Google counters suit over lowered search rankings

In a case that underscores the increasing importance search rankings have on business, Google Technologies Inc. is fighting to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that it purposely devalued the search rankings of online advertising network Search King Inc.

According to documents filed Dec. 30 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Google is asking the court to deny a request for a preliminary injunction from Oklahoma-based Search King, which sued the search giant last October claiming that it unfairly bumped the rankings of its Web sites, leading to financial losses.

In its suit, Search King alleged that Google "arbitrarily and purposefully" devalued its rankings when it discovered that the company's advertising sales branch PR Ad Network was placing text ads on Web sites with a high "PageRank" from Google, therefore making it one of the few competitors to Google's advertising service.

Google's PageRank system calculates search results based on how many sites link to a particular site, with more "important" linking sites adding more weight to the ranking. Because Google is one of the largest and most highly trafficked search sites on the Web, Search King alleges that the way in which it delivers results can significantly affect the amount of traffic received by a Web site.

Although Search King's PageRank rating was restored in November, the company decided to follow through with the suit as a matter of principle.

The case is about Google's attempt to squelch competition by targeting businesses and arbitrarily reducing page rankings or search status, Search King and PR Ad Network President Robert Massa said in a statement released when his company's ratings were restored.

No one from Mountain View, California-based Google was immediately available to comment on the case Monday.

Search King is seeking damages in excess of US$75,000 as well as punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

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