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Daily Mail launches lawsuit against Google over search engine ratings

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DMGT PLC’s (LON:DMGT) newspaper arm Associated Newspapers is suing Google in the US over claims the search engine giant is manipulating advertising auctions and deliberately downgrading its stories in SEO rankings.

The Daily Mail owner claims that Google penalises publishers that don’t use its marketplace enough to sell advertising and as a result, its stories rank below smaller media groups.

Daily Mail editor emeritus Peter Wright told the BBC that the paper’s search visibility dropped after it started to switch traffic away from Google to other ad exchanges.

Citing its coverage of the Piers Morgan row after Megan Markel’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, it says it says other outlets ranked higher even though Morgan was its columnist and the Daily Mail was writing numerous stories every day.

The MailOnline site receives 75mln unique monthly visits just in the US, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in New York on Tuesday.

A Google spokeswoman told reporters: “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.

“We will defend ourselves against these meritless claims.”

According to the Press Gazette, the Mail case sets out that online advertising has continued to grow against a 70% drop in print ad revenues over the last decade.

 “News publishers do not see the growing ad spending because Google and its parent Alphabet unlawfully have acquired and maintain monopolies for the tools that publishers and advertisers use to buy and sell online ad space,” it added.

“Those tools include ad inventory and the dominant exchange where millions of ad impressions are sold in auctions every day.

“Google controls the ‘shelf space’ on publishers’ pages where ads appear, and it exploits that control to defeat competition for that ad space.

“Among other tactics, Google makes it difficult for publishers to compare prices among exchanges; reduces the number of exchanges that can submit bids; and uses bids offered by rival exchanges to set its own bids — a de facto bid rigging scheme.”

Associated said that since the beginning of 2021, the Daily Mail’s US search traffic has fallen by more than half.

Google is already facing legal action in Texas under anti-competition laws while the US Department of Justice also brought a case last year.

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