May 29, 2015 | Sarah Danks


Actresses suing Google & Yahoo, search engines being accused of information dissemination, and Google (has been/still is/will be again) in the limelight for “suggesting” search queries that libel people as well as supposedly airing its political views (this is an oldie-but-goodie).

But the uneducated masses — and by “uneducated” I mean those people who are unaware of how search engines function on a day-to-day basis — are barking up the wrong trees. It’s not the search engines that’re “defaming” people, offering up their own “views,” or suggesting what searchers would like to search for; it’s the search engines’ USERS. For example, the other day I ran across this Tweet in the now-global social media movement of #YesAllWomen:

google feminism fills in the blank

Okay, I understand this woman’s anger at seeing those autocomplete suggestions in Google’s search function. However, as a search marketer I also realize WHY those are the top suggestions: because that’s how OTHER Google users — a lot of them, by the looks of it — are searching for that term.

Google’s not suggesting those’re their views on feminism. Not in the least — they’re just saying, “oh, you’ve started typing in a phrase; here’s how OTHER people are searching for this same term, is this what you mean?” No, for real, you can read all about Google autocomplete and see for yourself.

The sad thing about this type of autocomplete is that it’s not GOOGLE that’s so against feminism, it’s PEOPLE in general.

Another example of Google — and other search engines — getting blamed for their search results is how this actress sued Google for returning porn results on a search for her name. Wow. Okay, even if you’re NOT a search marketer you can see how silly this endeavor is — I’m sorry, honeybunch, but if you don’t want pornographic images of you to show up in search engines…well, try NOT making a porno. Just sayin’.

She won, of course — although according to this Time article she didn’t get much, so it can’t have been THAT happy of an ending — which is sad, because as Google told CNN:

“search engines are neutral platforms that do not create nor control content on the web.”

So once again Google (and by association, all other search engines ever since they pretty much all work the same way) is blamed for returning relevant results to a query. Google is not suggesting that everyone think of that actress as a porn star; she did that all on her own. Google’s just returning results that have to do with that person’s name. End of story.

And, of course, we all remember how up in arms everyone was back during George Dubya’s reign when they all thought it was Google’s political view that our president at the time was a miserable failure. I love how, in this NYTimes article, it’s stated that:

“…a favored online tactic to mock the president — altering the Google search engine so the words “miserable failure” lead to President Bush’s home page at the White House.” 

Haha. Holy mackeral, I had no idea any old search engine user could ALTER Google’s results! How stellar — I’m gonna go try it right now. Psh. Of course people weren’t “altering” Google search results; instead, so many people were apparently disgusted with our then-President enough to talk about him online and refer to him as a “miserable failure.”

And they even linked with that anchor text to the President’s bio page. That’s the power of incoming links, folks, not a search engine sharing its political opinion, as so many (incorrectly) think.

There have been enough of these “cases” that there’s a term for it: Google Bomb (but NOT Beetle Bomb…anyone?). But, again, Google Bombs aren’t detonated by Google; rather, people all over the www have linked to things with specific text enough times that a search query can bring up a seemingly unrelated web page. You can even check out the Top 10 Google Bombs according to Mashable.

Long story short: Google autocomplete isn’t run by Google’s thoughts of what you should search for. Your porn pictures returned in a Google search for your name isn’t Google judging you.

And, if your personal web page is coming up in a search for “worst ever” (or whatever other “libelous” query you’re coming up for), well, then you should be working on reputation management, not yelling at Google for its opinion.

What’re some wacky “autocomplete” suggestions you’ve seen? 


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