SEO

Experiment Contradicts “Filter Bubble” Theory

filter bubble 186x300 Experiment Contradicts Filter Bubble Theory

In May, when Eli Parser first gave his TED talk about what he called the “filter bubble,” many technology analysts started talking about the subject – yours truly included. The points raised by Parser were intriguing: Was it possible the automatic personalization of technology, including search, were substantially lowering our chances of seeing contradicting viewpoints? A recent experiment contradicts that idea; it seems Google’s filter bubble can burst pretty easily.

The Bubble Experiment

Alexander Zwissler, an Oakland Tribune columnist, decided to test the filter bubble to see just how strong it was on Google. To do so, he collected a group of ten friends who were demographically similar in age, hobbies, and other basics, but different in location and political outlook. Zwissler says that he chose friends that “cover the spectrum from progressive left to conservative right and all points in between.” Each searcher would be conducting a U.S. search at the same time on the same day, while being logged into their individual Google account.

The items Zwissler selected for search were “global warming,” “mountain biking,” and “Oakland.” His expectation was that each participant would get substantially different results, especially for more politically-oriented terms.

The reality? Nearly the opposite happened. The results for “mountain biking” were the most different, apparently because of region-specific results that became relevant to different searchers. For the other searches, the “results were generally similar, with only modest differences in order of info and type of paid advertising.”

Of course, with the far greater value of the top spot on Google when compared to the second or third, even a minor change in position can represent a substantial decrease in visibility and traffic. For SEOs, this can raise questions about the potential negative impact of personalization. Zwissler’s experiment, however, shows that location is the biggest way the search page is shaken up. Take this as a signal that your page should get involved in location-signaling whenever it’s appropriate to your message or brand.

[Sources include: The Contra Costa Times]

aeb8c9ad553480aa0a551ceaa5bc5a72 64 Experiment Contradicts Filter Bubble Theory
Rob has been insatiably obsessed with Google, search engine technology, and the trends of the web-based world since he began life as a webmaster in 2002. His work as an SEO consultant since 2006, and subsequently to content writing for technology and internet-focused publications, has done nothing but fuel this passion.
aeb8c9ad553480aa0a551ceaa5bc5a72 64 Experiment Contradicts Filter Bubble Theory

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One thought on “Experiment Contradicts “Filter Bubble” Theory

  1. I tend to believe the filter bubble is a little overblown. The general public gets access to a much larger amount of ideas an information on today’s internet than they would have before they were on the internet.