Groupon says its practice of purchasing search keywords to promote deals is no different than running a billboard or TV commercial for marketing. Critics say the company may be hurting the very businesses who engage in Groupon deals by redirecting potential website visitors. "This is something that we pay out of our own pocket for our merchant partners, we promote their deals over a variety of mediums that are out there, and the merchant can opt out of it at any time," said Nicholas Halliwell, Groupon's public relations manager.

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