When the copyright wars started Google and others were asked to push listings for potentially infringing material down in the search rankings. They also ended up pushing many domain names down that might not have direct links to copyright protected material, but might tell people how to do it or give them links to other “services”. On the other side Google has been giving a boost in rankings to sites that use SSL (Https) only for connections to their services. This is an incentive for more sites to use encrypted connections and ensure security.
Now there is some evidence that Google (in particular) is once again artificially ranking their own services and the services of partners over others. These results are all pushed to the first page of your search results and are not really a good indication of what you might be looking for. This is pretty anti-consumer when you think about it and should certainly be investigated fully a search engine is not really meant to be used to push your own or your partners services onto the world.
Still Google is not the only one that has been doing this type of thing with searches and they will probably not be the last. Not that long ago Apple admitted that certain search terms put into their voice assistant Siri would get a canned result back from Apple. Most of these had to do specifically with Apple services, but one (what is the best phone) stirred up some trouble with users and the internet press.
Now, what does Google’s efforts mean to end users? You could argue that if Google is skewing search results then just use another search engine. This sounds logical enough and in many case might get you the results you want. Now, while this is all well and good it does not actually fix the issue. If Google is allowed to do this others will follow so we still need to address the issue of systematically changing organic search results for the gain of the company or their partners. As of this writing Google is under investigation for this although we do not know where in the process they are or if anything will actually get done. We have seen Google (and other large companies) get away with things that are blatantly anti-consumer with little to no consequence. This could be one of those things despite all of the sabre rattling going on. I guess in the future we will need to say search at your own risk…