Got to wondering the other day how Google comes up with the suggestions it offers when you start typing into the search box.
For instance, as soon as you hit the letter “A,” you get this list of possibilities: Amazon, AOL, Autotrader, AirTran.
At first I assumed the suggestions were based on the most common searches for each letter, with your geographic area factored in.
Wander around long enough in Google’s fine print and you’ll find this:
“Toolbar automagically guesses what you’re searching for as you type into the search box. Depending on your search query, you may see suggestions from your Google bookmarks, Toolbar search history, spelling corrections or sponsored links.”
Ah, yes. “Sponsored links.” Pay to pop up. Nice. Just what we’re eager to see when we’re trying to find something.
We don’t have a clue who paid for their positioning or how much, because Google never reveals anything about its algorithms. But you can be sure the financial influence on first-letter autofills is significant:
B: Best Buy.
D: Dick’s Sporting Goods.
J: Jimmy John’s.
O: Ohio Lottery.
U: United Airlines.
(Note: Your results may vary. Mine did slightly from one week to the next. The results will vary even more if you’re a Yahooer, a Binger or a Blekkoer.)
The advertising influence is far less noticeable when searching for names. Here are the surnames that pop up when plugging in some common first names:
Rich: kids of Instagram.
Dave: & Buster’s.
Bill: me later. (Seriously.)
Alton: Brown. (The TV food dude, not the guy who serves as the Beacon Journal’s executive vice president and general manager — although the latter also possesses extremely refined tastes.)
Google knows where you live, which explains the Doug Chevrolet result. (Google knows everything about you. Google knows more about you than your own mother. But that’s a topic for another day.)
The top responses when you type “Akron” are “Beacon Journal,” “University,” “Public Schools” and “Zoo.”
Given the size of the Beacon Journal’s current promotional budget, I can guarantee you we didn’t pay to influence that result.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.