Are Search Engines Biased?

Search Engines and Favoritism from Google Operating System has put together a quick study comparing the top results from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s search engines. The results showed that for 10 generic searches, the search engines (excluding Microsoft) tend to rank their own properties higher than their competitors.

For example, “Google ranked its own sites as #1 in 7 cases out of 10 and Yahoo in 6 cases out of 10,” said Ionut Alex Chitu. Ionut queried terms like mail, calendar, groups, toolbar, maps, desktop search, image search, video search, news search and search and plotted the results to show which engine ranked which engines where in their search results.

Google’s Matt Cutts denied that Google might give their own search results and preferential treatment.

If you’re talking about the algorithmic results, I can affirm that Google does not give any kind of boost to Google’s web pages.

Part of the differences may be how the companies choose to name and brand their products. For example, MSFT went with Hotmail rather than just mail, and they’re #1 for “hotmail.” Yahoo chose the name “local” for one of their services, and local.yahoo.com ranks #1 in Google for “local.” Google went with “Gmail” while Yahoo went with “Yahoo Mail,” so the #1 result for the search “mail” on Google is mail.yahoo.com.

I can’t speak to other search engines’ results, but I can say that Google doesn’t give any kind of boost to Google’s web pages in our algorithmic rankings.

All the search engines ranked Yahoo as the number one result for mail. But overall, it seemed like Google ranked their own properties higher than Yahoo or Microsoft, and Yahoo ranked their properties higher than Google or Microsoft.

You can create your own test cases at www.yahoogooglemsn.com.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: Relevancy

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://www.cnet.de wingthom

    If you don’t only look at rankings but on how many pages getting crawled the bias is obvious.

    Yahoo crawls 9 times more of its own content than from compitors, Live.com crawls 15 times more of its own content and Google crawls 1,06 times mor of its own content.

    Or in other words: Microsoft looks in its own Search engine 15 times bigger thant it really is, Yahoo 9 times bigger and Google shows a slightly bigger picture from itself.

    This needn’t be a bias by plan, only a side effect of Google being able to crawl almost the whole web and Live/Yahoo not being able to crawl external sites well.

    So if you use only one search engine you miss between 98 % and 90 % of the pages that are out there – a strong hint that a meta search engine like search.com and others really make sense if you need a big picture.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/wordpress/ Michael Martinez

    You’re dealing with very complex systems here. The claim of bias is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the fact that each search engine does its own crawling. They don’t shape their results from a common pool of crawled/indexed pages, so the mix going into each search engine’s calculations is unique.

    You would have to map out several hundred truly random queries (not selected by human testers) to get a better picture of bias. It’s quite possible that a “crawl bias” exists, if the search engines begin their outward crawls from their own content (which doesn’t make sense for Microsoft since they don’t really have a vetted directory like Yahoo! and Google).

  • http://www.seo4fun.com/blog/ Halfdeck

    You can’t deduce anything from looking at SERPs. When it comes to TBPR, people will easily note that there are 200 ranking factors, but when it comes to anti-Google propaganda, all logic apparently flies out the window.

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