filter bubbles – what you need to know_

what is a filter bubble?

A filter bubble is when search engines and social media algorithms show highly selective results to each and every user. These results are based on the large amounts of data that users normally very willingly give up to these sites with the innocent thinking that the data is needed in order to better enhance their user experience. The reality is that the data is used to keep showing news, stories and information that they believe the user wants to see, which can often be very one sided. It is then also used for highly targeted and very effective advertising and marketing.

Where did the term come from?

Researchers are still in the early stages of understanding the effects of filter bubbles or echo chambers as they are also sometimes called. Eli Pariser, founder of Upworthy and internet activist, first coined the term back in 2011 and was the first person to warn of the dangers of filtering news to a possibly easily influenced audience. The two main websites guilty of creating filter bubbles are Facebook and Google.

Facebook Filter Bubble

It may not be something that you have given too much thought too but have you ever wondered why Facebook shows you what it does in your news feed? Your news feed is highly personalised and the algorithm wants to show you ads, news and updates from friends and family that it believes will keep you on the site for longer and ultimately make purchases keeping their revenue streams growing. An example that Eli Pariser warned about is that around 50% of Americans get their news from Facebook. The algorithms for these hugely influential social media sites can distort the information as they keep showing more and more of the information that it thinks the user likes and is of the same political views, therefore not showing a full version of events. This can be dangerous because it becomes too one sided and too aligned with the user’s views rather than showing the full scope of information, alternative views or debates – keeping the user very firmly within their own filter bubble, unable to actually access the full story. But what if you want to explore outside of what Facebook is showing you? It’s very difficult to do this within the site itself but if the user accesses other social media platforms and reputable news sites then the can keep themselves outside of facebook’s bubble.

How Google Personalises Search Results
Flat 3d isometric businessman hand holding smartphone with pinpoint on the map application. Mobile gps map navigation concept.

Another point that Eli Pariser highlighted was how if two people searched for the same term in Google, they would get different results. So how does Google personalise its searches? There are five main factors that affect the search results:

  1. Location
  2. Search and browsing history
  3. Social Media
  4. Device – mobile or desktop
  5. Other Google products – gmail, Google docs
What does this mean for your business?

As searches become increasingly personalised, tracking your business page rankings and analysing your SEO can become a much more difficult task. You need to check desktop and mobile optimisation and for Facebook – probably invest in ads so that your business page is being shown to potential customers. One of the benefits of personalised searches is that when a user searches for your business they should be able to find it more easily if looking for something in the local area for example, if you create relevant social media content and if it gets shared, this can push you up the rankings. You also need to track your rankings regularly in the fast moving search world. Google itself constantly varies how it ranks its searches and there are hundreds of factors that it takes into consideration.
If you want to make sure that your business is being found on Google, then your website needs to be optimised. Wirebox can conduct a detailed website review which will include everything you need to know about how to improve your Google SEO rankings and make sure that customers can find you. Of course we can implement the improvements and provide ongoing suggestions and support too!


Call us today to find out how we can make sure your website is being seen – 0207 993 5485