- Google does not allow users to adjust the results from Google search to de-emphasize results by parameter.
- This article explains how this would work and why Google doesn’t.
The Google algorithm does not have parameters that allow users to emphasize or deemphasize different types of sites. This is something that would be of great assistance to users, but which Google has never offered.
Our References for This Article
If you want to see our references for this article and other related Brightwork articles, see this link.
How Google’s Search Algorithm Works
There is a lot written on how the algorithm works in terms of selecting how to rank websites. This is called the Pagerank algorithm. This article’s topic is not the Pagerank algorithm per se but is related to modifying the search results from this algorithm.
How is a Search Result Like a Forecast?
If one thinks of the Google search, it is a type of forecast. How many times have you typed in a search term or terms and found the top results not to be what you were interested in reading? When this happens, this means that the Pagerank algorithm has produced an error — at least from your perspective.
This gets into an important topic, which is considered a forecast error and from who’s perspective.
What is A Forecast or Result Error to You Versus Google?
As Google has moved further away from its roots as a good actor and has become increasingly greedy and entitled, its search engine’s purpose has diverted strikingly from the users’ interests.
Google Behavior #1: Censoring Results based on Politics
Google has been caught censoring its search results to be consistent with the company’s personal political associations. Therefore, when websites that are not aligned with Google’s politics are de-emphasized, this may be a forecast error for the user, but it is not for Google.
Google Behavior #2: Pushing its Own Results Above Competitors
Similarly, Google has also rigged search results against competing price comparison engines, as is shown in the following graphic.
After 2011, Google began referring search traffic away from competing price comparison engines and towards itself. This would be considered and forecast error for the user, but not for Google.
Google is a for-profit company that becomes increasingly unethical as each year passes from when it first arrived on the scene in the late 1990s.
Google’s Lack of Social Responsibility
Google has no social responsibility, only profit maximization. Google has also demonstrated it will not respect any US anti-trust law. Google’s success has not only come from its technology, but from crushing competition, and acquiring companies, hence removing competition from the marketplace. This is not only my analysis but the assertion of the DOJ in their lawsuit against Google.
These are the claims made by the DOJ against Google in its 2020 action.
A shady path to dominance: Google made its search engine the default option for users by striking multibillion-dollar deals with mobile carriers, smartphone makers and giant partners like Apple.
Shutting out the competition: Partly as a result of those deals, Google now controls 88 percent of the U.S. search engine market, an unparalleled power the company uses to effectively prevent alternative search engines from competing.
A monopoly on advertising: By monopolizing search, Google has also monopolized the search ad market, which the suit argues is distinct from the broader digital advertising market in which companies like Facebook and Amazon also compete.
Declining search quality: Because users have so few alternatives, Google doesn’t have much incentive to optimize its search engine for user satisfaction. “Without us even realizing it, the Internet’s most-used website has been getting worse,” Geoffrey A. Fowler writes in The Washington Post. “On too many queries, Google is more interested in making search lucrative than a better product for us.” – New York Times
This also the analysis by Matt Stoller, one of the top specialists in monopolies and anti trust.
A weakened press: As Matt Stoller wrote in The Times last year, many news organizations have virtually no choice now but to depend on Google and Facebook to reach readers and fund their operations. This centralization of power, Mr. Stoller argues, poses two crises: a financial crisis, because advertising revenue that used to go to publishers is now captured by big tech intermediaries, causing the news industry to collapse; and an editorial one, because media’s dependency on a handful of platforms incentivizes virality and sensationalism over high-quality journalism. – New York Times
What Google Would Like to Do When You Use Their Search Engine
Google would like to direct its users to search results that are profit-maximizing for Google. However, if it did this too obviously and too aggressively, people would stop using Google. And Google needs users to use it because this is how it accumulates information about them and then allows them to serve these users ads. Google tracks users through Google services that require the user to login to a Google service (Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Maps, etc..). Once logged in, Google continually adds new searches to the user record. Once the user goes to a website, Google is tracking them and then serves those reader ads. For a detailed breakdown of how this works, see the article How Much Are Google and Facebook Overstating the Effectiveness of Their AI and Advertizements?.
How Google Actively Keeps Users in the Dark
Google never explains any of this to users, so you have to research to figure out how they are doing this. This article you are reading is written by a 51-year-old man who specializes in analyzing technology companies.
- How many high school students or people far less familiar with tech companies are using Google without any idea of what Google is doing with their data?
- How much is Google taking advantage of a lack of transparency as to how they function?
There was a point several years ago where Wal-Mart was involved in several scandals about how they treated workers. I noticed not too long after this, Wal Mart changed the design of their signs and their interior coloring to this motif. Is this coincidental, or was Wal Mart trying to rehabilitate its image by choosing a very light and pleasant color scheme? The idea is that a company with such a cheery color scheme could not be evil or greedy or mistreating workers. This is the exact type of posing that Google performs.
Google has no government regulation, and the information available on Google tends to be highly complementary to Google. Google poses as a “friendly internet helper” while they are aggressively surveilling their users.
Nearly all of Google’s revenues come from one place — serving ads, and this ability to serve ads comes from user interaction with their platform. This is the same model as Facebook. The only difference is how Facebook coaxes users into using their website. It is effortless to fall into the idea that Google is your friend and a good actor. One of the reasons is that Google offers so much to users for free.
- It offers Free Search.
- Free Google Docs (which has pushed the envelope on efficiency and collaboration and which I personally love and would have a hard time doing without).
- Free Maps — which everyone loves, a free calendar, and much more.
In fact, look at all these free things.
Some of these Google items are my personal favorites and are the best in their area.
However, the problem with this way of thinking of Google as a “user aligned entity” as it gives users so much without charging them is that Google does not have to charge for anything because they are selling you advertisements.
How Google Changed Over Time
In the early days, Google was much more user-oriented, and this is a major part of who Google grew to become the monster it is today. When they arrived in the late 1990s, search engines like Yahoo offered their users a far worse deal than Google. At the time, I was relieved to leave Yahoo behind and used Google near exclusively until just this year. But as Google becomes more monopolistic, they become dismissive about the user’s interests. This is why at this point, the Google search is a type of scam.
Here is why.
Problem #1: Posing as a Public Utility
Google pretends to be a type of public utility and asserts that they want to provide accurate information and relevant search results to their users. In reality, because they are profit-maximizing, they are putting themselves ahead of their users.
Problem #2: No Observance of the Divergent Interests Between Google and Their Users
Because of these divergent interests between Google (profit maximization) and their users (accurate information), a search “forecast error” cannot be said to be the same thing. Google does not want this distinction understood by users.
And this gets into why Google has not introduced a simple adjustment to the search algorithm controlled by the user.
When Sundar Pichai testifies to the US Senate, viewers need to get ready for enormous lying. At no point does Pichai explain how Google actually works but presents itself as some charity. Google asserts that it is charitable and so honest and altruistic that it should never require any regulation. Back when Eric Schmidt was the CEO of Google, he uses to tell the same lies.
The False Claim Inherent to Google’s Proposal About Search Results
Google covers up what it is doing to users with a lot of “jiggery-pokery” terminology. And Google likes to say that they have to keep their algorithm secret as if they don’t, their algorithm can be gamed. However, one way or another, its algorithm is emphasizing some results over others. Google prefers to present their algorithm as being only about presenting “relevant search results.” Every search algorithm must emphasize some results and deemphasize others, and this means making a value judgment. There is no point in reframing this as something not value judgemental when it has to be this.
How does Google know what a particular user generally wants to see?
For example, my preference, and I am speaking only for myself, is I do not want to read content produced by companies as much as I want to read information from independent entities. I think many other users would also like to see fewer commercial results. However, even though Google is adjusting the search results for my history (when I am logged in as myself and not anonymized), Google continues to show the results from commercial companies when I perform research, as I often do, into the topic of enterprise software.
The Issue with Searches on Monetary Related Topics
The problem with this is that unlike looking up something like The Reconquista and Christian Retaking of Spain, enterprise software is a commercial topic, and this means that, unlike a historical topic, a large number of private companies produce low accuracy articles that have zero concern for accuracy, and are all about directing you to use their software or services. See the article Our Evaluation of the Information Quality of CRM ROI from Google Search Results, to see how nearly every result that Google returned for my search was from a software vendor or consulting firm that provided false or exaggerated information on this topic. The top results were also poorly written articles — often by a person with weak thinking skills who should not be writing articles and works in marketing. These are not designed to inform the reader. They are “lead generation” articles with faux thought leadership and references to sponsored studies. Yet Google’s search told me that it provided search results that told me these were the best articles in the area. In this software category and other software categories, the average score I give these articles ends up being a 2 out of 10.
This could be alleviated to a great degree by allowing for a control or input parameters that would de-emphasize commercial entities’ websites.
However, Google provides no way for users to do this. Some might push back on this by pointing to Google’s Advanced Search and Search Engine Settings. So let us look at both of these Google search screens to see what Google offers.
Item #1: Google Search Engine Settings
Google offers an Advanced Settings page. However, these do not get into the emphasizing and de-emphasizing settings I describe in this article.
Item #2: Google Search Engine Settings
The Google Search Settings also allow some adjustments, but they also do not customize the results I want.
The Central Question of This Article
Why would Google, which has such vast resources, restrict the user’s ability to modify the search results in a way that is adjustable by the user?
Google’s Disallowance of Manual Adjustment
Google adjusts its results per the user. This is Google’s approach where everything needs to be automated.
However, what about manual adjustment?
Why can’t the user manually adjust settings?
If one thinks of an analogy to a forecasting system, there is a way for a forecast to be produced in an automatic fashion call best fit, that chooses the best fit algorithm thinks is the best forecast method for a forecasted item. However, there are not forecasting systems that restrict the ability of the user to override this suggestion. Take a look at the lower left of the graphic above. The user can adjust the parameters of the forecast and adjust the forecast.
This is what Google is. Google search is a forecast system that is entirely automated but does not make available or disables (depending upon your view) the ability to manually adjust the engine for the types of results that the user knows they want to see. Instead, Google removes this choice from me and all other users. Google says that I don’t know what I want to see, but Google’s algorithm is so “intelligent” that it does know what I want to see. And Google’s algorithm has a very high forecast error.
Selections to Go With Google Search
I propose multiple selections that adjust the Google results and could be saved in a user’s profile.
A few come to mind.
- A Commerical vs. Non-Commerical Switch or “Dial”: This would address one of the major issues with the search: the domination of search results by commercial entities.
- An Article Length Switch or “Dial”: Many articles are very short and have little content but show up high in Google’s normal search results
- Vocabulary or Word Complexity Switch: Articles can be categorized by the complexity of the words they use
Look at this drop-down selection in the search engine Duck Duck Go. This allows the user to select more or less recent results. Why is there no drop-down for the selections I have recommended above? They are not in Google and not in Duck Duck Go. What if I am not interested in viewing the results from profit-maximizing commercial entities?
Google likes to present its search results as the truth. However, there is no absolute truth in a search result. There is only preferencing some factor at the loss or reduction of some other factor. Google’s search algorithm is based upon what amounts to popularity combined with keyword matching. However, popularity does not translate either to the result’s quality or to what I want to find when I search. Sometimes I want to see what other people are reading, such as knowing what people find when they search. However, in many cases, I am looking for myself and not to see what other people are looking at. Let us take an example. When one checks Pew Research on the percentage of people who believe in a God, does that tell me anything about whether this belief is true? So there is a clear distinction between popularity versus what is true. And in this case, popularity is not the desired objective function around which I want to be optimized.
Google presents an illusion to users that it can decide the parameters for users when it can’t. And this illusion, which it appears to itself believe, prevents Google from creating a parameter adjustable search engine. This is highly inconvenient for users because these parameters would be relatively easy to implement. And it means that without this, I am required to scan through large numbers of search results because Google refuses to realize the limitations of their search algorithm. If Google had real competition, they would seek not only to reduce the highly commercial results so as not to lose market share. However, without competition, we have seen Google increasingly make its Google search more about what benefits Google rather than what benefits the user. Google’s dominance is also consuming money that could be used for other companies to innovate in search engines. Google is not only ceasing to innovate in its search engine, but its search engine is also worse than it was in the past, so its innovation is now going in reverse.
This video shows how poorly Google compares against Duck Duck Go.