Study: Users mistakenly trust higher positioned results in Google searches

August 21, 2007

An eye tracking experiment published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication revealed that college student internet users have an inherent trust in Google's ability to rank results by their true relevance to the query. When participants selected a link from Google's result pages, their decisions were strongly biased towards links higher in position, even if that content was less relevant to the search query.

“Despite the popularity of search engines, most users are not aware of how they work and know little about the implications of their algorithms,” says study author Bing Pan. “When websites rank highly in a search engine, they might not be authoritative, unbiased or trustworthy.”

According to Pan, this has important long term implications for search engine results, as this type of use, in turn, affects future rankings. “The way college students conduct online searches promotes a ‘rich-get-richer’ phenomenon, where popular sites get more hits regardless of relevance,” says Pan. “This further cements the site’s high rank, and makes it more difficult for lesser known sites to gain an audience.”

The author says users need to be aware that search engines have tremendous influence on what and how information is accessed. An effort on the part of search engine developers to provide users with information on how the algorithms function could help to raise user awareness.

Source: Blackwell Publishing

Explore further: Review: 4K streaming no big advantage for Roku 4

Related Stories

Chinese paper accuses Google of hampering searches

October 27, 2009

(AP) -- Google Inc. faces a new controversy in China after a Web site run by the Communist Party's main newspaper accused the U.S. search giant of trying to keep Internet users away following its reports on a copyright dispute.

Yahoo looks to improve search experience

September 30, 2009

When Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz announced a $100 million global brand campaign in New York recently as the company launched its new Internet search "experience," research scientists like Preston McAfee, Duncan Watts and David ...

Microsoft aims to simplify with Windows 8.1 (Update 2)

May 30, 2013

Microsoft is trying to fix what it got wrong with its radical makeover of Windows. It's making the operating system easier to navigate and enabling users to set up the software so it starts in a more familiar format designed ...

Efficient, intelligent, content-aware networks

April 15, 2013

The rapid, exponential growth of internet traffic means investment in infrastructure, new technologies and paradigms for getting content to users are needed. EU-funded researchers are pushing these boundaries - changing the ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of robot love

November 25, 2015

There was to have been a conference in Malaysia last week called Love and Sex with Robots but it was cancelled. Malaysian police branded it "illegal" and "ridiculous". "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots," ...

Glider pilots aim for the stratosphere

November 20, 2015

Talk about serendipity. Einar Enevoldson was strolling past a scientist's office in 1991 when he noticed a freshly printed image tacked to the wall. He was thunderstruck; it showed faint particles in the sky that proved something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.