Despite competition from countless other search engines, Google remains the undisputed search champion. A recent report released by web traffic monitor Hitwise revealed that 9 out of 10 UK Internet searches are conducted on Google. Although the brand has diversified in recent years, much of Google’s success is attributed to its impressive functionality combined with its simplistic interface. However, as the company continues to aggressively mix organic search results with sponsored and personalised matches, many users of the service are concerned that Google are fixing its natural results.
How Google Works
Many users don’t realise that the websites that are produced from a Google search have been subject to a finely tuned ranking and ordering system. This is to deter webmasters and web designers from undeservedly pushing themselves to the top of the results. By using a combination of indexing and PageRank optimisation algorithms, Google is able to weigh the importance of webpages and their relevance to the search query from the user.
Google has always stressed that they employ algorithms so that other websites can’t force themselves to the top of the search results. Over the years, Google have refined their methods so that their search engine results would not be affected by spamming or manipulation methods, like Google bombing. Although the exact workings of Google’s algorithms are secretive, the service maintains that the results provided are as accurate to what the user is searching for as possible. However, as a typical Google search now results in more and more advertisements being displayed, many are questioning the once infallible techniques and methods of the search engine giant.
Organic Results Vs Advertising
The majority of search queries entered in Google will show advertisements alongside organic results. For example, searching for a toaster will display a pane at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) and at the side. Both panes have a small heading above them reading ‘Ads’, so that users know what the organic results are and what the paid advertisements are. Google maintain that their advertising is distinguishable from organic results, and users should not be confused. However, the mere presence of advertisements with trusted organic results suggest that the companies who have paid for advertising can be trusted.
Advertisers are well aware that, if they are listed on Google’s SERP, their products and services will automatically gain an increased level of trust and worth because it seems that Google are suggesting them to users. Despite Google’s insistence that it is easy to tell the difference between adverts and organic, it can still be difficult to determine where the advertisements finish and where the organic results start. For some search queries, the SERP will also display the Google Maps interface with markers for promoted businesses. As sometimes more than half of the Google SERP is dedicated to advertising, it is not unfair to assume that users who are not particularly Internet-savvy can easily mistake advertising for organic.
Accusations Of Manipulation
Although Google’s stance has always been that advertisements do not influence organic results in any way, they have been subject to recent allegations that advertisers and promoters who spend more on AdWords will also receive higher search result rankings. As part of a huge anti-trust investigation carried out by the European Commission, Google have been asked if preferential treatment has been given to paying advertisers. The advertisers themselves have also been questioned as to whether Google has ever suggested that paying for advertisements will boost their supposedly organic rankings.
Although Google is adamant that their organic results are in no way affected by paid promoters and that their recent advertising push is just so that they can stay competitive, users of the search engine may continue to grow suspicious as they notice more and more adverts mixed in with their organic results. References Hitwise Report.
About Author: Daniel Hutson is a tech and marketing blogger at SEO Brighton. One of the Sussex’s leading SEO service providers, Daniel enjoys science, the web, graphic design and retro video gaming. Follow Daniel on twitter here.