Why is Scotland so… Google Reveals All

edinburghInternet search giant Google has revealed questions the world wants to know about Scotland, unfortunately showing rather unflattering results. The auto-complete feature imbedded in the search engine suggests common search terms when certain information is entered, revealing what internet users really want to know.

When asking Google the question ‘Why is Scotland so…’, auto-complete suggests words to finish the sentence that include ‘boring’, ‘windy’, ‘violent’, and ‘cold’. When asking the same question of Glasgow, Google suggests words such as ‘dirty’, ‘violent’ and ‘poor’, while Edinburgh’s suggestions include ‘awesome’, ‘windy’, ‘cold’ and ‘haunted’. Further north, Internet users want to know why Aberdeen is so expensive, and why Dundee is so popular.

The search engine can also reveal what questions are being asked about Scottish people, with top results including ‘Why are Scottish people so… pale, rude, and tough’. In contrast with my home, the internet wants to know why New Zealanders are so ‘good at rugby’, ‘nice’, ‘boring’ and ‘big’.

Auto-complete results show how internet users research information to gather a rounded view of a subject. Dr Jason Turner, lecturer in marketing at the University of Abertay, said people are increasingly consulting Google as a first resource. “”If they haven’t visited Scotland before, it’s likely they will be asking negative questions rather than positive ones, in order to get a balanced view and learn more about things they’ve heard. People want to reassure themselves, so if they’ve heard Glasgow is dangerous, they might well ask Google about it in order to find out.”

Contrary to Google’s suggestions, Scotland has recently received many travel accolades including CNN naming the country as the number one travel destination in 2013. A VisitScotland spokesman said: “We’re not going to pay too much attention to the automatic answers on Google, when putting in the same question about England, Ireland or Wales, the responses are very similar and therefore aren’t a true representation.

John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said the auto-complete results are not a true representation of Edinburgh. “The true representation of visitor experience in Edinburgh is hugely positive, as is proven through the likes of TripAdvisor reviews, blogger articles and press coverage the world over, which almost universally agree that Edinburgh is one of the most iconic, inspiring places on Earth.”

Google uses algorithms based on popularity and location to come up with auto-complete suggestions, and has said that it cannot be held responsible for what search terms are entered by users. In a recent legal case Bettina Wulff, the wife of the former German president Christian Wulff, attempted to sue Google because the search engine added words to her name that referred to a red-light district and escort services. The American company said it was “incomprehensible” it could be held liable for what people chose to search for online. The case is still pending in a ­Hamburg court.


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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