ACCC’s Case Against Google: Update

The Australian consumer watchdog has broadened its case against Google—while they have dropped the case against Google Australia and Google Ireland, they are going full steam ahead on the parent company Google Inc.

The ACCC claims that sponsored links are not clearly distinguished from organic results, alleging Google’s practices are misleading. The shaded area at the top of results was their original complaint, but now they have broadened the accusations to include the right-hand links too, claiming that they look the same as the organic listings.

The ‘sponsored links’ text is barely visible, they claim, and the shaded area is too subtle, and dependent on the screen angle. I tried this out, and it’s true – at certain angles the shaded area pretty much disappears.

Can an Aussie Battler Slay the Google Giant?

Google Australia and Google Ireland are probably feeling a little smug after recent events in the courtroom. The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has suffered a setback in their case against Google.

Claiming that Google’s sponsored links are not clearly distinguished from organic listings, the ACCC brought a case against the search giant (a world first) in July alleging misleading and deceptive conduct.

Apparently, however, the ACCC prepared the court documents poorly, and were not able to convince the judge that there was a case at all. Though a decision has not been made (the ACCC have been given time to clarify the case and summarise the allegations), it is not looking too hopeful for the Australian watchdog commission.

Bruce Clay visits Search Engine Bootcamp, Melbourne

Last week I traveled ‘south of the border’ to Melbourne for Barry Smyth’s latest Search Engine Bootcamp conference. Another great show was put on by Barry, with all speakers giving good information. Even Search (guru??) Bruce Clay turned up for the keynote speech.

Bruce gave a very nice presentation on SEO but I think everyone got a little more from his ‘off the cuff’ comments on Google Universal. Nothing too provocative was said, but I think the concept of multiple sources hitting the Google SERPS has not really been fully understood here..

Online Harassment becoming a major concern in Australia

Many people are concerned that the Internet and Social Media are difficult to control, and an Australian woman, who was a victim of identity theft and harassment online, has spoken out this week.

When men started calling, emailing, texting, and even turning up at her door, Cathy (not her real name) became aware that a bogus MySpace profile had been set up in her name. The site detailed her personal information, alongside suggestive photographs and explicit text, asking anyone interested to contact her.

It’s not clear how often this kind of thing happens (she thought is was her ex boyfriend), but with 3.8 million profiles in Australia alone, it’s likely that there are many more cases like this, though MySpace insists that it does not tolerate this kind of behaviour.

Australian Google Grenade

The Australian competition watchdog dropped a bomb this week on the online search marketing industry. The ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) has filed an action against Google – a world first – alleging that Google have broken Trade Practice laws by using the names of certain businesses in unrelated sponsored advertisements – directing searchers who click on a particular business name to their competition.

The case specifically revolves around a local car dealer who was allegedly targeted by a large classified website the The Trading Post. The Trading Post site listed sponsored links directly naming a smaller local car dealer. …fairly straight forward.

Is the Australian PM watching his Online Reputation?

With a nation-wide Federal election coming up this year, we thought we’d track Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s online reputation and find out what’s being said about him online.

We tracked online references of both Howard and the opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, over a three week period, and the results are not looking so good for the PM.

Though most of online references come from news sites, and are mostly neutral, the more freely expressive bloggers sometimes had quite nasty things to say about John Howard, and there were not many on his side at all.

Rudd, on the other hand, though he had his fair share of nasty comments, actually had more backers than critics. This is a particularly positive response for Australia, where a common attitude, particularly from the younger generations, towards politicians is fairly negative (there were, in fact, quite a few bloggers with that opinion).

Search Engine Bootcamp hits NZ

This week I flew across ‘the pond’ (or ‘ditch’ as the Kiwis call it) to speak at Search Engine Boot Camp NZ in Auckland. This was the first conference Barry Smyth from Search Strategies has run in NZ and it turned out to be a great success.

Barry seems to have a thing about water views – I’ve been to two of his conferences now (Sydney & Auckland) and they both have been held at absolutely great water frontage locations. This conference was held at the Hilton which sits right on Auckland Harbour. (Barry told me afterwards that passing ships kept interferring with his recording equipment during the day).