Airbnb Says Google's Competing Travel Sites Push Its Listings Down in Search Results

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  • Airbnb, in its S-1 filing, wrote that it believes its search results have been adversely affected by the launch of Google Travel and Google Vacation Rental Ads.
  • The company's public comments follow several other travel executives' who allege Google favors its own products in its Search results.
  • Google faces a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice, which alleges it uses its search monopoly unfairly to suppress competition.

Airbnb says Google's search business has prevented the home-sharing company from reaping internet traffic, according to documents the company filed as it prepares to sell shares to the public.

Airbnb allows users to book short-term rentals and experiences while traveling. Under the "Risk Factors" in Airbnb's S-1 filing, the company said Google has favored its own products over the company's, resulting in fewer online visitors to its website. In the last year, the Alphabet company has added more search features akin to travel websites, including for vacation rentals.

"We believe that our SEO results have been adversely affected by the launch of Google Travel and Google Vacation Rental Ads, which reduce the prominence of our platform in organic search results for travel-related terms and placement on Google," the prospectus states.

Airbnb explains SEO, or search engine optimization, as the practice of tailoring content to appear more prominently in search results without paying for placement.

"We focus on unpaid channels such as SEO," the prospectus states. "SEO involves developing our platform in a way that enables a search engine to rank our platform prominently for search queries for which our platform's content may be relevant. Changes to search engine algorithms or similar actions are not within our control, and could adversely affect our search-engine rankings and traffic to our platform."

The company warns that continued problems with search rankings could force it to spend more on marketing.

"To the extent that our brand and platform are listed less prominently or fail to appear in search results for any reason, we would need to increase our paid marketing spend which would increase our overall customer acquisition costs and materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, and financial condition."

The Justice Department filed its long-expected antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet last month, alleging the company has unlawfully maintained a monopoly in search by cutting off rivals from key distribution channels. Alphabet rebutted the argument, saying it has plenty of competitors and that its services help consumers.

Airbnb and Alphabet have one mutual board member, Ann Mather.

Airbnb's statements follow other travel executives who have criticized Google's effect on the travel industry. TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer, a longtime critic of Google, told CNBC last month that he welcomes the DOJ's antitrust lawsuit against the Alphabet search unit, saying the company uses "its dominance in internet gatekeeping at the expense of other businesses."

Expedia CEO Peter Kern also recently said, "We have no axe to grind against Google, except that we don't think the marketplace is equitable."

Google did not immediately return a request for comment.

Watch Now: Airbnb files for IPO

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