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Yelp-Backed Study Tries to Prove Google Manipulates Search Results

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The feud between Yelp and Google continues.


Review site Yelp has long accused Google of manipulating search results, and now academics are backing the company's claims. According to Re/Code, legal scholar and former FTC adviser Tim Wu authored a paper that "presents evidence that the search giant sets out to hamper competitors and limit consumers' options." It should be noted that the study was conducted in conjunction with the Yelp's Data Science Team.

Last year, Yelp conducted an internal user-behavior study, which revealed that in some cases when a person searched for "a restaurant's name and the word 'yelp,'" Google content such as a link to the restaurant's Google+ page showed up first. The Yelp link that the person was searching for would show up second, even though "yelp" was part of the search terms. The recent paper authored by Wu alleges the same thing, says Engadget: "Google is ‘knowingly degrading' search results by peppering the findings with hits from its own services."

The battle between Yelp and Google started in 2009 when the search engine failed to acquire the review site for $500 million. Google then started scraping Yelp reviews — without attribution — to populate its site Google Places. Google even went so far as to run deceptive ads for restaurant review site Zagat — which Google purchased in 2011 — on searches for "yelp." The top advertisement on the results page would link to Zagat even the search included "yelp."