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Under the Microscope: What the EC's Investigation of Google Could Mean for US Websites

What: The European Commission has opened an antitrust probe of Google. It is alleging that Google restricts its advertisers from placing ads on their sites and doesn’t make it easy for them to move their data to competing ad services.

What Else: It also is looking at alleged unfavorable treatment in Google's unpaid and sponsored search results, compared to Google's own services. The Commission is also looking into allegations that Google lowers the "Quality Score" for sponsored links of competing vertical search services.

How It Began: At the beginning of 2010 three European websites complained to the European Commission that Google was keeping their rankings lower than they should be in search results.

What Google Says: No, no and no. The allegations are not true, Google spokesperson Adam Kovacevich told the E-Commerce Times. Websites with lower-quality content tend to rank lower, he said, and those are the sites that typically complain about their rankings. He pointed to Foundem - one of the original complaining sites - as an example. Some 79% of its content is duplicated from other sites.

What It Means for Google: If the EC investigations into Microsoft, Oracle and Intel are any guide, it will be a long and expensive haul for Google possibly culminating with a fine, sanctions and changes to its algorithms.

What It Means for US Sites: This is going to take a while to play out but conceivable a weak front has been opened in Google’s tightly guarded algorithms, Keith Hylton, a law professor at the Boston University School of Law, tells MarketingVOX. He believes Google will negotiate some kind of compromise.

"These complaints stem from European search firms that want to be treated better by Google’s algorithms. So, if it compromises with the Commission Google will have to modify its algorithms somewhat.” That will give US sites with similar complaints leverage to make the same complaints, he says.

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