When you open up Google to perform a search about politics, the company may be influencing how you feel about these topics. At least that’s what some speculators are stating in the aftermath of the NSA scandal.
A recent study, cited in a Fox News clip,was conducted to evaluate the role of SEO in how people come to make political decisions. So, if someone were to search for something online about a political topic or candidate, whatever ranked the highest was more likely to influence that person, whether in their outlook or in how they voted. In fact, the study showed that search results and rankings affected how people voted by up to 15%!
This is definitely a large enough percentage to affect the outcomes of elections.
Basically, this indicates that SEO may be more important than anyone has ever thought before. Political organizations and candidates invest in search engine optimization just like regular companies do in an effort to get their websites to rank highly in the search engines.
Yes, it is possible to purchase ads that appear at the top of the page or at the right of the search results, and these will get you plenty of clicks. However, it is the organic ranking that is the real prized treasure here in terms of influencing politics in any meaningful sort of way.
Now, all of that being said, this doesn’t mean that Google goes in and manipulates the search results to fit with the owner’s ideologies or anything like that. However, it does raise a serious question: could they if they wanted to?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Google and the other search engines, could directly influence elections by manipulating search results. They could alter the algorithm or filter out sites that represent causes the company disagrees with in an effort to promote their core ideologies or beliefs. The worst part is the public would have no way of knowing whether or not Google was doing this until it was too late. They’d just see a list of search results and that’s that.
The results of this study are definitely troubling but for the moment, don’t let it concern you too greatly. All indictors show at this point that if your site is optimized well, it will rank well. Until there is evidence that this is not the case, keep on improving your site and optimization efforts.