An intriguing situation involving the tech giant Google is taking place in the UK. Google has been mandated by a High Court judge to give an outside “SEO expert” an unfettered view into its highly confidential search ranking algorithm.
This set of circumstances has come as a result of a long-standing legal battle between Google and one of its price comparison competitors, Foundem. Foundem is alleging that Google deliberately lowered its search result rankings to favor themselves for profit from paid ads. Google is now left with a choice between allowing a third party expert access into its highly guarded search results algorithms or withdrawing them from the evidence to be used in their defense.
The documents Google has provided to the court are largely redacted, and Foundem’s lawyers are advocating that the redacted documents do not prove conclusively that Google’s search algorithm is responsible for Foundem’s lowered search ranking status. The accusation is that Google intentionally interferes with its search results to safeguard their Google Ad profit margins, and the evidence presented to the High Court is the basis of their argument to the contrary.
If Google displays search results that favor themselves on purpose, the company would be in violation of strict competition laws, essentially monopolizing the realm of online visibility. Despite publicly denying that Google has interfered with search results and maintaining that algorithmic updates are responsible for the correct ranking of results, it can not be denied that the company is increasingly layering its security to keep its inner workings under wraps.
The Purpose of the Company
The purpose of the company is to provide searchers with the types of results they want to see. The practice of influencing the outcome of searches to display search results that favor big businesses, major websites, and Google itself would be contradictory to their own statements, and illegal in some cases. Google does admit that its engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to improve the quality of its search algorithms. Google also admits that it changes ranking or results based on key quality criteria, but that does not necessarily mean they are rigging the game.
Wall Street Journal Reporters Speak Out
The Wall Street Journal’s recent article titled “How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results,” boldly alleges that Google actively influences the outcome of search results to benefit political and financial interests for their own ends, rather than benefiting users. They go on to say that Google keeps blacklists of sites it wishes to remove from certain types of search results to steer public opinion and global market trends. The article also discusses how to autocomplete suggestions, along with knowledge panels and featured snippets, are filtered for content that might be deemed inflammatory to some users.
It’s hard to say whether or not it is true that Google has made an effort to intentionally interfere with search results to reduce traffic to certain sites or prevent users from seeing the most relevant data. And there is no way of knowing if Google is allowing or encouraging Google employees to evaluate its search results and to overwrite relevant search results with those that are more in line with Google’s narrative. If this is true, however, this could potentially influence SEO rankings, or remove certain sites altogether, by stacking the deck with search results that Google deems to be “user friendly,” rather than showing the most relevant information to the searcher’s query. This would result in more clicks for certain sites, thereby perpetuating their favorability with Google’s algorithm’s rankings.
These accusations are controversial, to say the least. And if Google interferes and changes your results to the extent that WSJ alleges they do, this could mean trouble for businesses in the future. Google maintains that their primary focus is on the user and that their search result algorithm’s only purpose is to assess the quality of data and provide users with the most relevant information.
In a blog article responding to one of WSJ’s accusations, Google gave feedback to one particular issue. “Our support for the principles underlying an open internet is shared by many academics and institutions who have a long history of undertaking research on these topics—across important areas like copyright, patents, and free expression. We provide support to help them undertake further research, and to raise awareness of their ideas.”
This particular accusation raised the concern that Google heavily funds research from academics to cast a positive light on itself and Google employees. This may be true to some extent, but that is a common practice among many businesses. Google argues that some of the scholarly work it has funded makes arguments against some of Google’s practices, giving them a more neutral position in this matter.
Despite publicly denying these kinds of accusations, Google has yet to make a full public statement addressing the allegations brought against them by the Wall Street Journal, and it’s somewhat unlikely that they will.
We do not wish to take a stance on this issue of whether or not Google interferes with the ranking of results to favor big businesses and major websites; we can only make assessments based on what we have seen and what has worked for us. What we have found in our work is that, as Google has stated on many occasions, publishing high-quality information on a technically optimized website can and does bring results.
We have closely observed patterns in Google’s frequent algorithm updates, along with trends in the market, and we have developed a cutting edge, AI-driven process that can produce #1 page rankings within minutes. And we can do this with 100% white hat practices, protecting your website from being penalized by Google.
If you would like to learn more about how this process can work for your business or would like us to assess the quality of your website, do not hesitate to contact us.