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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Google Accused of Favoring Big Brands in Search Results

Posted by @ 6:57 pm
9
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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.



Courtney Mills Courtney is an online marketing and communications specialist at ineedhits - a leading search engine marketing firm with over 16 years experience. Courtney has been living and breathing online marketing for over 5 years. She specializes in web and communication marketing, while providing news and opinion to online marketing communities.

View Courtney Mills's profile






Discussion (9 - comments)

As a rule of thumb, Google favors the ones with the deepest pockets.

By WayneW - December 17, 2010



Intersting observation. My gut opionion is that these searches are driven by popularity or daily traffic and the over optimization of these websites. While we can debate if results are skewed, I think we can all agree that larger websites +5000 pages(if developed correctly) have an extraordinary advantage over smaller sites. With this said I believe that Google should take the lead and separate ‘Directory style websites’ in it’s search results. Much like they already do with Video, Maps and Image searching. That would be a step in the right direction in helping to level the playing field. Fat chance. After all who said that life was fair?

By Rick Vidallon - December 17, 2010



Yes we believe from our experience google does skew results. Just as they do with false hits. We monitored with our own software the amount of hits we were getting vs google ad charges and of course we paid for hits we never received. When we contacted google about it a half a dozen times we received no real response just a ” yea we are working on it” type of response with no real results. As it was just for a minor amount of money it wasn’t worth our time pursuing it but multiply a few false hits here and a few hits there by millions of hits and you have quite a large number.
Isn’t it funny how they want you to use their hit tracker when you setup your ads. Duh !

As far as google being all about pushing their own products to the front of the line, we think that was the big picture plan all along.

Anybody who trusts any big business now in the US after all thats happened in the past couple of years is a fool.

Good Luck.

By Rocky Bolder - December 18, 2010



I’d be interested in a study looking into which sites contribute to Democratic Party causes and how they are ranked relative to companies that do not…specifically those that contribute to Republican (or free market) causes. There has to be some hidden value judgments here. Any company that gives Al Gore several million dollars in stock has got to have a bias of some type. Also, look into sites that criticize the administration or leftist causes and compare their ranks to sites that promote the administration of leftist causes.

By Robert - December 21, 2010



Wayne is right. They go for all the money they can get from you and then lie to you. I tried the Direct Placement with Google. Suppose to stay in fist, second or third place on the first page of a Google search. Well, they had me all over the place, at times middle of the second page and at times, not listed at all. I spoke with Google several times I was not getting what was guaranteed to me by Google for way too much monthy expense. Had to get rid of them. They will not stand behind what they promise their paying customers.

By Margie Matthews - December 22, 2010



Wayne is right. They go for all the money they can get from you and then lie to you. I tried the Direct Placement with Google. Suppose to stay in fist, second or third place on the first page of a Google search. Well, they had me all over the place, at times middle of the second page and at times, not listed at all. I spoke with Google several times I was not getting what was guaranteed to me by Google for way too much monthy expense. Had to get rid of them. They will not stand behind what they promise their paying customers.

By Joanna Wall - January 12, 2011



Rocky Bolder’s comment above is absolutely correct. Google is out for themselves and the real purpose for their existence has pretty much been forgotten.

As far as favoring big business. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind and those of many other folks I have talked with that Google favors big business. In fact, it’s a given and to be expected.

Now of course that could translate into deeper pockets as was also mentioned. However, it all comes down to relevancy and ultimately how useful the SERP’s are to the end user.

You see, the fact remains that if Google isn’t providing the search experience they have been known for, they will ultimately go the way of the dinosaur. It could be that they are hoping to grab enough market share in other areas so that when this happens it will be inconsequential.

The long and short is that even multi-billion dollar corporations depend on John, living in apartment 25, over on Bleaker St, to stay successful. There are of course exceptions, no doubt, but I don’t think Google is one of them.

By Jordan - February 23, 2011



[...] Google Favoring Big Brands in local, organic and paid [...]

By SEO, SERPS, Is There a Google Search Engine Fairy? | GROWMAP.COM - February 25, 2011



[...] Whilst Bonbrand needs all the hits it can get I do not think we ever need to worry about ‘Google Accused of Favoring Big Brands in Search Results’ but for those interested read the full story on ‘I need hits’ [...]

By Bon Brand » Mistakes with Bonbrand Need for Hits - January 4, 2012




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