Microsoft is making the claim that you can’t trust Google anymore because they only show search results for those that are willing to pay. Is this true?
Microsoft recently launched their ‘Don’t get Scroogled’ campaign to point out the differences between their search engine (Bing) and Google when it comes to shopping online.
Google recently changed its policy on who would be shown when you click on the ‘Shopping’ option to only those companies that were willing to pay.
This switch to the ‘pay-to-play’ model is a departure from Google’s long-standing stance that seemed to say that search results should be determined by relevance, not by who was willing to pay the most.
It’s important to understand that this change applies only to items listed when you click on the Shopping section of Google and not anything else.
Microsoft is trying to take advantage of this reversal in philosophy with a major marketing campaign that claims that Google no longer provides shopping results that you can count on.
An example of how this change in philosophy might impact the average user is when it comes to items being sold by Amazon that in the past would have appeared in the Shopping results, but no longer do.
Amazon (as of this writing) is not willing to pay Google to be included in its Shopping results so they are relying on their relatively high ranking in most natural search results when you are searching for specific products they sell.
Google’s position on this change was so that it could provide more accurate (and therefore more relevant) results for shoppers since a paying merchant will make sure that what they are selling is accurate and kept updated.
Microsoft does allow online resellers to submit their information to the Bing search engine for free, but it closed off the submission process before the holiday season to ‘fight off fraudulent submissions’ during the high season.
Technically, this means that online retailers must be willing to pay one of Microsoft’s partners such as Shopping.com in order to be included in shopping results for the time being.
On its face, it seems to be a different way of forcing online retailers into a ‘pay-to-play model’ which is why many critics are accusing Microsoft of being hypocritical.
It’s important to understand as the consumer in all of this is that Microsoft and Google are fierce competitors in many areas, while Google and Amazon are in a battle to be THE world’s online mall.
What this really means to you is that you should no longer rely on any single source when it comes to finding the best prices on anything that you are searching for online.
There are a number of shopping comparison sites that for the most part are also ‘pay-to-play’ but they give a you much wider scope for making your comparisons.
If you are searching for a specific item with a model number, you can try using an aggregation site such as discountmore.com which will search 26 shopping sites at once.
Another interesting site is TheFind.com which does not charge it’s merchants but has them submit their product pages for inclusion in the results. It’s also a great way to compare local stores with online stores for the best price/availability when you don’t necessarily have the time to get something shipped.
The times, they are a changin’ and so should your online shopping techniques.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.