A survey was recently conducted by Digital Examiner that asked 1000 people if they thought that Google’s search results were biased in any way. The response was that 27.8% of people did not think so, and 52.3% believed that there was some type of bias. This might not be too surprising in today’s political climate where it seems like everyone on both sides of the aisle believes that everyone who doesn’t agree with them is biased in some way, but people’s perceptions do have a big impact on brands and marketing.
In addition to the divisive environment in America today, Google has been getting some ‘bias related’ press about them that undoubtedly helped to contribute to people’s opinions. They fired the conservative developer whose ‘open letter’ was released to the company, which many conservatives had a big issue with. Interestingly, however, Google has had reports of having a right wing bias for years by many people, especially when it comes to their Google News service.
This seems to be one of those rare situations where both republicans and democrats can agree, Google is biased. Of course, they have opposing ideas on which direction that bias flows in the company. People’s opinions on topics like this are, of course, biased. So, what is the truth? Is Google biased, and if so, toward which ‘side.’ SEO company CanlRank attempted to look into this objectively.
They came up with a list of 50 keywords or phrases that were politically sensitive (Trump, Clinton, Abortion, etc). They then pulled the top 40 search results for each of them. From there, they had a bipartisan panel rank the search results based on how they felt the results reflected political views. The results were ranked from 1 to 5 with a 1 representing a hard left viewpoint and a 5 representing a hard right viewpoint. The results were as follows:
- 56% of all the results that showed up on the first page of the search results displayed some type of political bias.
- Left leaning viewpoints (1 or 2 ratings) were 41% more likely to show up in the top 40 results than right leaning view points (4 or 5).
The question remains, however, is this Google’s bias or does this just reveal that left leaning sites are better at SEO. It is obvious that Google doesn’t go through and manually rank results. Those who believe Google is biased in their search results are really saying that they believe that Google somehow programs into their algorithm a left (or right) bias. This seems unlikely, especially given the fact that all marketers understand that search rankings can be influenced greatly by many factors.
For marketers, knowing people’s opinion of Google is important and could be used to help drive traffic or even to choose other advertising or marketing platforms. Whatever the case, Google will likely try to improve their ‘image’ as an unbiased source of search results, and people will continue to claim they are biased no matter what a survey says.