‘Cash for Coverage’: Daily Mail Accuses Google of Manipulation

Simon Harker, 21st April 2021

The war of words between Google and media outlets has taken a further twist, with the owners of the Daily Mail and MailOnline taking legal action against the tech giant. Associated Newspapers has accused Google of ‘punishing’ them for not selling enough advertising through its own platform. So what’s the story, and how does Piers Morgan fit into it all?

A Right Royal Quarrel Over Google Rankings

In March this year curious searchers in the UK flocked online, eager to find out Morgan’s thoughts on the high-profile interview between Meghan Markle and Oprah Winfrey. However, AN claims that their site’s coverage was pushed down the rankings in favour of articles from smaller, regional outlets. This is despite the fact that they were running multiple pieces a day on this traffic-driving topic and actually employ Morgan as a columnist. 

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Daily Mail editor Peter Wright accused the search engine of being “anti-competitive”, claiming the site’s search visibility was reduced after it started to divert advertising traffic away from Google to more lucrative ad exchanges.

Google has denied the publisher’s claims, with a  spokeswoman saying: “The Daily Mail’s claims are completely inaccurate… The use of our ad tech tools has no bearing on how a publisher’s website ranks in Google search.”

What Helps a Website Get Seen Online?

Google has already confirmed the importance of SEO in organic search and getting your business seen by the right audiences, offering enormous long-term benefits for your site. The allegations raised by Associated Newspapers do however shine a light on continued calls for greater transparency around other elements of its search algorithm. 

One of the closest insights we have previously had into the secretive search giant’s inner workings is in documents disclosed to the US house judiciary antitrust subcommittee. In the context of this legal argument, it feels particularly enlightening to be reminded Google needs us just as much as we need them: “Our search ranking algorithms are not useful unless there is enough content to rank to have a broad interest search engine.” 

Will We Ever Learn the Ingredients to Google’s ‘Secret Sauce’?

Yet another ongoing legal complaint against Google could actually see it forced to disclose the contents of its closely guarded algorithm. The company is accused by price-comparison site Foundem of manipulating its rankings to make sure their pages appeared lower in the search results, preventing them from competing against the Google Shopping platform. 

Flaunt Digital’s Director of Natural Search Thom Watson said:

“With so much money tied up in online advertising, search rankings and traffic, the calls for transparency will only grow louder as time goes on. In the next 10 years I can see Google being forced to disclose exactly how its ranking engine works.”

Thom Watson

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This article was brought to you by

Simon Harker

SEO & Content Executive

Content marketing specialist with a wide-ranging editorial background, dedicated customer focus, and experience creating value and driving improvements across a range of digital platforms.