University students don’t question Google from PC World reports on a recent study named In Google We Trust: Users’ Decisions on Rank, Position, and Relevance.
The study surveyed 22 Cornell University students on the Google search results. The conclusion of the study showed that these students trusted Google’s ranking of the search results at a higher rate, even when the abstracts (snippets) of the lower results were more “relevant” to their search query.
Here is part of the summary:
In summary, the findings here show that college student subjects are heavily influenced by the order in which the results are presented and, to a lesser extent, the actual relevance of the abstracts. These subjects trust Google in that they click on abstracts in higher positions even when the abstracts are less relevant to the task. When looked at in combination, the behavioral data (clicked choices) and the ocular data indicate that while there might be some implicit awareness of the conflict between the displayed position and their own evaluation of the abstracts, it is either not enough, or not strong enough, to override the effects of displayed position.
If you continue reading, you will notice the researcher theorized that the rich on Google, keep getting even richer.
Combining users’ proclivity to trust ranked results with Google’s algorithm increases the chances that those “already rich” by virtue of nepotism get “filthy rich” by virtue of robotic searchers. Smaller, less affluent, alternative sites are doubly punished by ranking algorithms and lethargic searchers.