How Price Comparison Site Results in Google Hurt Consumers

Ask yourselves this, when last have you been able to find a decent tech review on Google? Sure, sometimes you may come across one or two reviews from major sites, but in my experience it seems that every time I try and Google for a tech product review I get inundated by dozens of search results from price comparison sites. Pricegrabber, Bizrate, Shopbot–how many of these things do we need?! Even Reseller Ratings, a site which originally served to review online stores, has dedicated much of their site to price comparisons. I’m not at all against consumers empowering themselves by making well-informed purchases, but after a certain point it seems that these sites have become more of a hindrance to consumers than a benefit by making it harder to find legitimate reviews.

You can see the problem for yourself by looking at this search for the SamsuGoogle Results with Price Comparison Sitesng 906BW monitor. My search string was simple: “Samsung 906BW Review”. The search may have changed since I ran it at the time of this post, so I’ve provided a screen shot just in case. As you can see, the entirety of the first results page points to stores and price comparison sites. You can also see why those results rose to the top; many of the links plaster “Review” across their title even if they contain no reviews.

This is especially disheartening for the results from CNET and ZDNET. These are sites I normally trust for product reviews, but when I click on one of their links and end up with price comparisons and a few user reviews, I end up feeling somewhat cheated. They are gaming Google, but it seems that no one has complained about it yet.

So what is a consumer to do? Initially, I thought up the idea for a review aggregator site that would compile expert reviews in a social format. This was to be my Web 2.0 cash cow until I realized that Viewscore and Wize already beat me to it. Both sites seem to be doing basically the same thing by compiling expert and user reviews and bestowing an aggregated rank on the product. Thankfully, they seperate the user and expert reviews, which is another one of my problems with running a Google search for reviews.

I prefer Viewscore’s granulated approach to review scoring compared to Wize’s pass/fail system which seems often to oversimplify many reviews. Review aggregators have existed for a while now in other mediums (Rotten Tomatoes, for example), but I’m glad to see that tech reviews are finally getting the same treatment. My only worry is that the average user will not pick up on these sites and will be stuck with awful search results until Google and other search providers step up. They may be under a professional banner, but most are just as much spam as that Viagra email waiting in your inbox.


(Update 7.25.08): Greetings Redditors! This article was written more than a year ago, but this problem still clearly affects Google and other search engines. In the comments below, Adrian recommended Get Me Back My Google, which seems to offer a bit of relief against the flood of useless price comparison sites.

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24 Comments

  1. Angela
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    As an online shopper, I LOVE price comparison sites and don’t see the harm in allowing online consumers to participate in online one-stop shopping. Personally, my morning isn’t complete until I’ve checked the daily deals at http://www.—.com or their sister site http://www.—.com That’s the first place I go if I’m looking for a specific item, since the filter allows me to not only see which retailer has the item the cheapest, but any current promotional coupon codes that are valid on that purchase. If saving time and money is wrong, I don’t want to be right…

  2. Posted April 4, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Angela is a plant, but I’ll bite for now: I’m not saying I don’t find these sites useful, but do they really need to get in the way search of results as they do? If only Google had some sort of filter to turn these things off, then I would have no reason to complain. Hell, you should understand my pain being affiliated with some comparison sites and all ;)

  3. Posted April 4, 2007 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Angela, the thing about price comparison sites is that they offer price comparisons. Sometimes (most often) I don’t want that. In fact I only want the price of something at the end of my purchase-making decision. They just shouldn’t show up when I Google for a review or other articles. The worst thing they do, as Devindra said, is that they mascarade themselves as review sites, and that is not only annoying but also wrong.

  4. Posted April 5, 2007 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I guess I’d rather see a price engine show up than those funky ad sites where they scrape the world and and it’s bareley legible.

  5. Posted April 5, 2007 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    What does that even mean? We want legitimate reviews to show up when we search for them. Sites like yours, (*cough* http://www.DEALTAKER.com), just make that entire process difficult. Linkfarms are annoying in their own right, but at least I usually only have to see them when I mistype a URL. I see sites like yours every day amongst my general searching and they never cease to be annoying.

    I’m a fan of deals as well, I’m totally in love with Ben’s Bargains and Techdeals, but they also don’t get in my way when I need to get legitimate searching done.

  6. Posted May 7, 2007 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    But what makes a good reviewer? User opinions are frequently unreliable. One man’s trash is the next man’s treasure. Often times I’ve seen bad reviews when the user was clearly using the product wrong. “Expert” reviews can’t be trusted either.

  7. Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    we use powerreviews to allow consumers to review products. The thing I like is even if we reject a review because it is off topic to the product, etc. all reviews for powerreviews will be posted at http://www.buzzillions.com. There are a lot of companies getting on board and soon if not already I expect to see buzzillions being the place to get unbiased reviews from consumers.

  8. Posted May 6, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    When you are searching for Samsung 906BW or any other “keywords” like this you get results with price comparsion sites. But when search phrase contains many, many words like ‘Samsung 906BW black silver 19 inches canada’ than very often all what you see is spamblogs without any content but adsense. This problem is much bigger in my opinion.

  9. Posted July 25, 2008 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more, Devindra. However, it’s not just these price comparison sites that are the culprits. One major piece of open source e-commerce software – OSCommerce – used by thousands upon thousands of online retailers, always put the word “review” on every product page. This “review” of course refers to customer reviews, but how to distinguish them from “expert” reviews? And the annoying thing is that these keywords show up even if there are no reviews.

    As a site owner and author of many “expert” reviews (and I use that term in all humility), it is very disheartening to see these “empty” search result show up before articles and content which you’ve worked so hard to produce, which you know can benefit others but is being hidden in the spam.

  10. Posted July 25, 2008 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    You should check out http://www.gmbmg.com which tries to filter out some of that crap in your google searches.

  11. elGordo
    Posted July 25, 2008 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    You can also try to filter your Gooogle search by using the minus sign. For example, search for “Samsung 906BW review -price”. The -*criteria* in this case will automatically remove any search results that contain the word price. Exclude different terms for some slight variations on your results.

  12. Rajan
    Posted July 25, 2008 at 10:23 am | Permalink
  13. Posted July 25, 2008 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    @Rajan Try another search?! Blasphemy!

    Honestly though, thanks for bringing up Live search. I’ve heard good things, though I’d still rather Google fixed their own search results.

  14. dumb
    Posted July 25, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    How many damn price comparisons do we really need though? I am SICK of trying to find information about a product and can only find keyword spammed price comparisons. They don’t even have the product half the time. Kill ‘em all I say!

  15. sunflower
    Posted July 25, 2008 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    The real answer is to use a search engine other than Google. A better search may exist… someday. I’ve used Yahoo search more recently for some things.

    Microsoft wanted to buy Yahoo? The better answer is to simply build a better search engine, with a clean interface like Google.

  16. Posted July 25, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Check out this then:

    http://www.givemebackmygoogle.com/

    That site was put up specifically for this reason :)

  17. Posted July 26, 2008 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Point taken. But I doubt our collective “vote-ups” have the power to do anything about it.

  18. gene haynes
    Posted July 26, 2008 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    The problem of overadvertising can be addressed.

    If consumers organized large-scale boycotts of specific products or services, we could ‘take back the streets’ from the market bullies.

    It is deflating to hear people say over and over in America, ‘there’s nothing we can do.’

    It’s time for savy Americans to stand up for what they want instead of watching our ownership dwindle. The public owns the market. The market should not own us.

  19. Aaron
    Posted July 30, 2008 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    They appear to have taken it down unfortunately, but there used to be http://mindset.research.yahoo.com which had a slider for ‘buy’ or ‘find out information’ and it reorganized the search results based on where you put the slider. I used it a couple of times when it came out and it was pretty nifty.

  20. Posted August 4, 2009 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    Hi Devindra,

    I'm so annoyed of those price comparison websites.. And here in Germany the search results are even more cluttered by these sites. But I have found a way of filtering the most popular “spam” sites with the help of Google's custom search (I think it works better than the “Get Me Back My Google” fix). Please have a try at http://www.cleversearch.org and if there are any German readers out there: http://www.kommerzfilter.de

    Cheers
    Clemens

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  23. Posted June 28, 2014 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

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    Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

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