Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2014

Design of Search Engine Services: Channel Interdependence in Search Engine Results

by Benjamin Edelman and Zhenyu Lai


The authors examine prominent placement of search engines' own services and effects on users' choice of destinations. Using a natural experiment in which different results were shown to users who performed similar searches, they find that Google's prominent placement of its Flight Search service increased the clicks on paid advertising listings by more than half while decreasing the clicks on organic search listings by about the same quantity. User substitution disproportionately affected the most visited travel sites, reducing use of organic listings sending no-charge traffic to those sites by lowering their prominence and perceived importance, while highlighting paid listings to the same sites. The authors consider the implications of such changes for online marketers and for search engine operators.

Keywords: Fairness; Search Technology; Internet; Online Advertising; Travel Industry;


Edelman, Benjamin, and Zhenyu Lai. "Design of Search Engine Services: Channel Interdependence in Search Engine Results." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-087, April 2013. (Rev. October 17, 2014.)