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I caught this tweet from RustyBrick this morning: "Amazing, Google changes search results for White House http://bit.ly/1BuL80." The link points to an article on SERoundtable.com which explains how Google has appeared to have "made a change" to push a certain page on www.whitehouse.gov show up at the top of the search results for a specific query. What is even more striking is that the original poster mentioned that Bing already served the "correct" page, and Google apparently rushed to fix it.
This is significant because Google has had a longstanding philosophy of "no manual intervention." Below is an excerpt straight from the Official Google Blog at http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/introduction-to-google-ranking.html.
No discussion of Google's ranking would be complete without asking the common - but misguided! :) - question: "Does Google manually edit its results?" Let me just answer that with our third philosophy: no manual intervention. In our view, the web is built by people. You are the ones creating pages and linking to pages. We are using all this human contribution through our algorithms. The final ordering of the results is decided by our algorithms using the contributions of the greater Internet community, not manually by us. We believe that the subjective judgment of any individual is, well ... subjective, and information distilled by our algorithms from the vast amount of human knowledge encoded in the web pages and their links is better than individual subjectivity.
I am curious to see Google's response to this. I am sure they will say something along the lines of "we didn't directly change the SERPs manually, but we tweaked our algorithm to get the desired result." Either way, incidents like these can definitely shake the trust of Google's loyal userbase.