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Search Notes: More scrutiny for Google, more share for Bing

This week, worldwide courts continue their interest in Google while Bing is edging up in market share. That may actually be good news for Google as they fight antitrust allegations.

Google and privacy and governments

GoogleI've written in this column before about both U.S. and international courts looking at all aspects of Google, including antitrust and citizen privacy. That scrutiny continues. The Justice Department has given the go-ahead to Google's acquisition of travel technology company ITA, but the FTC has also instituted conditions to prevent the acquisition from substantially lessening competition. Google agreed to the terms and closed the deal on April 12.

This could pave the way for a FTC antitrust investigation, however. It remains to be seen if the FTC will see the concessions stipulated by the Justice Department to be enough to forgo the investigation. As the result of another FTC investigation, Google hasagreed to 20 years of privacy audits.

The U.S. isn't the only country keeping an eye over Google. Courts in Italy have ruled that for search results in Italy, Google has to filter out negative suggested queries in its autocomplete product.

Swiss courts have ruled that Google has to ensure all faces and license plates are blurred out in its Street View product. Google's technology currently catches and blurs out 98%-99% of both already, but the Swiss ruling mandates that Google blur out the remaining by hand if necessary.

In Germany, Google has stopped Street View photography, possibly to avoid burdensome requirements from German courts. Bing is already facing objections from the German government for its plans to operate a similar service.

Bing's growing market share

BingBoth Hitwise and comScore search engine market share numbers are out, and both show Bing gaining.

Hitwise shows that Bing gained 6% in March, for a current share of 14.32%. Bing-powered search (which includes Yahoo) now stands at 30.1%. (Google lost 3% for a share of 64.42%.)

comScore March data shows that Bing's gain from the previous month is much smaller at .3%, for a current share of 13.9% (and a total Bing-powered search share of 29.6%). ComScore's data shows Google with a .3% increase as well for a current share of 65.7%.

Bing's increase may be due, in part, to increased usage of Internet Explorer 9.

Yahoo BOSS relaunches

The original version of Yahoo BOSS was intended to spark innovation in the startup industry and provide a free, white labeled search index that developers could build from. The newest version, however is a fairly substantial change from the original mission, as it includes branding and pricing requirements.

Of course, Yahoo search itself has changed since the original launch. When BOSS was first envisioned, Yahoo had its own search engine and was looking to disrupt the search engine landscape and compete with both Bing and Google. Now, Yahoo uses Bing's search engine, and in fact, this new version of BOSS uses Bing's index as well.

Will applications built on Yahoo BOSS continue to use the platform with these new requirements? I'd be interested in talking to developers who are facing this decision.

Google rolls out its "content farm" algorithm internationally

In late February, Google launched a substantial change to its ranking algorithms that impacted nearly 12% of queries. This change was intended to identify low quality sites, such as those known as content farms and reduce their ranking.

Google has now made some tweaks and has rolled out the change worldwide for all English queries. Sites around the world are already beginning to see the impact.

One tweak is that Google is now taking into account data about which sites searchers block. Google uses hundreds of signals to determine what web pages are the most useful to searchers and this is one example of how user behavior can play into that.

Online reputation management

Nick Bilton recently wrote a piece in the New York Times about the rise of online reputation management. In today's online world, a quick search for a person's name or a company can surface old past discretions, mistakes, or the crazy rantings of someone with a grudge and passable HTML skills.

Mike Loukides followed this up with a Radar post about how he was disturbed by the idea of manipulating search results and using black hat SEO techniques to make negative information disappear.

This topic becomes more important as our lives and culture move online. Justask Rick Santorum.

So what can you do that's not "black hat" if negative information starts appearing about you or your organization? Google recommends that you "proactively publish [positive] information." For example, make sure your business website is optimized well for search and claim ownership of your business listings on the major search engine maps.

Make sure that you've filled out profiles on social media sites, use traditional public relations to raise visibility, and get involved in the conversation. For instance, if negative forum posts appear about your company in search results, reply in those forums with additional information.

[Note: If the "traditional public relations" that you use is to raise visibility of the negative issue a la Rick Santorum, you'll likely only increase the number of search results that appear about the negative issue, as he's perhaps learned.]

If you're able to get a site owner to take down negative information about you, you can request that Google remove that page from its index. And if you have gotten a court order related to unlawful content, you can request Google remove that content from its index as well.



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