Playing with the Cards We’ve been Dealt

Josh Bourne ⬥ 28 January

A recent post in Advertising Age’s Digital Next blog ponders the question, is Google biased?  Well, not really pondered, per se – the author took Google’s bias as a given fact.  And in the fact that Google uses incredibly complex algorithms to rank its search results and keeps those algorithms secret as proprietary information, the author is right.  We don’t fully understand how Google ranks its results.  But ultimately, that’s not a bad thing.

We’ve written before about the importance of ranking high among Google’s search results.  As a consultancy that specializes in online findability, we understand that search engines are an important way in which many consumers access content online.  Companies invest a great deal of time and money into optimizing their brand sites to rank highly, and investing in valuable, keyword-rich domains to increase rank for a greater number of search terms.  All of this is done in the goal of earning more spots than their competitors on page one.  So in theory, it would be great to know how Google ranks its results, on any given day, in order to maximize SEO effectiveness.

Depending on what study you read, or which set of data you choose to examine, Google is depicted as either highly biased, purposefully manipulating the rankings of its search results, or highly benevolent.  There are myriad studies and articles arguing both sides.  Additionally, there is no proof that Google’s bias is necessarily undesirable – it may also serve to prevent developers with nefarious intentions from gaming the rankings system in order to spread malware or misinformation.

It boils down to this: whether it is biased or not has not prevented Google from continuing to dominate the search market; it is still the first place most Internet users turn when performing a search.  It functions as a pseudo-monopoly, and under its own self-imposed ethos of “Do No Evil,” it should attempt to serve its users in the best way possible.

To reiterate, though, to the extent that we do not understand all of Google’s algorithms, we cannot definitively say if its results are biased or not.  So for the time being, it seems like it would be more productive to accept Google as it is and work to make sure our pages rank highly given the tools available and strategies that have been proven to work.  In the end, only white hat SEO strategies are scalable and predictable.  This means that having quality, unique content hosted by good domain names with high-quality websites linking to that content will continue to pay big dividends whether you believe Google is biased or not. 

Tags: Advertising Age, algorithms, Digital Next, Google, Internet users, keyword domains, page rank, Search, SEO

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