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Today a Google search results controversy erupted in the US.
The original story and the refutations are all based on a fallacy. How not to fall into the same trap.

It seems the story was started by the outlet PJ Media who presumably did some searches for 'Trump News' and came to their conclusion that Google was presenting skewed search results.

What they and people who have refuted their story don't know is that every Google searcher gets different search results.

Google knows what sites you visit the most, how long you stay on pages, what your preferences are and much more. It then sends you a ranked set of results according to what it thinks you probably want to see. That is why the search experience is one of the best around.

Google even looks at your email messages if you use Gmail and that affects the results they present.

So the PJ Media reporter may have spent a lot of time clicking on CNN articles, for example. Google would know that the reporter spends a lot of time on this site and then the search algorithms would prioritise CNN and similar sites.

If you check your website's Google rankings by googling for your products and services, you will be falling into the same trap.

You will see a less biased set of results if you try the same searches in a Chrome Incognito window, especially if you log out of your Google account.

If you want to know where your website pages rank on average, get your website provider to add Google Search Console to your site and check out the data that you get from that.

It won't show where your competitors appear but you will be able to track your performance against different search times over time.

You can sign up to services that purport to compare you to competitors but these have suspect data when it come to sites with low volumes of traffic.

David Haysom

Author: David Haysom
Published: 29/08/2018