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Opinion: Google is biased toward reputation-damaging content
Why does reputation-damaging content seem to appear so quickly in Google’s search results? Columnist Chris Silver Smith outlines his theory on why Google's algorithm can give negative content greater ranking ability than it deserves.
If you or your company have seen something that harms your reputation abruptly appear in Google’s search results, you may be wondering how and why something negative could appear so fast — and how it gained against longer-established materials. It’s pretty simple, though: Google’s algorithm likes it better. Let me explain.
First of all, Google has worked very hard to interpret user intent when searches are conducted. It’s not easy to fathom what people may be seeking when they submit a keyword or a keyword phrase.
When someone searches for “pizza,” for instance, Google may assume that most of the time people are seeking local pizza providers, so it provides Map search results of local pizza restaurants, personalized to the locality of the searcher. But it also provides links to pages from nationwide pizza websites that deliver, as well as lists of top area pizza places, the Wikipedia article for “pizza,” and more.
Since Google cannot always divine a specific intention when a user submits a search query, it’s evolved to using something of a scattergun approach — it tries to provide a variety of the most likely sorts of things that people are generally seeking when submitting those keywords. When this is the name of a business or a person, Google commonly returns things like the official website of the subject, resumes, directory pages, profiles, business reviews and social media profiles.
Part of the search results variety Google tries to present includes fresh content: newly published things like news articles, videos, images, blog posts and so on.
Another aspect of Google’s desire to present a search results page with a variety of content is the company’s effort to reduce duplicate content. As Google says in its help page about duplicate content, “Google tries hard to index and show pages with distinct information.”
Google makes this all look easy, but for nearly any keyword query, there are typically many thousands of pages that are determined to be more or less relevant, and determining what comes up at the top on the first page of results is complex and difficult.
Unfortunately, Google seems to have embedded a bias in the system (or a few biases), which in many instances gives negative content greater ranking ability than it deserves.
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