Microsoft Accuses Google Of Being Scrooge-Like, Says Customers Are Being Scroogled
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The holidays are supposed to be a magical time of families coming together, a winter wonderland and joy to the world where even a humbug could be charmed by the spirit of the year. Of course Charles Dickens never expected Black Friday mayhem, and he certainly couldn’t have imagined two Internet search engine rivals battling for holiday shoppers with one evoking his most infamous holiday-themed character!
In a new attack ad for its own Bing search engine Microsoft accuses rival Google as being somewhat of a “Scrooge” going so far as to suggest that customers using the Google Shopping tool of being “Scroogled!”
The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant noted: “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.”
Microsoft’s ad went on to suggest that for an honest search users should try Bing. Not exactly a “ho, ho, ho” sort of holiday greeting, but the accusations are in fact based on real changes made by Google earlier this year. To appear in the Google Shopping results merchants indeed must pay for Google’s Product Listing Ads. Google first announced the switch from free listings to paid-inclusion system in May with the transition completed on October 17 in the United States. Google will roll out this initiative to more countries in February.
Microsoft contends that the ads are simply meant to provide a service to holiday shoppers.
“The primary point is, we think they should stop the practice of pay to rank, or at least make it very clear what’s going on,” said Stefan Weitz, senior director at Bing to CNN.com on Thursday.
Google, however, sees it differently. The company released this statement, which was posted to Mashable: “Google Shopping makes it easier for shoppers to quickly find what they’re looking for, compare different products and connect with merchants to make a purchase. With new 360-degree, interactive product images, social shopping lists and a fast growing inventory of more than a billion products worldwide, Google is a great resource for shoppers to find what they need, at great prices for their loved ones this holiday season.”
It has been noted in multiple online reports that Bing’s own search results also includes some ads from companies that have paid to be listed. Weitz admitted that while the majority of listings are from vendors that signed up for free, some included products from various third-party aggregators including eBay-owned Shopping.com. Bing has also reportedly shut down its free sign-up for the holiday season, and new vendors interested in being listed through Bing are directed to Shopping.com, where those companies will have to pay to be included in the search results.
Additionally, as with Google’s own results, Bing doesn’t actually differentiate visually between the free and paid listings, so shoppers will be unaware if the vendor paid to be listed. However, Bing doesn’t use any of the aforementioned information to determine ranking.
It also appears that there is a third player involved in this – namely online retailer Amazon, which has long positioned itself as an entry point for online shoppers in direct competition with the search giants.
According to a Forrester report released this past summer, 30 percent of online shoppers used Amazon as a starting point when researching products while only 13 percent use Google. Bing Shopping at present still includes Amazon results.
As for Microsoft, Weitz told CNN that the ad campaign “was meant to be a fairly lighthearted holiday campaign,” with Scroogled being a reference to Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge.
Perhaps it was a play on words Scrooge – before his visit by the ghosts on Christmas Eve – or former business partner Jacob Marley might have enjoyed.