In referring to "Main Street" small businesses, a new research report on search engines says "the ability of buyers and sellers to connect can do much to determine which businesses succeed and which fail, what innovations catch on, and which flounder."
While the report was focused on Google's practices, the same could be said about any search engine or online marketplace.
Researchers caused a stir when Bloomberg
wrote about the study, released on Sunday, that said Google is purposefully skewing search results to favor its own content over that of its competitors when it comes to local search. The practice degrades search results and harms both consumers and merchants, according to the report.
We wonder what those researchers would think about eBay's practices in which it eliminates some listings from its search results altogether. As hard as it might be to believe, eBay can hide listings for any reason without having to refund sellers who paid for exposure. That's because eBay added the following provision
to its User Agreement in 2013:
"To further create a marketplace where buyers find what they want and drive positive user experience, we updated the provision regarding listing conditions to recognize that the appearance and placement of listings in search and browse results will depend on a variety of factors. So, in some situations a listing may not appear in some search and browse results regardless of sort order."
At the time, spokesperson Ryan Moore told us eBay would not be refunding any listing fees for sellers impacted as a result of the policy.
The authors of the research report indicate Google is favoring its own content over its rivals. In eBay's case, why would it deliberately leave out some listings from results since it doesn't compete with them? (Theories welcome.)
eBay indicates it's in order to make for a more positive user experience. So perhaps it might decide to hide listings from sellers with certain feedback characteristics, let's guess - but if that's the case, should those sellers be paying the same amount as everyone else if they aren't getting the same exposure?
We'll have more on the Google study in tomorrow's Newsflash. In the meantime, let us know how search algorithms help or hurt your ecommerce sales.