Negativity Bias – What Attracts Google to Negative Online Material?
If you are dealing with content in your search results that damage your reputation, you are probably wondering how and why that negative content ranked so high and so fast, over other longer-existing search results. We asked ourselves the same thing, but after being in the online reputation industry this long, we believe that Google’s algorithm is drawn to negative content, based on negativity bias.
High Ranking for New, Negative Content
To determine where recently published content should be ranking, Google appears to examine it. When a new page introduces itself, and Google crawls it, you may find that new web page turning up at different places in the search results over time. In several cases, the new web page rises ranking in search results to the first page and then lowers down in the results, where it sticks around. Other times, the webpage ranks on the first page and stays there.
Google desires to put forward varied search results, including latest published content like articles, images, posts, video’s, etc
This preference for variety in search results is not merely for the users. Google also strives to reduce duplicate content as they say in their help page about duplicate content: “Google tries hard to index and show pages with distinct information.”
And of course, Google has always made use of some significance and prominence signals, such as the backlinks directing to a web page, to decide on relative rankings.
But there are a few more essential elements.
One of the additional factors is the clicks; the number of times people click on a search result. And this is where Google’s algorithm get’s its questionable reputation from. Because if new content shows up on the first page, it should mean that this page received much more clicks than other search results. But in situations where that result popped up on page one within a few hours or few days, that theory becomes questionable.
We don’t deny that results, showing up on the first page, often have the most clicks. But why does this newer content get more clicks than other, longer-existing material that has already been available on page one, and which would normally have more clicks than stuff that has never been there before? In most cases, this is where the headline of the content appearing in the search results comes in.
Clickbait in Headlines
Clickbait headlines are created to make people click them. Typically it has a negative tone, unchallenged questions, provocative message or any other type of caption that makes you think you HAVE to know the information. And in many cases, the actual information won’t adequately present the headline. Clickbait fools you into clicking a page with much higher expectancies. Why it works so well? Because we, people, come with a “negativity bias.”
Negativity Bias between Us and Google
We are a lot like Google. When something stands out, our mind highlights it. Things with negative nature, such as unwanted thoughts, feelings, and social interactions, have a greater impact on us than natural or good things. This negativity bias is taken advantage of by the media to increase profits through generating more clickbait headlines to obtain more attention, more clicks and therefore more revenue.
Because we are drawn to negative content, so we click on the negative titles in Google’s search results. We just have to know what it is about. And the higher the search result ranks, the more people click on it. Increasing the ranking of the negative article even more. It’s a cycle between human behavior and Google that makes search results seem more negative than they really might be.
Google’s desire for variety in sentiments
Chris Smith from MarketingLand came up with an additional factor in Google’s algorithm that could clarify Google’s bias towards negative information. Chris believes that Google prefers to present a list of content, search results, with a range of sentiments. Even though he can’t prove it, we are inclined to share his opinion.
Negative Bias in Google’s Search Algorithm
Google’s negative bias doesn’t only appear in the search result rankings. Research shows that the Google AutoComplete is also drawn to negativity.
It always appeared that Google’s algorithm tried to provide a variety of the most probable sorts of things that people typically look for when submitting certain search queries.
A Google spokeswoman stated in a declaration: “We’ve received a lot of questions about autocomplete, and we want to help people understand how it works: Autocomplete predictions are algorithmically generated based on users’ search activity and interests. Users search for such a wide range of material on the web– 15% of searches we see every day are new. Because of this, terms that appear in Autocomplete may be unexpected or unpleasant. We do our best to prevent offensive terms, like porn and hate speech, from appearing, but we don’t always get it right. Autocomplete isn’t an exact science, and we’re always working to improve our algorithms.”
But a recent investigation by the Observer, identified that Google’s search engine prominently suggests neo-Nazi websites and antisemitic writing. When you type in the key phrase “are Jews” into Google, Google suggested “evil.” For “are women,” Google suggested “evil” and for the phrase “are Muslims” the search engine suggested “bad.”
Following this research, the Guardian uncovered much more examples of biased search results.
This information suggests that Google’s search algorithm isn’t as objective and neutral as Google likes us to think. The Google algorithm appears to be boosting information that’s twisted with negativity.