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A Peek into Google’s Search Algorithm

How does Google’s search algorithm work? Donald Trump made headlines recently when he accused Google has been rigging its results against him. Of course, there has not been any proof that Google’s results are purposely politically biased. Although Trump is well-known for spewing evident-less accusations, many other bias complaints have surfaced since then. Many companies have criticized Google for putting their own services ahead of organic search results.

Like we discussed in class, one factor that Google takes into account when displaying search results is PageRank. (Did you know that PageRank is developed and named after Google’s cofounder, Larry Page?). This is the idea that if a lot of people on the web has a link to a page, then that page is more relevant than that with a lower PageRank. Google’s search algorithm might have relied on PageRank but it has grown and many other factors are now involved in its search engine. As we know, advertising on Google, especially those appearing at the top of Google’s search, is highly lucrative. Google’s secrecy about its exact algorithm helps it stay ahead of competitors.

In order to be more transparent and address the accusations of search biases, Google invited CNBC to observe an internal meeting where executives discussed one small change: whether or not to put images next to some search results. This change is proposed to help users better determine which link will direct them to the most relevant page. In order to test this, Google had hundreds of “search quality raters” determine if having images next to searches better the result. The data showed that for 91% of the time, raters found the images useful.

CNBC notes that this meeting wasn’t super exciting. The meeting was done in 20 minutes. There wasn’t any abstract principles or passionate debates. The decision was majorly driven by data. The change was approved at the end of the meeting as the data showed that images improved user’s search experience the majority of the time. This almost simple approach of how Google improves its search algorithm is tweaked definitely does not reflect the complexity of the codes and formulas involved in the actual search algorithm. Google’s search is both simple and complicated; maybe that is why it’s the best search engine out there.


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