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The Science of Search

Posted on: Tuesday, March 8, 2016 Category: Uncategorized (59)
2 min read

Dr Robert Epstein is a Senior Research Psychologist for the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology.  Since 2013, he and his team have been researching the influence of search results on our opinions and beliefs, and most importantly on how we choose on person over another.
His findings are astonishing.  He found that 50% of our clicks will land on the first two results returned to us.  And more than 90% or clicks do not make it past the first ten.  So point one – know what the first ten results of your Google search say about you.
His team went much deeper than this and over a number of ever increasingly larger and more complex studies, they found that they could shift  perceptions of people simply by the rank that the individual achieved in a Google search result.  They set up a number of studies using real elections in Australia and India.  They split the respondents into different groups where one group would see results ranking on candidate above others, another group would see a different candidate ranked above others and a third group would have a mixed result of rankings.
They discovered that 48.4% of people favoured the top ranking candidate on all 5 measures that they were ranked on.  What was more, 75% of respondents were unaware that the results were biased.  We place significantly greater value on what we see first.
Naming this phenomenon the Search Engine Manipulation Effect, they expanded their studies.  The findings were again startling.  They were able to shift people’s preferences for candidates by 37.1% and as high as 80% in certain demographic groups.
What does this mean for your personal brand?  People will look at the first page of the results on you the most.  You need to ‘own’ and manage these.  LinkedIn is a great tool for this as it ranks so highly in Google searches.  We are seen online, before we are seen, before we are heard.

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