Searchmetrics Study: Did Google Shopping Really Gain an Unfair Advantage over its Competitors in the EU?


Analysis Of Search Data Shows Google Shopping Gained 300% Visibility In Recent Years Even As Competitor Visibility Declined. EU’s Case May Not Be Clear-Cut

With Google now agreeing to concede to the EU’s antitrust action by creating a standalone unit for its shopping services and allowing rivals to bid for ads shown there, a new study examines whether Google Shopping did infact gain an illegal advantage over other price comparison sites. And does the search company have a legitimate case in appealing the EU decision?

The research by Searchmetrics reveals that the appearance of Google Shopping ad units in the search results increased by over 300% on desktop and mobile in the UK, Germany and France in recent years. At the same time, the average search visibility* of other large online comparison sites** dropped by over 50% on desktop and nearly 30% on mobile.

Marcus Tober
Marcus Tober

While the data lends support to the European Commission’s claim that Google did unfairly favour its own search results over competitors’, it’s not enough of a smoking gun to back up all the EU’s charges and the proposed fine, said Marcus Tober, Searchmetrics founder and CTO.

“Whilst the European Commission’s statements are quite clear-cut and one-sided, our data indicates that the true picture is probably much more diverse,” Tober said. “The search performance of both Google Shopping and its competitors vary over time, from country to country and for individual comparison websites ‒ and that doesn’t quite fit with Google making a consistent, targeted effort to penalize comparison shopping services across the region.”

Within the hotly contested online comparison-shopping business, understanding why some companies are winning and others losing is not clear-cut, he said.

“There are many factors involved that could have been impacting the comparison sites’ search visibility. For example, we found some evidence to suggest, as Google has claimed in its defence, that some of the loss of search performance for the comparison sites could be connected to the growing popularity of Amazon and eBay. Though here again, we see different results in each country and it’s probably not as straightforward as Google wants us to believe either,” Tober said.

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