Search engines are one of the most influential tools for retrieving any kind of information nowadays.
Shoppers, students, teachers, businesses, artists and the rest of the population with access to the Internet relies on them to provide them answers to their questions in a split second. But should we trust the pages we find on search results?
For people not working in the world of Internet marketing, and this is the majority of the population, they may not have any idea how the process of finding information online really works. They directly go to Google ‘s homepage (or any other search engines like bing, yahoo or yandex to name a few), type their query in the search box, click on one of the results and get spoon fed with information in less than a second.
But before you trust anything you read online, you must know that search results often provide the only information people seek about. Instead of finding a broader spectrum of information you want, there is a great chance that the results you saw merely support a single existing opinion and bolster your pre-conceived notions about a particular topic, question or controversy.
What some people do not know is that Google has never promised to show the most pertinent or 100% accurate answers to every query. Furthermore, they are not mandated nor entitled to provide the most recent information to their users.
That is the reason why you can still find articles from 10 years ago (that may no longer be correct) to this day. What this search giant promises to its users is to deliver the most relevant results based on the keyword or keyword phrases used.
For regular users with no knowledge of the process of search, they may assume the results as truthful information and take them on blind faith. Many people believe that the results of the search engines are accurate and unbiased, when in fact, a single missing keyword makes a massive impact on the information shown on the results page.
Google is not really in the business of providing correct and accurate results – rather, it is an advertising company that considers its users as the primary commodity of their organization. Of course, some people will disagree with this notion.
If you look at it in a marketing perspective and compare search results to a commercial of a paying brand in a television channel, Google somehow serves the same purpose – to promote the goods and services of paying companies (alongside organic search results) by the use of an algorithmic system.
Before you completely dismiss the credibility of the search results of any search engine, you need to understand that they also personalize search results by investigating a user’s online behavior.
First, the search engine tracks the queries you have made before in the search engine. It also obtains your clickstream data. Second, it monitors your social accounts and reviews the people in your email and reviews your social network channels and other communication tools. Finally, Google also detects your whereabouts to narrow down a search query.
That means your personalized results will be a combination of your interests, the related groups you belong to or interested at and the location where you conducted your search query.
But are these three factors enough basis to provide the best and most relevant results?
If you think about it, Google can easily and subtly manipulate the results page to favor paying businesses and advertisers. After all, this massive digital marketing company has no obligation to the person using a free service.
So why do people trust search engines?
The truth is, there is no clear-cut answer. Some experts speculate that people trust search engines so much because they present a “good enough” answer for the time being. Many users look for brief and quick explanations, and this is what search engines exactly provide.
In the light of the controversy of fake news spreading like wildfire in the world wide web, it is the user’s responsibility to proactively apply critical thinking skills and skepticism to determine whether the information they have gathered is truthful or not.
Just because an article shows up on the first page of Google does not mean it is the correct answer to your question. If the search engine has provided an incorrect answer, then you as a user may not be aware that anything is amiss.