After Google acquired Frommer’s travel guides recently, we got a bit of an idea what it is like for small Internet companies to coexist with the Internet search giant.
When the news came out that Google would begin to publish travel reviews, other online review firms, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, got very nervous. Yelp shares are down a big 14% since the Google announcement, while TripAdvisor has lost three percent. The big worry of these companies is that Google might favor their own content over others in the search rankings.
These competing sites also were not happy about the original Google idea, which was to gather reviews from their sites rather than publishing their own. So, Google decided to stop doing that and they changed their strategy. The first thing they did was to start their own local review Website – Google Places – and then they started to snatch up other companies, such as Zagat and Frommer’s. Both of these sites publish reviews.
In the end, these other websites pushed Google to start to compete against them. An analyst for Sterling Market Intelligence stated recently that “the irony is by stating that Google was in competition with them, Yelp and TripAdvisor have sort of pushed Google in the direction of really competing with them, in a way that Google wasn’t really doing before.’
Google was finding itself in trouble for crawling other sites for this content before, but now they are somewhat freed from that accusation now that they are creating their own travel related content. However, now they are playing into the criticism that Google is directly competing aggressively with these other travel firms. And they have the potential of favoring their own content over content of other firms. While Google may not actually do this, the perception is still there.
Over time, it is quite likely that we will see this same type of story play out as Google ventures into other lines of business, such as flight searches and comparison shopping.