Brand Bias & the Thought Police

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search-engine-results-favor-big-brandsA search and social opinion piece has been incubating in my mind for several weeks, first instigated by one of my favorite instigators, Aaron Wall.

In May 2011, Aaron pointed out yet another Google hypocrisy; Google admitted to brand bias in search results. He also details Google’s pro-brand history from 2003 to present.

For months, I’ve let this simmer, wondering how this would fit into any SEO strategy since my client roster doesn’t include any big consumer brand.

Then a month ago, Eric Taubert, an unconventional thinker, posted a TED video with the provocative title, “What Facebook and Google are Hiding From the World.” The speaker implores us (or anyone who spends any time online, which would be most of the world) to break out of the “algorithmic bubble.”

As someone who’s watched “natural” search become more and more unnatural, I was heartened to hear someone else recognize that the Emperor Wears No Clothes. These two gigantic portals, one a closed society (Facebook) and the other pretending its doors are open to all (Google) are collectively shaping what we see and, by extension, what we think.

When we allow Google to determine the direction of our queries, we risk letting a company, who’s tagline is “Do No Evil”, erect the technological equivalent of the Berlin Wall. How ironic?

When I say “pretend,” you only need to read Aaron’s thorough outing to see that the system is “gamed” or study the search engine results page (SERPs) for any competitive keyword query.

Google continues to push Adwords into first place positions funneling traffic to larger companies (read: brands) that pay more for their ads.

Smaller businesses will continue to lose out in competitive search spaces, which is not a news flash to most online marketers. If your business is fighting to be placed above the fold and in a first place position, you’re either going to have to pay for it or pick a better fight if you’re competing for high value keyword terms.

While Facebook used to be an economical alternative to Google Adwords, I had one client tell me that his Facebook ads are now three times as expensive as they were when he started his campaign a year ago.

I knew when I read the SEOBook article that Aaron was onto something; I just had to wait for a few more pieces of the puzzle before the cold scary reality set in:

Search engines don’t want to simply own your desktop; they also want to steal your money and own your mind.

Photo credit: Idea go


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