interoperable, non-discriminatory Local Universal box which answers users’ queries while sending traffic to the web?
About the author
Mariana Martin manages Cylex’s data and content management team, producing insightful articles, research studies and all kinds of data resources that enable local businesses and SEO’s getting the best results in local search.