Consumers use search engines with the assumption that the search results are unbiased. That is, the search results deliver what's available on the Internet and not what the search engine decides for you. The review website Yelp funded a study where researchers at Harvard and Columbia:
"... presented 2,690 web users with two versions of Google. One version showed search results for local businesses as users usually see them, with links to the businesses along with ratings as posted to a Google site. The other version showed links to businesses along with ratings from rival sites like Yelp... The people studied were 45 percent more likely to click on links if Yelp and other competitors were included — a sign, researchers say, that users prefer more diverse search results."
The study is important because it may force government regulators, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to reopen investigations into online search practices. Google and the FTC reached a settlement in January 2013 about concerns that the company's business practices stifled competition.
Results about the Yelp-funded study were reported in the Focus On The User website:
"You might think that Google gives you the best answers from across the web when you search for something as important as a pediatrician in Munich, a bicycle repair shop in Copenhagen, or a hotel in Madrid. But Google doesn’t actually use its normal organic search algorithm to produce the responses to this question that you see prominently on the first screen. Instead, it promotes a more limited set of results drawn from Google+ ahead of the more relevant ones you would get from using Google's organic search algorithm."
To learn more, I encourage you to watch the six-minute video below, which is also available on Youtube: