Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What is being starred in those search results?

There is a sad story tonight about a young woman who has disappeared. The woman, Elisa Lam, was last seen at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. Since I had not heard of this particular hotel, I performed a Google search for the hotel. As usually occurs, the top of the search results included related advertisements.

Now I have no objection to ads, especially when they convey information that is of interest to me. And in this case, the ads did convey something. I wasn't sure exactly what type of hotel the Cecil Hotel was, but if the hotel has such high star ratings, then it must be a pretty good hotel.

Then I scrolled past the ads and down to the search results themselves, and found something interesting.

Now that's odd. When I get down to the actual search results, the Cecil Hotel appears to have much lower ratings.

And if you take a careful look, you'll see that appears in both the ads and in the search results. In the ad, the Cecil Hotel appears to have a five star rating. But in the search results, the hotel has a 2 1/2 star rating.

I wondered if the ad linked to a different page than the search result, but it turns out that both links go to And that page lists a two star rating, which is closer to the search result than to the ad.

Then I looked at the ad a little more closely. If you also look at the ad, you'll notice this text next to the five star result:

209 reviews for

So that five star rating isn't for the Cecil Hotel, but for

A little misleading, don't you think?
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