Google favours big brands over diversity

Google has made a change to its search algorithm that means most of the results shown for a search may now come from a single domain. Previously, it would only show a couple of results from one domain, on the assumption that users would prefer to select from a diversity of results.

The example chosen by searchengineland is a good one. Search for Apple iPod and you get a page that is mostly links to Apple’s site.

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If you search for the single word ipod you get more diversity – odd, since only Apple manufacture the ipod so you could argue that the searches are the same. Some people use ipod as a generic name for MP3 player, but that doesn’t seem to be reflected; all the results still relate to Apple’s device.

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Personally I’d rather see diversity. I don’t see the need for this change, since the site summary with deep links works well when a particular domain closely matches the search term. You can see an example of this in the top result for the ipod search above. Note that it even has a link for “More results from apple.com”. What is the value of suppressing the results from other domains?

The overall impact is that big brands benefit, while smaller businesses and new entrants to markets suffer. It also makes independent comment that bit harder to find.

While to most of us changes like these are only of passing interest, to some they make the difference between a flourishing business and a dead one. Google has too much power.

Incidentally, I generally find Google significantly better than Bing, now its major competitor. However in this case Bing impresses, with categories such as reviews, prices, accessories, manuals and so on; and in the case of the Apple ipod search, a better balance between the official site and independents.

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1 comment to Google favours big brands over diversity

  • I can understand (or guess) why Google gets brand-focused when someone uses ‘Apple’ in search terms: because most people searching for ‘Apple’ will click on an apple.com result.

    More diversity would be good, but if someone’s just typed ‘ipod’ then they’ll either want info about the ipod (and will want to look at Apple) or will want to buy one (and Apple want everyone to buy it straight from them), so I can see how Google is acting logically. It might not even be a conscious decision on their part – perhaps more of a shift in priority for Google’s algorithms based on a growing percentage of people buying direct from Apple.

    On the other hand, Google would do well to group results from a certain domain together. So put the top result from apple.com at the top and then put ‘more from apple.com’ underneath it, then do the same with whichever domain comes second in popularity. They do it for headlines on their news feed, so it would make sense to do it here too.