Almost all of us have believed that Google gives us the best answers from across the web when we search for something. It gives us the correct addresses of almost everyone from a president to a clerk. It provides us the best shopping experience by bringing in front of us all possible brands available on the web. It gives us information about everything that we ask for. But the question is, are all the responses delivered by Google actually genuine?
According to many researches, Google does not actually use its normal organic search algorithm to deliver the answers for our question that we see on the first screen. Instead, on the very first page, it showcases results drawn from Google+ ahead of other relevant ones that we can get from using Google’s organic search algorithm. Many say that Google’s search results appear to be biased in favor of its shopping results and other services.
Are we being manipulated each day when you are using the web?
The new age Google not only provide us with answers to our questions but it also helps us determine what we see and how. Most of the times we get influenced by the search engine results that we see on the first page.
Psychologist Robert Epstein conducted a research on the India’s national election, 2014 with a group of more than 1,800 study participants – all undecided voters in India — the research team was able to shift votes by an average of 12.5 percent to favored candidates by altering their rankings in search results. Robert Epstein added that altering the rankings of preferred sites in the search engine results can actually shift voter preferences dramatically.
Some outside experts agree that a dominant search engine such as Google does have extraordinary power to alter how people and events are viewed. Fewer are convinced that anyone in a position to deploy this power would do so.
But, is Google really biased to some sites over others?
Yelp and a coalition of like-minded travel and shopping web sites have created an elegant demonstration to show that Google biases search results in favor of Google’s own pages. Yelp says, it is a Chrome browser extension that actually strips Google+ pages from Google’s search results.
They created a tool, Focus on the User – Local, and tested its results with thousands of users to show that consumers prefer results that aren’t exclusively powered by Google+; rather consumers would prefer to get most relevant ‘organic’ results that Google would serve if it wasn’t biased in favor of Google’s own sites.
Apparently, Yelp and Tripadvisor have hundreds or thousands of consumer reviews per venue, and still they are shunted down into the search engine’s result. However, Google’s reviews appear higher up the page despite having reviews from handful of people. Yelp claims that if Google did not automatically put its own links there, then reviews on sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor would appear higher up the page.
However, Google has said time and again that it focuses on users, not websites. That is, Google filters out results based on user preferences. Users are not always aware that if they log into their account, Google will personalize a search for them. And in such case, results will be different for someone else.
If you are an average user searching for the word ‘Java’ then you might receive the general definitions and history of the programming language first. But if you are a seasoned programmer, then the very same keyword might show results referring to more advanced concepts within Java – such as Java’s JDK and JRE. That is, for the very same search key word or phrase; two users can get very different results, which will be relevant to their past searches.
So, can we really term Google as biased?