Recently, various news sites and SEO agencies have researched how Google is biased.
But is there any truth to this fact? Let’s find out in this piece what studies have to say.
SEO experts and academicians through such research have often concluded that Google has potential biases toward promoting large brands, their products, and services. Even further, some studies have shown that Google modifies the search results to satisfy a specific audience base.
In doing so, webpreneurs and content creators, who solely depend upon search engine optimizations to draw organic traffic and don’t spend money on PPC marketing, fall behind in the race to occupy better positions on SERPs.
However, you can combat such algorithmic injustice by creating meaningful content on trending topics and firm linking profiles across the web. Individual SEO efforts have limitations – you can seek professional help from reliable growth-centric agencies like Authority Magnet.
Before we investigate how Google is biased, it’s necessary to understand the search engine algorithm and how it works. Moreover, a content analyst should also be aware of the ranking factors that Google considers to crawl, index, and rank sites and content.
What is a Search Engine Algorithm?
An algorithm is a machine language-oriented process that helps search engines get relevant results for a user’s search query. It forms the inner foundation of a search engine’s operation and considers factors like keyword usage, search volume, backlinks, and domain authority.
Every search engine has a unique and complex algorithm that retrieves data from its storage for the user. Google has several complicated algorithms running at the same time.
According to Moz, designers have programmed Google algorithms to read the ulterior meaning of search queries. Likewise, they pull out a suitable set of results that match the user’s search intent.
Google’s complex algorithm analyzes texts, checks the keyword density, considers the backlink counts, and weighs other on-page and off-site optimization factors to find relevant web pages that serve the search intent. Some algorithms examine a web page’s social media recommendations and audience base.
These factors, checking the authenticity of the content or its potential to reach a broader audience base, build a webpage.
Note: A search engine should have numerous algorithms working in unison to make accurate information appear in different content formats on your screen.
What Are The Google Ranking Factors?
As per Backlinko’s analysis, Google uses over 200 ranking factors to determine its position on the search engine result page. With millions of online sites delivering content every few seconds, combating the SEO game can be difficult for many.
We have segregated these ranking factors into five essential categories:
1. On-page Factors
Google bots consider every factor appearing on the content webpage as on-site factors. Under this category, the target keywords and their position throughout the content hold the most value.
It further considers the content quality, text freshness and length, interlinking profile, and latent semantic keywords. In addition, the page’s loading speed, mobile responsiveness, image optimization, and broken links are a few of the necessary factors that can influence a page’s search engine positioning.
2. Website Factors
Besides the factors that focus only on the page, search engine crawlers consider every component that affects the site structure. Such factors include site architecture, sitemaps, site updates, domain authority, server locations, E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), and site usability.
According to search engine specialists, a website with optimized architecture means both Google bots and users will feel comfortable navigating. Such a website condition increases the user’s dwell time and allows the crawlers to move freely.
3. User Engagement
Google prioritizes websites that interact with users, compels them to dwell longer on web pages, and reduces their bounce rate. Therefore, the algorithm checks the content’s click-through rate, traffic quality, user comments, bookmarks, and RankBrain results.
4. Domain Factors
These factors influence your website’s domain quality and authenticity. The algorithm tests the domain registration, history and age, and the keyword positioning in the domain and sub-domain title.
5. Backlink Factors
The more backlinks a website earns, the better optimized the site is. Such factors include alt tags, anchor texts, the number of links the domain earns, the quality of the backlinks, and homepage authority. Remember, acquiring backlinks ensures Google that your content is niche-relevant and authoritative to a desired target audience.
Appoint reliable link builders like Authority Magnet to find active and long-lasting links.
What is Google Bias?
A search engine produces thousands of relatable posts for every search query. But searchers only read the first few posts, ignoring the vast scale of available search results.
That’s because when Google’s algorithm selects results and ranks them according to their factors, searchers often consider the top ten articles or results as the most trustworthy.
However, often Google’s algorithm has shown human intervention through its ranking system to satisfy a specific group audience. In this way, the search engine can rank popular brand sites higher on the SERP.
The search engine uses a popularity scale called PageRank to understand the audience’s interests. PageRank is a web page ranking algorithm that Google Search uses to determine SERP positions. This algorithm counts the inbound links the site receives as popular votes.
But PageRank doesn’t count these links uniformly.
That’s to say, PageRank counts inbound links from popular websites and holds more value than links from lesser-known sites. Such an unequal selection technique creates a bias in the search results.
Through the PageRank method, Google is promoting websites with higher economic power. It’s because they spend more money on content marketing and SEO optimization.
As a result, such commercially powerful websites will gain the first three positions on the SERP. Moreover, the pages will attract more traffic and continue to gain popularity.
By doing so, Google is prioritizing popularity-based ranking, ignoring minority websites that struggle to break into the popularity race.
Therefore, Google bias is the phenomenon when the search engine algorithm modifies the user experience and manipulates the search results for commercial benefits.
In other words, the search engine alters a searcher’s perception of the type of online information and where to find them.
3 Studies That Show Google is Biased
The digital world is torn between varied opinions on algorithm bias and the factors responsible for it. Each SEO expert and tech consultant practices their points of view about Google’s biases.
Studying bias-based observations and Google’s changing algorithms, they have conjectured PageRank, SEO, and paid advertisements are a few factors that trigger search engine biases.
Here are three observations from prominent SEO agencies answering your question, ‘is Google biased?’
1. Search Engine Journal
According to Dr Baeza–Yates, Yahoo Labs’ former Chief Research Scientist, we can divide the bias in search engines into three categories:
- Statistical: It’s a systematic deviation from the original distribution. Such biases may include the sampling process, validity, and gathering process.
- Cultural: It’s a search and recommender system deviation caused by judgments and interpretations of daily life. Biases on economic, educational, and technological grounds are examples of cultural biases.
- Cognitive: It’s another type of bias that deviates from our usual norm or rationality in judgment. Such biases are also known as confirmation biases.
And how does that affect the search and recommended system?
Google improves its algorithm and user experience by considering explicit user feedback. However, the search engine algorithm compromises the user’s experience.
The search engine has made particular choices for its users; it provides data that reinforces a user’s desires and affirms their beliefs. That’s how the searchers unknowingly consider them the standard search results.
For instance, you have typed ‘Silicon Valley’ on the search bar. As a result, Google brings you a knowledge graph on the American comedy series followed by other relevant ones. However, for the same target keyword, somebody else might get information on the global tech region of the same name in North California.
How’s that possible?
The algorithm tracks your interests, the last ad clicks, and the most searched results. Depending on these pieces of information, Google creates a filter bubble around you. The search engine provides only the data which matches your inclinations.
Therefore, search engines create an ecosystem for users by reinforcing information that affirms their beliefs.
2. Search Engine Land
Amidst the raging Google bias issue, Search Engine Land’s 2020 study did not find any biases on Google’s part in ranking or content promotion.
Yet, searchers have often complained about Google promoting big brands while neglecting blogs or small business websites.
According to SEMRush’s top 10 websites, a non-profit website, Wikipedia, tops the search result after the usual social media sites. Furthermore, it receives four times more traffic than commercial websites like Amazon. The non-profit website also receives 32 times more traffic than the official pages of Apple.
Wikipedia still holds its position in the top 10 most visited websites in 2023. Only, the non-profit site is preceded by a few social media domains.
With this argument, Search Engine Land proclaims Google shows no partiality toward big brands. Had it been so, a non-profit website wouldn’t have topped the list.
Besides commercial websites, Google is prioritizing personal blogs as well. Often, sending organic traffic to personal blogs can be challenging since most users with their blogs are on sub-domains. However, Medium, a website that supports individual blogs, is one of the top 300 websites with high organic search rates.
Note: Medium’s organic traffic has been skyrocketing steadily over the years.
In addition, Medium blogs appear against over 231 thousand keywords, most of which are non-branded.
In one of Moz’s studies, it became clear that Google prioritizes its own sources and image database over others. Content analysts and algorithm experts experimented with search bars to understand how Google’s doing it.
They entered ‘Keanu Reeves’ in the search bar, and Google presented a knowledge graph with the images. Hovering the cursor on the image will show you the origin of the source. But, on clicking one of the images, the server redirected the user to a Google image that wasn’t distantly relevant to the keyword.
From this experiment, the researchers suspected that Google might have begun an image database and prioritized it over others. They took the image from the knowledge graph and ‘searched by image’ to understand better how Google functions with images.
They discovered the same image has three different sources, but neither of the pictures is visible to the user. From this incident, the researchers confirmed Google has been storing these images in their database without exposing the original source address.
Factors Responsible For Google Bias
Though experts are still debating the possible length and process of Google biases, they have often speculated about the responsible elements. Here are two core factors that often lead to search engine bias:
1. Paid Searches
Google reserves the top tier of the search engine results page for paid search results.
In other words, web owners who intend to pay for better exposure on Google SERP get the topmost position irrespective of other determining factors like domain authority, backlinks, and other on-site and off-page factors.
According to web developers Larry Page and Sergey Brin, “The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.”
Their search engine prototype returned “The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention” because of its high importance and relevance to the topic.
Soon they concluded that their search engine wouldn’t be able to return such results because they had taken money for displaying mobile ads.
Page and Brin further remark, “For this type of reason and historical experience with other media, we expect that advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.”
2. Updated Algorithms
According to Search Engine Land, “In 2020, Google made 4,500 changes to search. This number includes changes to its ranking system, user interface and more. Plus, Google ran more than 600,000 experiments. That means Google search is changing, on average, 12 times per day.”
In other words, the search engine’s frequent algorithm updates baffle content analysts and marketers. They could only develop an outsider’s perspective, meaning they cannot exploit the algorithm’s full potential and thus fall behind in the SERP ranking.
The algorithm is substantially complex and often beyond comprehension for Google engineers. Above this, the search engine magnate encourages this confusion for intelligent digital property ownership and security reasons.
Bonus Read: How To Set Up Google Alerts? (With 5 SEO Use Cases).
Google isn’t the perfect and most neutral search machine. Being a human-designed entity, the search engine can show its inclination towards various aspects and divide information according to its pre-built principles.
The common perception about search engines is that it combs through the database and other external sources to provide the most suitable search result.
Hardly anyone realizes that Google often changes the user experience by offering data that a searcher wishes to consume. As a result, the search engine deviates from the normative principle of providing what the user needs to what major advertisers want.
To keep soaring higher on the results page, it’s necessary to practice white hat strategies and keep Google bias-free. Contact Authority Magnet today to avail their expert assistance and beat the biased competition.