Shafqat M. is a professional content writer who has helmed digital marketing projects for the last 5 years.
Can I trust Google search?
Do users or searchers trust their Google search results? To give our readers a substantiated answer to this query, we propose to use The Edelman Trust Barometer.
The reports and stats that have been shared, we will use to figure out how much do users trust search engine results. Do they trust SERPs at all, if yes, by how much!
The first thing that comes to fore from this study is that at least 65% of searchers or users appear to show complete trust in SERP when searching for news items or other information of daily use.
It's known to us that if there's a need to gather information on a business we trust and buy from, we use Google to do so.
And in this case, also, 65% of users happen to trust Google SERP when researching a business on the internet.
Google Search Survey 2020 Findings
The study also sheds ample light on Google search Survey  to offer us a clear idea about where user trust lies.
The first thing that it reveals about the Google search engine is that the damage control has already been expedited by Google.
In other words, steps have been taken by Google to address the issue of user trust in its SERPs.
So, here's how it all began in the first place. The 2020 Google Search Survey in its reports labels the previous year 2019 as the year of 'Trust at Work'.
This is a giant leap from the search engine giant, Google, given the immense efforts they have put to shed off the label of 'The Battle for Truth' given to it for its performance in the year 2018.
Rise in Misinformation and Fake News
The year 2018, and a few years before it, saw an avalanche of misinformation peddled to millions of users through Google search results immediately after the US presidential election 2016.
As a result, a mammoth spike in fake news was reported by Google, which soon became a matter of much heated public debate. Consequently, with disinformation, misinformation, fake news skyrocketing, the user trust in search results plummeted.
Making search engines less reliable as sources of information. Not surprising then that the United States reported the utmost trust deficit in search results.
Ever Given it a Thought!
Public Opinion on Google
Public opinion matters in data consumption. How Google fares in that, let`s see! If the year 2018 were a placard with distrust written all over it, yet 65% of searchers giving thumbs up to Google search results show Google continues to rule the roost.
It shows something significant about the digital-first future where human dependence on technology to gather information would touch new heights.
The significant something, we referred to above is that even though the risk of falling prey to misinformation is real when relying solely on search results furnished by search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
Yet the internet, in its entirety, continues to be a preferred source of information used by billions of humans on a daily basis in today's world, which is predominantly steeped-in-technology.
Now as Google has taken immediate measures to address the issue, there's a subtle but obvious rise in user trust in Google SERP.
As a result, users resort to it to consume news, gather information on their favorite brands, challenge fake news, defy hoaxes a bit more confidently.
Even though the confidence in Google search results is high but the distrust in the popular media is at its highest, too.
Google Search Engine Market Share
Look, it's important for Google to keep its search engine unbiased, nonpartisan, and impartial because a significant percentage of the world population uses it every day of their lives.
In fact, Google isn't called a search engine giant for nothing! At least if you consider figures and stats put forward by NetMarketShare, which say:
- Google's search market share in desktop web traffic worldwide is 75.34 percent.
- In the United States alone, Google controls 90.77 percent of web traffic.
The point is, this data shows that the worldwide search engine market is dominated by Google.
Hence, Google entails a huge responsibility to show only factual, verifiable, and accurate search results, and not exacerbate the confirmation bias, which is the highest level of ignorance.
Is Google Reliable? Efforts Taken by Google to Make Search Results More Reliable
However, it's also true that Google strives to deliver content that is of the utmost quality to its users.
Penalizing content that is duplicate and spammed has been its policy for long ago but more has to be done. Post-2016 US elections, it has accelerated its efforts to curb the menace of fake news.
At the same time, giving priority to accuracy, credibility, and authority of the content featured in the Google search results.
Google's Knowledge Panels is borne out of the same efforts undertaken by it where a search query is responded to without a user visiting the website.
Featured Snippets also pave the way for Google to deliver quality website content to its users in response to their queries. Additionally, the regular updates and upgrades its search algorithms undergo make it smarter.
Do Users Take Important Life Decisions Based on Google Search Results?
It's interesting to note here a few nuggets of stats from Path Interactive study to plunge into the user trust in search results debate. Let's take a look at some of the information and data uncovered in their study.
- 51% of respondents revealed that they use Google to get information concerning critical life matters, including financial, legal, medical, and even political.
- 39% of respondents revealed that they leverage Google search results in order to make complicated legal decisions.
- 46% of respondents affirmed to have resorted to Google search results for medical advice and having taken medical decisions based on them.
- 10-13% of respondents asserted that they have been skeptical of Google search results and never gave it the importance of the kind as to take life decisions based on them.
- 72% of respondents strongly believe in the accuracy of medical results provided by Google.
- 61% of respondents contended that they fully believe Google search results are a reliable source of news on political matters.
- 70% of respondents confirmed that they have encountered misinformation in Google search results, and 29% others claimed that they never came across misinformation on Google.
- As regards the millennials, the study reveals that they trust Featured Snippets and the content it contains more than the older users.
It appears that the majority of the people who use Google to surf the web trust Google SERP. And that goes for younger as well as the older users, though young are more trusting in search results, including Knowledge Panels and Featured Snippets.
But, the dissatisfaction in search results is simmering too and there's certainly a lot more to do to make it a completely reliable and trustworthy source of information.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Shafqat M
Shafqat M (author) from UK on October 09, 2020:
Thanks for your generous comment, RoadMonkey!
True, "Google is NOT a disinterested purveyor of truth" that's why it has to act more responsibly. Since it has the final say on which content to show and which to flag, it'll have to give precedence to quality over its advertising interest and give the top position to content which is accurate, unbiased, and fact-based.
Snippets deliver important information, as said by Google, on parameters such as "claim, who made the claim, and the fact check of that particular claim.” Coming to the making living part, quality content makes for stunning snippets, which incites user interest, as a result, facilitates greater engagement for a longer period of time. Snippets are also in the best interest of searchers, which should be the motive, and as a searcher, I should get to know whether a website I am about to visit offers the content I am looking for. And if snippets make it possible for me to decide beforehand even without visiting the website, I think it is great.
Quoting Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering at Google, he said a few years ago, "0.25% of daily search queries return offensive or clearly misleading content. He says people have learned how to game the system. And consequently, content which is "blatantly misleading, low-quality, offensive or downright false information" spreads faster than the genuine content. Hence, proposing structural changes in how search works.
A half-truth is as lame as a fully grown, outright lie. For Google to deliver results in an unbiased, transparent manner in response to a user query is the best it could do to curtail biased and misinformation. Let users have access to the whole story, not a one-sided advertisement-driven vendetta. Worst, it expedites bubble formation hard to get out of even for erudite searchers. That calls for searchers to be more flexible with respect to their opinions on matters of politics, etc., and not just be CONFIRMATION BIAS personified.
RoadMonkey on October 08, 2020:
Google is NOT a disinterested purveyor of truth. It also takes other people's content and displays it as if it were its own. The snippets of information come from websites owned by people who are trying to provide facts and possibly also make a living. When Google displays those facts as snippets, searchers do not need to visit the website and so they do not get a chance to make a living from having provided the information that Google displayed. When a search engine, ANY search engine, removes "fake facts", they are removing the right to free speech. Who decides what counts as fake facts? Do we get a chance to see these fake facts and make up our own minds?