According to Bloomberg, Expedia Group Inc., TripAdvisor Inc. and more than 30 vacation rental providers asked the European Union to investigate how Google shows vacation rentals, claiming it unfairly gets a prominent placing above other search results.
As Google continues to roll out its Google Vacation Rentals OneBox search, organic search results for consumers’ queries are being pushed further down search engine results pages (SERPs), and direct traffic to both OTAs and to vacation rental companies is dropping off significantly in affected markets, causing a notable decline in direct bookings.
In an open letter, these OTAs and vacation rental companies assert that Google is “favoring its own service in general search results pages” by displaying ads “in a visually-rich OneBox” showing pictures, a map preview, ratings and prices. The display “secures Google’s service more user attention and clicks than any competing service may acquire.”
Must Read for Vacation Rental Management Companies: Read the Entire Letter to the EU Commissioner
According to the letter, “The competition concerns arise from the fact that Google features its new product in a visually-rich OneBox at the top of its general search results pages – a ranking and display that Google reserves only for its own specialized search service. The prominent feature includes pictures, a map preview, ratings and prices – a user experience like any other vacation rentals search service. As the Commission established in its Google Search (Shopping) decision, such favourable ranking and display secures Google’s service more user attention and clicks than any competing service may acquire, even if these are more relevant for the user’s search query.
“Google Vacation Rentals is a direct competitor to our specialized services. There may be some form of cooperation but ultimately both Google Vacation Rentals and our platforms compete on all fronts for the intermediation between vacation homes and holiday seekers. We all compete for the attention of the same users. We also all compete – sometimes on different levels of this market – for either original content
providers such as property/channel managers or providers of vacation rentals such as home owners or real estate companies. But none of us Google rivals is capable of resorting to a favouring within the results pages of the standard Internet search engine to bundle these two user groups of consumers and properties. We see strong indications of a competitive strategy for Google to reduce us and our industry to mere content providers for the “one-stop-shop” of Google’s new product…”
The letter further outlines Google’s anti-competitive behavior in its Google Vacation Rentals platform, stating, “Google’s conduct will have a massive detrimental effect on the industry. Due to Google’s general search service being the first port of call for most Internet users, almost all specialized search service providers are dependent on being findable in Google Search. By pushing, at no costs, its own service above those of its rivals in general search results pages, Google can convey its service an economic advantage that none of us can compete with or outbalance through other investments or innovations. Google is increasingly providing the relevant vacation rental intermediation service directly within its results pages. This will ultimately render any click through to a competing intermediation service unnecessary. These services will be reduced to mere content providers for Google’s rival service. This disables them from gathering the data required to enhance their search and matching algorithms, to identify user needs and to improve the user experience.”
@Amy …. I continue to be impressed with your writing … particularly your commitment to highlighting a post’s issue in context! Nothing happens in a vacuum. And the VR industry has it’s share of forces applying pressure, evolving, and moving.
I think either google is a non-biased search engine or they are providing results that favor their direct cause – it cannot be both.
But being a monopoly isn’t against the law in the US. People scream “monopoly” and “break them up” every time a company is in a dominant market position. But the truth is, a monopoly can be perfectly legal as long as the company isn’t using their position or gaining/maintaining their position through anti competitive practices. Google may have a search position above all others but so what? There are other options and next year people could all use bing or duck duck go if they want. People have a choice, it’s not like Bell Telephone.
Now, if you compare this scenario to broadband providers like Comcast cable or Verizon wireless there are some similarities. When those companies offer “free data” for their own services or include their own services free (like a streaming service) whereas competitors have to use data or customers have to pay….I’d say yes that is absolutely anti competitive and should be addressed. But I don’t think that merely promoting your own services ahead of the competition is wrong or should be regulated.
Admittedly, I’m not the brightest mind in the room on this, as I just observe and report on our industry’s dynamics. But I’m a little confused — overall — about why people who assert to be pro-capitalism are turning their back on the threat of monopolistic practices. There is a difference in having a “dominant market position” and having a market-dictating monopoly. Google has a 92.7% market share for *search* among consumers, which is a very different scenario than Comcast or Verizon. I respect your view on this, but I’m trying to understand the pro-monopoly view that has become so prevalent in our country.
This is laughable. No ones forcing these VRMs to use Google… O Google is making a change to THEIR product in order to push rev gen? How terrible of them… what monsters.
The “it’s not fair” people will never survive in this industry.
I respectfully disagree. Others more knowledgeable on this can address this better, so I hesitate to write this . . . But Google has no competition at the top of the online funnel. Vacation rental providers do not have hotel-like brand recognition, so *search* is necessary for consumers to find vacation homes online — and Google has an undisputed monopoly on *search*. For Google to bait consumers with the promise of relevant search results and then switch them to a Google Vacation Rentals OneBox (and most consumers cannot discern the difference) that isn’t — at all — based on relevant options for the search query wipes out local providers. There was a time when the US cared about anti-competitive practices, but that time seems to have passed. I’m all for fair competition and capitalism, but Google’s “search” is a monopoly in the vacation rental industry. When Google picks, chooses and then monetizes these results based on whatever criteria du jour they are using (which right now is based their extremely limited ability to access calendars and rates through a few non-consumer friendly partnerships and costly channel managers), it is a detriment to local management companies and to fair online competition,. But again, others know much more about this than I.
Absolutely!!! It was perfectly fine when they changed THEIR PLATFORM from an advertising site to one where they pretended to be Our partner and steal money from Us and our Guests and try to CONTROL OUR BUSINESS!!