Microsoft says manipulating search results affects traffic, stares disapprovingly at Google

Microsoft is continuing to go after Google with claims that the company manipulates its search results for its own gain. It has done so in the past with its Scroogled campaign which claims Google's shopping results are affected by paid ads and are not truly objective search results.

This week, a new post on its Microsoft on the Issues blog was written by Susan Athey, a Microsoft consultant and a Professor of Economics at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. In the post, Athey stated she worked with Microsoft's Bing team to show how placement of search results affect traffic to those search links.

Basically, the experiment, which ran for a few weeks in the US and overseas, put in the links that would normally be first in objective search results lower on the list. According to Athey, moving a search result link from first to third cut down the traffic to that site by half. She added:

The diversion effect becomes much more pronounced as a site is moved further down the page. A site that is moved from the first position to the tenth position typically will lose about 85 percent of its traffic. A site that is moved from the second position to the ninth loses about 75 percent of its traffic. And the results were similar for all users, regardless of the amount of time they spent searching on the site.

Athey also claims that placing a search result higher on the list than it normally would has an even bigger effect on its traffic, claiming that moving a search result link from fifth to first caused a massive 340 percent increase in its traffic. Athey says that Microsoft has sent its study results to the European Commission, which is currently making a decision on if it should punish Google on its search practices. Athey says:

While the results of this study quantify the impact of what most people know intuitively, they demonstrate that the order and manner in which a search engine presents results powerfully affects how much traffic websites will receive.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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