A new study is out from two Harvard professors that, like many things academic, pretty much confirms what we knew already.
The study, by Prof. Benjamin Edelman and Benjamin Lockwood, found that Google search does have a bias to favor Google’s own products.
As the professors point out, Google occasionally does slip up and admit they play favorites.
While Google usually promises unbiased search results, we know of one context in which a senior Google executive admitted that it is company policy to give its own services preferred placement. At a 2007 conference, Google’s Marissa Mayer commented: “[When] we roll[ed] out Google Finance, we did put the Google link first. It seems only fair right, we do all the work for the search page and all these other things, so we do put it first… That has actually been our policy, since then, because of Finance. So for Google Maps again, it’s the first link.” We credit Mayer’s frank admission, and our analysis is consistent with her description of Google’s practices. But we’re struck by the divergence between her statement and Google’s public claims in every other context.
Of course, with SEO and spam links reaching a saturation point that is ruining Google search, directing people towards their own curated services might really be, as Google always claims, in the best interest of the user.
It is not, however, as the company also insists, a neutral or objective result.
bpopper at observer dot com – @benpopper