EU May Require Search Engines To Reveal Ranking Factors

Search engines could be forced to reveal their ranking formulas, often viewed as the secret intellectual property behind their business model.

The European Commission (EU) has proposed new rules that could require search engines, commerce sites and online platforms to explain how they rank results. In addition, they want these companies to reveal why they penalize or remove content on their sites from search results.

The draft regulation seen by Reuters suggests “online intermediation services can hold superior bargaining power over their business users, enabling them to behave unilaterally in a way that is capable of harming the businesses using them.”

The EU expects to publish the proposal in April. The national governments and European Parliaments would then agree on the details.

The new rules could mean major changes for ecommerce sites and search engines in Europe.

Reuters also notes that initially the proposal would exclude search engines, but decided to include them considering that the revenue impacts a business’s ranking in search results.



Operators of search engines — Amazon, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, and others — would need to detail the most important parameters that determine the ranking, such as signals incorporated into algorithms. It makes me wonder whether retail ecommerce sites like Kohl’s, Target, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and Macy’s would be required to do the same.

Reuters notes that the proposal will not force companies to disclose their algorithms. They would need to provide general descriptions explaining “how and to what extent the relevant ranking” factor takes into account the quality of products and services.

Platforms would also need to implement a notice period of at least 15 days for changes to their terms and conditions, and provide businesses with an individualized description of the reasons for which they have been de-listed or suspended content.

It's an interesting change that could have a major impact on search engines, ecommcere marketplaces and, possibly, retailers.

1 comment about "EU May Require Search Engines To Reveal Ranking Factors".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, March 16, 2018 at 3:39 p.m.

    Laurie, thanks for the story. I hope this comes to the USA also. I filed a complaint with ICANN yesterday over a new abuse in Google Search. After months of daily review of why my ranking for was dropping and not raising even though we were very clean, I found the reason. There is a new kind of denial of service attack that focuses on industries, keywords and websites. The attack flooded my name with not only the typical spam with malware but a new kind designed with only website names and associated keywords. This is highly targeted to attack my company and it has cost a ton. I was on the first page in the first spot for over 2 years. now after removing hundreds of spam pages, we are usually on 7 or 8. Doggie doo. 

    What is worse now in Search is Google has gone to a open source contents ranking system. They are picking up any unqualify contents in giving them value. So if you get hit with a ton of low valued pages, your ranking will drop big time. The person doing this is in privacy mode in Panama and going through a US based Registrar. Worse is they have a auto domain name creator program running so every time I take down a bad link, another takes it's place in hours.

    This could to any company and a competitor. Very scary. Please investigate for yourself.

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