By Alex Warren.
As this is my first ever blog post for the Backbencher, I thought I should write about something universally interesting that everyone could relate to, as such I chose search engine algorithms. (That’ll bring in the mainstream audience)
Last month Google released their latest update in a long line of changes designed to fix what, ultimately, isn’t broken. Following well-publicised updates such as Panda and Penguin, Google have chosen to move away from fluffy monochrome creatures, opting instead to name their latest tweak ‘Google Venice’.
In keeping with this rather sensible name, the impact of Venice is also rather serious. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Google Venice has provided one of the biggest alterations ever made to the search engine.
Despite the ground breaking nature of this update, outside of the search community, Google Venice has received less attention than a written feature in a porn mag. This may be a result of Google choosing to ‘hide’ the release amongst a wash of over forty other updates. Then again, maybe most people just aren’t quite as interested in search algorithms as I am.
So what does Venice actually change? Well, take the below screenshots.
Prior to Google Venice, a search for the term “marketing agency” would bring up “RPM Ltd”, an award-winning organisation who I’m sure has pumped a lot of money into getting to the number one spot on Google. Now let’s look at the results after Venice.
As can be seen, RPM have lost their space. In fact, the results are almost entirely different. All that money spent by marketing firms has been wasted, leaving tiny local agencies such as “Cuco Creative” to hold the number one spot.
So how has this happened? Well, essentially the Venice update has converted Google into an almost purely local search engine. Rather than searching the UK, Google now defaults to search only my nearest location (in this case, Bournemouth).
So why should we care? Well for starters, Google’s users are no-longer necessarily getting the best results. Rather than showing the ‘best’ marketing agency, users are now provided merely with the nearest. Google has been handed the responsibility of deciding what we should and shouldn’t see, what is and isn’t relevant to us as individuals. As such, when Google decided that RPM Marketing wasn’t’ relevant to me… it simply disappeared. I didn’t ask Google to make that decision for me, but it’s gone ahead and done it anyway. Good old Google.
Should we then be asking the question, are there things Google thinks we should not see? By keeping the details of its algorithm top secret, Google gets to pick what’s front page news and what gets pushed down to page seven million. It controls our information content, and it can change the rules at any time and (as with Venice) we don’t even notice.
Unhappy with the power Google has over your search results? Millions already entrust the company with their personal details, photos, and email among other services, why should we not trust them with this?
If you cannot see past this however, there is a simple solution at hand… Use Bing.
Be sure to check out Alex’s blog here. He also tweets from @lxwarren.
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