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Does Google tamper search results for its own benefit ?

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Google search has always been know for its impartial rankings. Infact, you can find hundreds and thousands of instances on the web where, Google employees have clearly mentioned that Google search engine results cannot be altered manually in any way. All the rankings are algorithmic, and completely automated.

However, in a small experiment run by Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, it came to forth that Google’s search results were not quite as they seemed.

Prof Edelmen used a comma test search tool to see the real results beneath Google’s altered ones and came to realise that Google’s own sites were been given higher placement than the organic search results really showed.

Normal Google Results for Cisco symbol “CSCO”

CSCO - Google Search

Google Results for Cisco symbol “CSCO” after putting Comma

CSCO  - Google Search - Main

The above experiment depicts that after putting the comma, the results changed to a large extent. The results which showed after putting the comma should have been the normal organically showed results in the first place.

The adjusted search results give Google a huge advantage. While Yahoo Finance is a far more popular and trafficked site as compared to Google Finance, organically shown results gave far more advantage to Google sites.

Prof Edelmen also gave examples for keywords like “ACNE”, where Google health got more priority although, it is not the most popular site for that term. Although, I must say this is not a fool-proof theory, it is a compelling evidence that Google is tampering with search results for their own advantage.

Would love to hear your comments on this!

  1. Ittina says

    Very nice, today I searched with the same terms as mentioned in this blog. It seems that Yahoo Finance is coming Up first for all almos all searches.

  2. Pradeep says

    Lets leave that guy now. Arun I appreciate your honest and sincere response and I am a regular follower of this blog.

    FM, You can say sorry even now :)

  3. ajay says

    Hi Arun,

    Interesting observation.Google is transparent or not we can not say but I’ve seen many instances where doubts can be raised for sure.

  4. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Wait till Google deals, places, travel etc etc are all in the pipeline and they will probably have a nice place at the top of the results but without a showcase box to highlight it.

    I just tried searching on Google for the following terms- news, shopping, books, blogs, MSFT etc. Where Google has market leading products and services like blogger.com or Google maps, the same appears on top. Where as for news – cnn was on top, shopping – shopping.com, etc. However Google books was a surprise when I searched for books, and Amazon was #2. Interesting

  5. liju philip says

    am sure Google does a lot of things with the data it collects about us. So, am not surprised that it manipulates the results. Am sure Yahoo, MSN etc do the same.

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Liju,

      The point is that Google has been saying over and over that they do not touch the results and everything is completely automated. While Yahoo / MSN dont say that ever….

  6. Altaf Rahman says

    By the way FM,
    Thank Trak for posting even your nasty comment with out bias. If you were running Trak, I am sure you would have deleted the comment unless it is praising the article.

  7. Altaf Rahman says

    My dear FM (Foot in Mouth)

    I dont know what to make of you. Either you are either a complete idiot and talking with your bottom or you also run a blog similar to Trak but are not successful due to worthless articles and can not digest the fact that Trak is enjoyable and vomiting here.

    First of all I am a regular reader of Trak and in no way connected to the blog founders and I like the content here. The topics are diverse

    1) Now coming to your points raised, you said its a shameless rip off. The author never claimed its his own discovery. He has given the link to the site from where he got the news. In fact the link you posted has only half the points. (See the difference in quality??) More over if you are a regular reader, you would have noticed that every article here comes with a link from where the author gathers the news. its a courtasy. Nobody is bragging that they discovered the news first hand. What do you expect? The author to do all the experiments and post his discoveries??

    2) Now dont talk on behalf of the whole reader community and what they like in this site. For me, I can not surf through millions of sites to get your so called “original” news. Trak is a place where they compile all the interesting news appearing in media so that people like me can read it. Some people like one topic some the other. Over all people get the news which is interesting / useful / informative to them. See?? My purpose of visiting Trak is different than yours? I am not saying most people have the same reason for visitng Trak like you did.

    3) You dont tell the author whether to make it a one line post or a full article. The author dicides that. If you think you could have made a one liner which could push more info than the author, you could have made a post and offered it to the blog to be posted.

    4) After writing all rude things, you are hoping that you were not rude. Let me give you a scenario.
    Suppose your friend called you for a party. You never called any one for party in yoru life. So you get jealous of your friend who regularly calls people for parties. With your stomack burning with inferiority complex, you go to his party and on flimsy ground that the food is not tasty, you throw the plate in your host face and shouting that he dont know how to organize a party. How does it look? So learn some manners in commenting. It reflects on your charector.

    Hope I am not rude to you and insulting you and spitting in your face :) ;)

    Cheers

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Hi Altaf,

      I appreciate you taking time and posting a detailed comment in my defense. I highly appreciate it.

      But, if I were you, I would not spend a single minute on such people, we should just leave them…there are always a few rotten eggs in the whole bunch…

      1. Madhav Shivpuri says

        Hi Arun,

        Altaf’s comment is praise worthy. Wish we could ‘Like’ it somehow. (May be there is a way to include a FB ‘Like’ button for the article or the comment or both?)

        (Again agree with Altaf) I also appreciate your transparency is letting such comments show instead of spamming or trashing the same. Kudos!

  8. FM says

    Shameless rip from http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/15/google_accused_of_hard_coding_own_results_into_search/

    you don’t have to write a full post for such one line news, besides it’s originality of this site which caters most reader including me.

    i hope i didn’t be rude with that!!

    cheers!!
    FM.

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      hahahaha…FM are you Newbie? I did not mention that I broke the news… neither did I mention anywhere that I have come up with this experiment. Infact, I have clearly mentioned who has done the experiment and given a link as well to his blog directly.

      Infact, to ensure that the Claim made by Prof. Edelmen was valid, I searched 2 keywords myself, and also posted screenshots (I copyrighted them, as I was the creator of those..) of the images.

      Anyways, I have grown thick-skinned over years to even bother spending time thinking about people like you….

      -Arun

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