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Scroogled: Microsoft Accuses Google of Manipulating Shopping Results in its SERPS

Sites include , , . Published on November 29th, 2012. Written by Anthony West.

Google controls around 65% of the online search market and Microsoft with its Bing search engine controls around 30%. By that measuring standard Google has clout and does pretty much what it wants, right?

Not so according to Microsoft and the company has taken a rather confrontational approach in accusing Google of “fooling” its users into thinking that all the shopping results they find in Google are arranged organically, when in fact they all are now “paid” listings. Anchoring this accusation is a brand new campaign called “Scroogled.”

Scroogled Alert

The Scroogle campaign comes compete with its own branded domain filled with content outlining the ‘evil’ of Google’s ways. “In the beginning, Google preached, “Don’t be evil“—but that changed on May 31, 2012. That’s when Google Shopping announced a new initiative. Simply put, all of their shopping results are now paid ads,” reads the opening salvo on the branded website.

Scroogled is of course a play on the word screwed and the tongue in cheek approach seems to be resonating with people. According to some reports, the Scroogled.com website is being featured and talked about quite a lot across the blogosphere.  Microsoft is not abashed about asking for the sale as it were and right there on the home page the company implores users in this regard. “We say that when you limit choices and rank them by payment, consumers get Scroogled. For an honest search result, try Bing,” implores the company.

Is it a case of pot calling the kettle?

Microsoft’s campaign against Google has garnered the attention of search engine users, but it has also captured the attention of analysts who feel Microsoft is taking things too far. These Scroogled detractors have pointed out that Bing’s own results may not be free of manipulation either. Bing recently stopped accepting free feeds from merchants for inclusion into its shopping results.

Merchants instead have been advised to work with Shopping.com, the eBay owned network which Bing recently forged a deal with. The shopping.com partnership will see Bing displaying paid results in its shopping results via Shopping’s army of merchants. This, say detractors, is ample reason Microsoft should stop the Scroogled campaign and let users go about their business.

The war of words and launching of campaigns will perhaps not end anytime soon. Google is known for returning fire in these instances and it’s unlikely that the company will let such a brazen attack go unanswered. Microsoft on the other hand responded to detractors regarding their perceived slight against users for including paid shopping results, just like Google. “We do not rank merchants higher based on who pays us, nor do we let merchants pay to have their product offers placed higher in Bing Shopping’s search results,” said Microsoft in a rebuttal to the accusation.

The whole affair makes you wonder if Microsoft might have just opened a can of worms for both parties. Do users really care after all if the shopping results are paid? When Jim searches for a Nintendo Wii and finds paid results it surely doesn’t matter in his mind; as long as Jim gets to buy his toy safely and securely, he’s happy. The sad truth is that search results are now largely a commercial play field and users for the most part have accepted that.

We say, Google 1 Microsoft 1.

Does it matter much to you if shopping results are dominated by paid listings? Share your thoughts below.

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