IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Does Google Content Degrade Google Search? Experimental Evidence

Listed author(s):
  • Michael Luca

    ()

    (Harvard Business School, Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit)

  • Timothy Wu

    ()

    (Columbia Law School)

  • Sebastian Couvidat

    ()

    (Yelp.com)

  • Daniel Frank

    ()

    (Yelp.com)

  • William Seltzer

    ()

    (Yelp.com)

Registered author(s):

    While Google is known primarily as a search engine, it has increasingly developed and promoted its own content as an alternative to results from other websites. By prominently displaying Google content in response to search queries, Google is able to use its dominance in search to gain customers for this content. This may reduce consumer welfare if the internal content is inferior to organic search results. In this paper, we provide a legal and empirical analysis of this practice in the domain of online reviews. We first identify the conditions under which universal search would be considered anticompetitive. We then empirically investigate the impact of this practice on consumer welfare. To investigate, we implement a randomized controlled trial in which we vary the search results that subjects are shown - comparing Google's current policy of favorable treatment of Google content to results in which external content is displayed. We find that users are roughly 40% more likely to engage with universal search results (which receive favored placement) when the results are organically determined relative to when they contain only Google content. To shed further light on the underlying mechanisms, we show that users are more likely to engage with the OneBox when there are more reviews, holding content constant. This suggests that Google is reducing consumer welfare by excluding reviews from other platforms in the OneBox.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/pages/download.aspx?name=16-035.pdf
    File Function: Revised version - 2016
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 16-035.

    as
    in new window

    Length: 48 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2015
    Date of revision: Aug 2016
    Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:16-035
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Soldiers Field, Boston, Massachusetts 02163

    Phone: 617.495.6000
    Web page: http://www.hbs.edu/

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as
    in new window


    1. Jean‐Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2006. "Two‐sided markets: a progress report," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(3), pages 645-667, September.
    2. Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2014. "Platform Competition in Two-Sided Markets," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 10.
    3. Zhou, Jidong, 2009. "Prominence and Consumer Search: The Case With Multiple Prominent Firms," MPRA Paper 12554, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers & Jidong Zhou, 2009. "Prominence and consumer search," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(2), pages 209-233.
    5. Alexandre de Cornière & Greg Taylor, 2014. "Quality Provision in the Presence of a Biased Intermediary," Working Papers 14-06, NET Institute.
    6. Anindya Ghose & Panagiotis G. Ipeirotis & Beibei Li, 2012. "Designing Ranking Systems for Hotels on Travel Search Engines by Mining User-Generated and Crowdsourced Content," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(3), pages 493-520, May.
    7. Mark Armstrong & Julian Wright, 2007. "Two-sided Markets, Competitive Bottlenecks and Exclusive Contracts," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 32(2), pages 353-380, August.
    8. Erik Brynjolfsson & Yu (Jeffrey) Hu & Michael D. Smith, 2003. "Consumer Surplus in the Digital Economy: Estimating the Value of Increased Product Variety at Online Booksellers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(11), pages 1580-1596, November.
    9. Greg Taylor, 2013. "Search Quality and Revenue Cannibalization by Competing Search Engines," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(3), pages 445-467, September.
    10. Andrei Hagiu & Bruno Jullien, 2011. "Why do intermediaries divert search?," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 42(2), pages 337-362, June.
    11. Glenn Ellison & Alexander Wolitzky, 2012. "A search cost model of obfuscation," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(3), pages 417-441, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:16-035. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Soebagio Notosoehardjo)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.