While anti-Google ads from Microsoft are nothing new, their latest salvo fired against the company seems less like an advertisement for a search engine, and more like a political attack ad.

“Scroogled,” a portmanteau of “Google” and “screwed,” seems to be a major focus of Bing’s holiday advertising, and to be fair, it isn’t completely baseless. In May of this year, Google Shopping made a transition from using a search algorithm similar to how other Google searches work to a system where listed merchants pay to be included in the results, either on a pay-per-click or pay-per-transaction basis.

Ads or Answers?

Microsoft says that this practice isn’t fair, but Google sees it differently, saying that “ads are just more answers to users’ queries.” As with Microsoft’s criticisms, this isn’t as easy to write off as it may seem. Those who use Google Shopping are doing so because they are looking to buy something, and companies paying to make sure that they are seen first in search results isn’t that different from placing other ads.

Google has been relatively transparent on this matter, but this is where Microsoft is really playing its hand. By suggesting that customers are being “Scroogled,” they are also suggesting that Google is breaking its “Don’t be evil” policy. The most prominent text on Microsoft’s Scroogled website reads:

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.

In their under-the-radar announcement, Google admits they’ve now built “a purely commercial model” that delivers listings ranked by “bid price.” Google Shopping is nothing more than a list of targeted ads that unsuspecting customers assume are search results. They call these “Product Listing Ads” a “truly great search.”

We say that when you limit choices and rank them by payment, consumers get Scroogled. For an honest search result, try Bing.

Who Is This Good For?

Microsoft is promising that Bing won’t “switch to pay-to-rank to allow some shopping search results to appear higher than others,” and that’s a good thing for consumers, but it raises a question. Are these types of ads, which seem to be increasingly prevalent, a good thing for consumers? Or will this just lead to an ultimately more confusing climate for regular people?

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