A few days ago, some were shocked when news of Google’s own admission that they pick and choose over search results started breaking on the Internet.
Personally, I think the implications that Google picks and chooses what comes up in a search quite shocking, particularly when those choices distort what ordinary people perceive to be the truth (as in the case of what exactly is going on in Gaza, for example). So i decided to ask around to see what other reactions I could find to this revelation.
The first to respond, and the view which most closely matches my own, was Aaron Wall, who can always be relied upon for in-touch and relevant news and opinion on the field of search and SEO.
Search has never been about being impartial or promoting “the truth.” Search engineers only talk from that perspective because it is a nice public relations angle for their ad networks. How interested in divine truth can they be when they are willing to sell clicks to just about anyone willing to meet their minimum bid requirements?
Search is about promoting a diversity of remarkable views…which means it often caters to the opinions of whack jobs and mainstream propaganda. If a person lies it is much easier for them to write something remarkable than if they are fair and balanced.
Research has been done on political blogs to show that they don’t cross link to blogs of alternate political ideology very often (and when they do it is often to point sharp criticism rather than to agree). These linking and reading patters lead to a selection bias that over time can warp our view of ourselves and of society. And then there are technologies like search personalization which aim to capture our flaws and feed them back to us, which could make people even more radicalized. And there are patents out there to exploit people’s mental weaknesses. Read this entry ( http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=556 ) about how Google has a patent to target ads to video game players based on mental weaknesses observed during gameplay:
“the dialogue could indicate that the player is aggressive, profane, polite, literate, illiterate, influenced by current culture or subculture, etc. Also decisions made by the players may provide more information such as whether the player is a risk taker, risk averse, aggressive, passive, intelligent, follower, leader, etc. This information may be used and analyzed in order to help select and deliver more relevant ads to users.”
NOTE: SEObook is one of the best online SEO resources: I’m enjoying Aaron’s new SEO Toolbar. Don’t forget to try it out.
Andy Beal over at Marketing Pilgrim has had lots to say on the subject in the past (but probably before Google came right out and admitted that they tweak results). Here he’s talking about What Google SearchWiki Means for Your Ranking
I also asked Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur of note and owner of Alltop.com for his input. He said:
I expect and want Google to provide human input since so many people are trying to game. This is not an issue in my opinion.
You might like to take a look at Alltop’s page for Google.
Barry Welford of The Other Boke’s Blog was of similar opinion to Guy:
In general I believe Google allows its algorithms to determine rankings and I have not seen anything substantive to change that view. Of course they can adjust their algorithms and that might have an effect that some do not like, but it’s not judgement applied directly to what entries appear in the SERPs.
The only situation that I am aware of where human judgment comes in is that apparently they do adjust page rank where a web page sells links (and does not apply rel=nofollow).. However even there I am not sure that affects the implicit PageRank used in rankings as opposed to the visible display of PageRank that they show on their toolbar.
However I see nothing here that will change my relationship with Google.
So, there you have it. A cross-section of professional opinion on how Google does, or does not manipulate what we see in a search result. I am firmly of the opinion that they do manipulate results.
Although I’ve been working conscientiously and diligently to serve my clients with the latest and best SEO techniques, I now feel that more than ever before it’s important to take your online presence into your own hands a bit more and not just leave it to the integrity of the search engines. We’ve obviously been giving them a whole lot more credit than they deserve. I also find Google’s hypocritical attitudes towards Blackhats all the more amazing, under the circumstances. I don’t like out-and-out Blackhats, but I think Google’s policies are a whole lot worse than Blackhats could ever be since they masquerade as ‘industry standard Whitehat.’