What A Possible Google Antitrust Case Could Mean For Sourcers

Article main image
Nov 6, 2012
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Google has been famed for their unofficial motto “Don’t be evil.” But there is a case of alleged evil that is lurking on the horizon for Google that might have some concern for sourcers who depend on the service to find employees.

The US Federal Trade Commission is reportedly moving closer to a pursuing a case against Google and the way they steer traffic to their own services rather than their competitors. And it could have an impact on the way you search for candidates.

Of course, that’s not all bad.

The search giant is facing the possibility of having antitrust charges filed against them for the way they rank websites, specifically their own. Reuters explains:

Google rivals specializing in travel, shopping and entertainment have accused Google, the world’s No. 1 search engine, of unfairly giving their web sites low quality rankings in search results to steer Internet users away from their websites and toward Google products that provide similar services.

Computer users are overwhelmingly more likely to click on the top results in any search. The low ranking often forces companies to buy more ads on Google to improve their visibility, one source said.

That’s not good. And according to the article by Reuters, four of the five FTC commissioners are leaning towards bringing charges against Google.

So what’s the big deal, you say? Well there are a couple of possibilities at stake.

Nothing could happen to Google

Either they never bring charges, or they settle without a change to their search algorithm, or they are found innocent of antitrust charges. This is business as usual for sourcers who use the search engine if this is the case. Bringing charges isn’t the end of the world for Google and there’s a real possibility that they still get to exercise control (unfair or otherwise) over the way they rank search results.

The algorithm changes slightly

Remember that Google is in constant flux with their search algorithm. They make changes nearly daily in small ways. Bigger releases might change a couple of percent of searches with any significance. A court or a settlement could require Google to tweak their algorithm only when it impacts these targeted areas that Google has an interest in. Another big possibility that won’t necessarily impact sourcers in any meaningful way.

The algorithm changes could be further reaching

There’s a slight chance that courts could demand Google change up the way they rank sites entirely. While it may not change the way boolean operators work, it could significantly change the results of those searches. Maybe a Google profile gets further buried because of the ruling or that a court-ordered parity in the algorithm could actually make search results less valuable. Far be it for me to suggest that this is a huge possibility for an antitrust case but it is still a possibility.

An opportunity

The bigger deal for sourcers could be the continued emergence of alternative search engines. While Google is busy fighting a court battle and second guessing rankings, alternatives can position themselves aggressively. Bing could certainly be a big winner on this front but Blekko and DuckDuckGo could also benefit. While Bing might be a steady second banana to Google, smaller alternatives could use the mainstream support. Mainstream support brings more traffic and dollars to the site which would aid in their continued development.

I don’t necessarily like the government meddling in business but if it results in greater competition from other search engines, it could be very good for sourcers and their lot of research peers. If you should be looking for anything out of the Google antitrust case possibility, it is that.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
The original publication for Sourcers, delivered weekly.