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Recently Google was accused of making money from the way their organic rankings were listed, in some of the worst, most biased journalism I have seen in years.

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr – A journalist who according to journalisted writes about paedophiles, camping & porn, has now managed to branch off into having an opinion on how Google works, and how it needs changing.

What initially sparked this controversy was the fact the search results for: “Did the Holocaust happen” or “was the Holocaust a hoax”

did-the-holocaust-happen
Search made on 23rd Dec @11:52am – incognito, UK

 

The site highlighted in red “Stormfront” was in position #1 when the journalist originally searched it. Stormfront is a white nationalist community.

The basic premise is that a Jewish Museum, The Breman Museum reported paying up to $2 a click to ensure their site was #1 on Google for “Did the holocaust happen”

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr wrote an article on the Guadian.com – with the headline:

“How to bump Holocaust deniers off Google’s top spot? Pay Google”

Now as I assume most people reading this will know, that is referring to altering the “paid” section of the results, with having your own advert, which anybody is able to do, on pretty much any term which dosn’t violate Googles Adword Policies.

She goes on to tell us that, even after she ran a story in the Guardian, and Fortune & the Daily Mail also ran a story – Google “held firm” implying that Google have refused to change the result.

She then goes on to state this abhorrently biased statement:

“Until Friday. When I gamed Google’s algorithm. I succeeded in doing what Google said was impossible. I, a journalist with almost zero computer knowhow, succeeded in changing the search order of Google’s results for “did the Holocaust happen” and “was the Holocaust a hoax”. I knocked Stormfront off the top of the list. I inserted Wikipedia’s entry on the Holocaust as the number one result. I displaced a lie with a fact.”

Wow, is it 2005 again? I think this Journalist completely fails to understand that organic results and paid results are dealt with separately.

Google do not have a database of every single combination of words, and filter by offensive and non-factual – this is a near impossible feat. They instead have an algorithm and A LOT of servers that cost a lot of money. This has been worked on for many years, and unfortunately, it’s putting the neo-nazi site to the top.

This does not mean that Google agrees with the neo-nazis – far from it. They want it removed as much as the rest of us, but if they change the result manually, it will open another million cans of worms for them.

Why can’t Google just change the result?

Because there are a million search terms like this, and they have to ensure going forward they avoid this situation as much as possible. Some examples I have tried from the top of my head:

“did they land on the moon” – Example result: “10 reasons the moon landing could be a hoax”

moonlanding

“Are fat people lazy?” – “Fat = Lazy & gluttonous”

fatandlazy

“Do Welsh people shag sheep?” – “People from Wales are more likely to shag sheep”

dowelshpeople

Can you imagine the number of requests if they started editing results manually?

My take

Obviously, I do not like neo-nazi type websites at the top of Google. But conversely, Google have written an algorithm that is designed to give users what they are looking for, and what they want to find. Unfortunately, on this occasion, they get it wrong.

They face a big challenge getting this right across the entire of their platform, without promoting censorship.

There has been an idea around for quite some time – Googles results are influenced by more “popular” results, the ones with the highest Click Through Rate (CTR).

This, is something I do think is happening, but in conjunction with other engagement data, in any case – it is not intentional, and they are not trying to make money from people denying the Holocaust. As Journalist Carole Cadwalladr chilidishly remarked on the ad she put up:

“If Stormfront is back at number one when you read this, it’s because I’ve run out of funds. Each click through costs £1.12 and I have a £200 per day limit. @carolecadwalla on Twitter for more information.”

Please, Google don’t want your £200. They actually offered to refund it – what’s actually happening is your taking advantage of their ad platform, and trying to screw them for it.

Google’s statement to Search Engine Land

“Google was built on providing people with high-quality and authoritative results for their search queries. We strive to give users a breadth of diverse content from variety of sources and we’re committed to the principle of a free and open web. Judging which pages on the web best answer a query is a challenging problem and we don’t always get it right.

When non-authoritative information ranks too high in our search results, we develop scalable, automated approaches to fix the problems, rather than manually removing these one-by-one. We recently made improvements to our algorithm that will help surface more high quality, credible content on the web. We’ll continue to change our algorithms over time in order to tackle these challenges.” – Search Engine Land

Kudos to the SEO industry

So in conclusion, Google are not trying to make money from holocaust denial, and if people abuse their adwords platform – That is not Googles’ intention. I’d like to give a big shoutout to a site made by John Doherty called did the holocaust happen – he might not be an expert on the subject, he is trying to combat holocaust denial and help knock the white supremacist site off the top spot.

 

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I'm Steve Mills. Honest SEO. I can show you how to increase your organic traffic. I have worked with multiple digital marketing agencies, hundreds of freelancers, and many company owners, so I know the pitfalls of growing a business online. If you like what I write, that's awesome. If not, let me know.