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How Google Chooses its Search Results

As we discussed in class and as the first link explains, Google chooses which sites to display based on the frequency and location of key words, the amount of time each website has existed, and based on “the number of web pages that link to the page in question.” Overall, the third of these factors is the most important in deciding which websites to display. This directly ties into our discussion of hubs, authorities, and PageRank. In its simplest form, websites that are pointed to by the most in-links are the most likely to be displayed. (This is shown by the Hub, Authority, and PageRank Update Rules which show processes for how to determine the “best answer” to a particular search.) Since this is ultimately the way Google adjusts PageRank, “the best way to make sure your Web page is high on Google’s search results is to provide great content so that other sites will link to your page.” Overall, this method of ranking web pages creates fair competition for determining which sites are ranked highest. The better, more reliable websites will generally be ranked higher on the list.

If Google has a fair method for determining search results, then why are they often accused of violating antitrust laws on the basis of unfair search results? As the second link from above discusses, Google sometimes favors its own products, websites, and services over others and will deliberately rank them higher in search results than other websites. Furthermore, “Google has gotten so good at answering users’ questions, that more than half of Google searches now end on Google,” and the ranking of web pages becomes almost irrelevant in these cases. Since Google search is a very popular way to get information, many have argued Google adjusting its ranking of web pages to favor its own is unfair and “could be considered anticompetitive behavior under some laws.” On the other hand, many have argued that consumers are unharmed because they are still provided with equivalent results. Regardless of whether Google’s search results are entirely fair, it’s still interesting to look at what factors, other than in-link voting, might contribute to a website’s ranking.


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October 2019