Search results brought to you by Google Biased.
“‘There’s this crazy idea that all the billions of webpages have been thoroughly vetted and reviewed, and this omniscient source found the best,’ says Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist from Harvard and former editor of Psychology Today who studies how search engines affect behavior. ‘That whoever or whatever is doing the searching for us is infallible and omniscient.'”
Google is not God but many may think it is. How can we compete against this all-knowing force that dynamically organizes all of the information in the world? One way is to play by the rules. Although, we don’t know for sure if those rules automatically put everything Google at the top, it does seem that Google can cater search engine results for the user and, as of late for its own brand.
Sounds more like an ego-stroking algorithm to me. Then again it is only an algorithm and it can therefore only do what it is programmed to do. It can’t think for itself but of course any “if-else” statements will make it seem like it can:
Here’s a test we can all do to see whether or not search results are biased:
- Do the same search on several different search engines
- Repeat the search but logged in from different accounts
- Compile the data and analyze
- Ask: “Is Google biased?”
I am sure we will see results favored towards the user. For example, if you have been searching “pro-Donald Trump”, Google will bring you those kinds of results first and then put any negative Donald Trump posts towards the bottom. A study done in 2014 by Searchmetrics states, “for Universal Search 2014, there is one clear winner – Google itself. In addition to the growth of YouTube video results, Google Shopping results (Product Listing Ads) increased strongly.” The data from that study is from end of 2013 beginning of 2014 so Google has been up to this for quite some time now.
Another factor that was made evident by the Universal Search Integrations Study of 2015 by Searchmetrics is that Google has been favoring its products in the search results (“shopping”). A search integration is anything that comes up in the search results other than the normal blue links we’re used to, like YouTube videos, Google Shopping, Google Local Businesses etc. If you were Google how would you leverage search results? I have a created a discussion on LinkedIn about this here.
This quote from a post titled: “The Web We Have To Save” by By Hossein Derakhshan:
You open Twitter or Facebook on your smartphone and dive deep in. The mountain has come to you. Algorithms have picked everything for you. According to what you or your friends have read or seen before, they predict what you might like to see. It feels great not to waste time in finding interesting things on so many websites.[…] The prominence of the Stream today doesn’t just make vast chunks of the Internet biased against quality — it also means a deep betrayal to the diversity that the world wide web had originally envisioned.
Who Doesn’t Like A Back Rub?
Why Google helps you agree with yourself. Google Webmaster states: “When a user enters a query, our machines search the index for matching pages and return the results we believe are the most relevant to the user.” Being more ‘relevant’ means forking up results that people like or prefer to see first even if it’s biased. The above quote from Hossein Derakhshan hits a nerve when he talks about betraying the diversity the Internet was originally made for. If my opinion on something is incorrect, wouldn’t I want to see evidence that I am wrong? Nobody likes being wrong but we only grow when challenges arise.
Recently, the Competition Commission of India is filing a lawsuit against Google after the “agency received complaints that the search giant abused its dominant market position and rigged search results” and even Facebook is on board (who has no. 2 in Alexa traffic ranking; Google has no. 1). All of these guys have to play according to Google’s rules but Google’s rules favor themselves so it’s kind of unfair. Here’s some other companies that agree:
“For years, Yelp has complained that Google has moved its relatively unpopular Google Reviews and Google+ links to the top of supposedly ‘organic’ search results, while links to sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor, which have thousands of reviews per venue, are shunted down into the search engine’s equivalent of Siberia.” – Business Insider
So this has been a problem not only since Google’s latest update but for quite some time. The travel industry is seeing the effects and so is shopping. 44% of search integrations are from Google Shopping. Even though the search results Google provides are extremely relevant, they are favoring certain results by user preference and whether or not if Google is sharing investment.
Only a select few have access to every single detail of the Google algorithm so I don’t know it all. It is almost impossible to provide a completely objective search engine but it is easy to favor one’s own company when one has the power to. The Internet is for information. People go there mostly for information, even if they’re buying a product they search for reviews on it first and then buy. The information should be quality and not biased to what the user prefers to see.
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