It’s been a busy few weeks for Google. Why? Because it has had to defend itself over claims of brand favoritism in its local, organic and paid search results.
Google has allegedly been accused of favoring major brands over suggested queries on Google Instant.
This has forced Google to hit back. In a recent interview for Fast Company Amit Singhal, Google’s head of search, denied all allegations of any bias towards certain brands.
We didn’t want to introduce any bias into the mathematical modeling–our modeling is predicting, given a letter, what’s the probability of completion.
Most people typing A are seeing Amazon, but that probability is predicting that most people typing A are going to complete to Amazon. If you type T, most people typing T will go to Target. That’s the probability model. If you add R to it (“Tr”), most people are looking for a translation system. It’s actually just pure mathematical modeling.
But this statement contradicts recent data released by Advertising Age. Just after the launch of Google Instant in October, Advertising Age made a list of the alphabet according to Google Instant. It revealed that well-known brands like AOL, Bank of America, eBay, Staples, Target, and Verizon were getting the top spots for keyword ranking. At the same time it was also pointed out that for 21 letters of the 26 alphabets known, Google’s first suggestion is a big brand name.
Here is an example just for travel related brands that appear regularly in Google Instant suggestions:
- Jetblue, first for J
- Expedia, third for E
- Kayak, third for k
- Disneyland, fourth for D
- Southwest, fourth for S
Apart from this Google also faces allegations of favoritism from known names like Tripadvisor.com, Yelp.com, webMD.com etc that Google is directing users to their own products (maps, videos etc) which results in traffic loss for the others.
Since mid October (just before Google announced the latest change to the way its search engine shows information about local businesses), traffic to the TripAdvisor site from Google dropped by more than 10%, on a seasonally adjusted basis.
What do you think? Are Google’s search results best for users or for Google itself? Feel free to share your thoughts below.