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The boss of a company which is taking on Google in the European courts in an effort to clear up suspicions of anti-competitive practices says new scientific evidence shows that Google's placing of images in advertisements for its own products on search results pages means they attract up to 80 per cent of the clicks from those pages.

Online map service said this was creating a “vampire effect”, as the increased traffic to Google web properties sucks business away from other companies who just happen to be competing with Google for attention on the internet.

The company enlisted researchers from the Institute of Communication and Media Research at the Germany Sport University in Cologne to check whether there was any overriding reason why, despite having many top Google rankings for its own city and country maps, the number of visitors to its site mysteriously started to fall. chief executive Michael Weber said that Google's own ads, and special display advertising formats for other products of its own, such as flights and product price comparisons, “leaves not enough space for other good websites, which are pushed below the page fold, but could have interested the users as well.”

The human test subjects were asked to search for a map and information about a travel destination. The places where their eyes first landed on a Google search results page were noted by the researchers, and it was found that 80 per cent clicked on the Google Maps image at the top of the page, and only 20 per cent clicked on the top organic search result.

When a page without the maps was generated, the results were the other way around, with the highest ranking result getting 80 per cent of clicks.

Mr Weber said: “We were surprised how powerful Google's promotion of their own products in form of the inserted Google Maps image on top is in drawing the eyes and nearly all clicks.

“Our study example is transferable to any kind of website, all hoping to be found by visitors: whatever Google places on top [of its search results pages] will be clicked