Limited, Ability to Remove Content from Some Google Properties

The Federal Trade Commission’s Anti-Trust Suit against search giant Google ended in January of this year with the conclusion (interpretation provided by Google): “Google’s services are good for users and good for competition.”

Whether publishers agree with the statement or not, Google was required to allow an opt-out option for webmasters who want their content removed from Google’s properties. So, which properties are included?

A short list:

    • Shopping
    • Advisor
    • Flights
    • Hotels
    • Google+ Local

There is some confusion as to HOW Google was including content on their pay-to-play properties, such as Shopping, but Google and others have included reviews as potential scraped content. I had found something on one of Google’s blogs that said “ratings” as well, but I was not able to find that source to include it – so that can’t be verified at this time.

The core of the suit seems to be around better competition. A separate change Google made in response to the antitrust suit is to allow Google advertisers to export their campaign data easily so it can be placed on competing search ad networks. Google has released this change to their advertisers already, and it will remain in effect for 5 years. The anti-trust agreement covered the following, including:

“Google will give websites the ability to “opt out” of display on Google vertical properties[.]
Under the same commitment, Google also has promised to provide all websites the option to keep their content out of Google’s vertical search offerings, while still having them appear in Google’s general, or “organic,” web search results. The FTC investigated allegations that Google misappropriated content, such as user reviews and star ratings, from competing websites in order to improve its own vertical offerings, such as Google Local and Google Shopping. Some FTC Commissioners were concerned that this conduct might chill firms’ incentives to innovate on the Internet.”

The Opt Out Tool

Google's New Opt-Out Tool

The opt-out options presented are all or nothing. Oddly, Google Maps is not a part of the opt-out option, which I found interesting. Also, the opt-out is only valid for a period of 3 years, and does not prevent Google from “innovating” search and pulling data into new products – only innovations of the currently listed properties are restricted in their use of publisher data as protective measures.

Once you have opted out, you can view your opt out history to verify the length of time since the request was made, etc.

Google Opt Out Tool - History

Finally, it will take 30 days for the data to be removed. Google doesn’t allow specification of sub-domains or sub-directories, and reserves the right to make website owners verify ownership, of course. No word yet if there are any glitches in the process – but we’ll keep an eye out.