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Google Adds Publisher Opt-Out Tool For Shopping, Flights, Hotels & Local Search

Google-Webmaster-Report-1330957203Don’t want your content to be included in many of Google’s vertical search services, such as Google Shopping or Google+ Local? Google’s got a new tool for that, a result of its agreement earlier this year with the US Federal Trade Commission over anti-trust charges.

Announced on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, the new tool is located within Google Webmaster Central and allows publishers to keep their content out of:

Oddly, several of these services only allow you to be included if you pay, such as Google Shopping, so what exactly is the opt-out tool helping with? Presumably with things like review data that Google might gather from the web and associate with product or place listings.


Disappointingly, the tool doesn’t let you selective choose which services to opt-out from. For example, here’s how it looks for me:

opt-out tool

If I were to choose to opt-out, I’d be dropped out of the five services listed above, as Google’s sparse help page explains. There’s no way to pick-and-choose services.

FTC Sought Selective Choice

That’s bad, because Google created this tool in response to its agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission, over anti-trust charges. Some Google competitors were upset over Google’s “all-or-nothing” approach to crawling them.

For example, if Yelp didn’t want its reviews summarized in Google Local, until relatively recently, the only option it had was to opt out of everything, including Google Web Search.

Yelp (and others) didn’t want to do that. They wanted to continue to be listed in some services, like web search, and get traffic from those while not have their data help Google in other services, such as Google Local.

That was a key part of what the FTC won for publishers in its agreement with Google, the right to opt-out of vertical search but stay in web search:

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.

In Google’s letter (PDF file) to the FTC, as part of the agreement, it spelled out more exact terms — that a “web-based notice form” would be provided to cover the five services listed above and any future services with the “primary purpose of connecting users with merchants” in a manner similar to the five.

Opting-Out Beyond The Five

Google’s letter specifically said that other services, including as Google News, Google Image Search, Video Search, Google Maps, Google Book Search and Google Finance, wouldn’t get opt-outs.

Today’s move delivers the letter of what was required, but the spirit of picking-and-choosing from among the vertical services doesn’t feel met. Maybe few of the even fewer publishers who really wanted this type of opt-out actually care about the selective choice, but not giving that type of choice has long been a problem for Google. Why not deliver it?

For example, Italian newspapers made so much noise that opting-out of Google News would get them “banned” from Google Web Search (it didn’t, if you made a human-based opt-out request) that an Italian anti-trust review looked into the allegations. That gained a further reassurance that Google wouldn’t block news publishers from Google Web Search, if they opted-out of Google News.

Ultimately, you’d think at this point that Google would have developed a system letting publishers pick-and-choose exactly what services they want to be included in or not. Instead, it feels like Google’s going to do only the minimum it’s required to.

Related Topics: Google: Advisor | Google: Antitrust | Google: Flight Search | Google: Maps Local | Google: Place Pages | Google: Product Search | Google: SEO | Google: Travel Search | Google: Webmaster Central | Top News

About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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