New research using eye tracking tests has shown that people trust Google almost instinctively. The study, published in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communications, shows that people believe Google’s ranking of web sites to be correct – even when the description of that web site clearly shows it is not the right kind of result.
Participants in the research were given some search tasks to perform in Google and their eye movements were tracked as they searched. Even though Google’s top results were in some instances clearly not what the task was looking for, the participants still looked at the links and clicked on them only to find they were a negative result.
What the study really demonstrates is that people believe that when they search for something that Google will always provide them with what they are looking for in the top handful of results. This level of trust appears to exist even when the top results are not what they are really searching for. In other words, when Google makes mistakes, people still believe it is correct.
This study is of major importance to anyone with a web site. It means that the high level of trust that people place in Google means that you really need your web site to be in the top five for each search term. However, it also means that if you are in the top 5 for the wrong search term, you will still get click throughs. Google’s search results clearly makes mistakes but it seems you can benefit from them.