Are Google'sOne Box Results Unethical?

Nov 16, 2010 • 8:25 am | comments (2) by | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Benjamin Edelman latest study named Hard-Coding Bias in Google "Algorithmic" Search Results tries to prove how Google hard codes their own links into the first results.

I will be honest, I have a serious problem with this "evidence." Edelman is known to be a solo watchdog on Google, but at the same time, he is extremely thorough and smart.

First let me give you his summary but take 5 minutes to read his evidence yourself:

I present categories of searches for which available evidence indicates Google has "hard-coded" its own links to appear at the top of algorithmic search results, and I offer a methodology for detecting certain kinds of tampering by comparing Google results for similar searches. I compare Google's hard-coded results with Google's public statements and promises, including a dozen denials but at least one admission. I tabulate affected search terms and examine other mechanisms also granting favored placement to Google's ancillary services. I conclude by analyzing the impact of Google's tampering on users and competition, and by proposing principles to block Google's bias.

The thing is, do you consider the one box results to be algorithmic? Personally, I am not sure. They are not Google's organic results. They are content databases, structured data, Google owns or licenses, to give searchers quick answers. Bing does it, does it, Yahoo does it - everyone does it. Those are placed on the top, only when Google or the other search engines think the searcher is looking for an immediate answer.

You can argue the content isn't great and there may be better organic, algorithmic results - that is fine. I just don't see those one box results as algorithmic and thus I don't consider them to be hard coded algorithmic results.

Of course, whenever Google does come out with a new one box. Be it for weather, stock info, medical info or airline data - those sites that rank well for those types of terms do feel slighted. Yes, Google is pushing down their algorithmic results to place their paid, structured content above it. Is that fair? I don't know. But is Google hand coding their algorithmic results? It is a matter of definition and I think not.

Take my poll:

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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