This amused me. After reading on Slashdot how Google “claim the top ad position for searches relevant to its own products” I tried a few tests. The first one I tried was for the word “search”:
I noted that in my results Google was not claiming the top ad spot; what amused me more was the place of MSN search in the result list: no 1.
My hunch is that MSN gets a boost from having the word “search” in the url. An impressive lack of bias from Google.
Note that your results may (will) vary. It’s dangerous to draw any general conclusions about Google ranking from your own searches, because the search engine takes into account both your location and your previous search history. Potentially it knows even more than that about your browsing habits, if you use a product like Google Toolbar or the phishing filter that sends a record of every page visited back to the mothership, though I’m not sure how much if any of this data is used to optimize searches.
Think of it like Amazon. You go there, and all your favourite music or books are there on the front page. That’s just your history being echoed back at you, not a reliable indication of what Amazon is promoting.
As far as the Slashdot piece goes, all I can say is: case not proven.