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This 187 message thread spans 7 pages: 187 ( [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 > >     
Google's Wobbles
Or Maybe: The Rise and Fall of Search Engines
Napoleon




msg:186551
 6:46 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

The problems reported are actually becoming far more rational and trends are emerging.

That bus which GoogleGuy was talking about in the earlier -SJ update thread, when urging webmasters not to worry about each bump on route.... it could well be starting to stray from the road... and in full view of the searching public.

Is the Plex loosing its grip? Consider the following:

a) This thread: [webmasterworld.com...] Sorry.... a few may gloss over or apply positive spin... but this is a real mess. That cannot be hidden any more, as the scale is wide and actually seems to be growing as the forum posts become more rational. Yes, in some sectors the searching public WILL notice.

b) The geolocation fiasco. Wrong decision, no warning at all to the searching public, and certainly alienation of some. Another real mess.

c) Unfair penalties. Anyone getting a human response on these? I bought a new domain in January. Worked for ages on it, and... PR0. Why? Someone had previously owned it in Sept 2001 and got a penalty. Emails explaining and begging for common sense over a month ago ignored. I'm not the only one.

And yes there are other bits and pieces demonstrating this trend.

The impression from all this is not good. Individually these sorts of issues do cause damage and potentially any one could backfire into substantial adverse publicity, loss of customer/searcher support, etc.

Collectively, the story is getting bigger than the sum of its parts.

I make no bones about being a Google fan, so for me, the above is of great concern. More than any reason because I have seen it before, as have others. This sort of... well it looks like sloppiness or lack of correct focus... was evident when Alta Vista started it's rapid decline.

Maybe over confidence is the cause, or lack of hierarchical control, or just bad judgment. Who knows. But here's a point: when a search engine has fallen previously the first group to have drifted away have been webmasters. That's why I have asked on a different thread: "What the hell is going on".

C'mon Google.... sort it. This is shakey ground and I'm beginning to wonder what is next. It's doing no-one any favors, least of all Google.

 

Napoleon




msg:186552
 7:19 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Perhaps I should add a little more background to the ABC above:

A) I think there are several points here. The first thing for me was the quality of the thread I linked to above. More rational, more experienced posters. It demonstrates a slightly more objective overview and certainly demonstrates the scale of the problem.

The problem with the index is there for sure, but what is making this more serious is that the indications are that it won't be addressed tomorrow, or the day after. The hints are weeks rather than days (assuming all problems ARE actually addressed). I find this... I'll just say surprising.

B) This Faux Pas is actually more significant than some people realize. Essentially, searchers in some territories were forced to territory language Google variants and not the .com database.

Bad enough - yes - and shades again of Alta Vista who at least deployed some upfront two way choice mechanism at some stage. But the real damage is in the strata it will have alienated.

In some territories these are the English speakers who will have first spotted Google (by virtue of their mother tongue) and introduced it to the locals. These are highly influential in their respective areas, and will have been the group hit hardest by this change. NOT the group a search engine should be upsetting.

C) This too is a much bigger issue than it seems if you scratch the surface. There are tens of thousands (maybe more) of domains out there like that. Perhaps those churned out by the spammers in their thousands and then dropped. Perhaps all those previously held by domain trading companies with the same 'for sale' front page and penalized for duplicate content.

Countless people have subsequently bought them in complete ignorance. The vast majority will have no idea they carry it, or if they do realize, why they have it.

As domains are dropped, re-purchased or traded, it's like a cancer spreading through the web. Remember, Google in its wisdom assigns life time penalties.

These three examples, as indicated in the first post, could be seen as indications of more deep seated problems. Would Google have made these blunders of judgement 3/4 years ago, especially given the strata of people initially impacted most (webmasters and national movers and shakers in the field)? Some might think they would have found a third way.

I am not enjoying writing this.

rfgdxm1




msg:186553
 7:22 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Maybe over confidence is the cause, or lack of hierarchical control, or just bad judgment.

Google seems broken. Dunno if they just aren't able to cope with the WWW at the moment, or real bad judgement is involved. GG's comment about backlinks, anchor text, etc. being added sometime in the future more than weeks, and less than months, suggests to me bad judgement at minimum. Huh? Every dance before that was added in during the dance. They intentionally unleashed an awful, half baked index. Why not delay the update a few weeks until they could get it right?

gingerbreadman




msg:186554
 7:39 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

google seems to be dead here too.

amazed




msg:186555
 7:43 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

ever tried to hit a moving target?

if I understand correctly ...I am not sure about anything at the moment...google is trying to catch up with daily changes of www.

I can't imagine any way to make this quality proof offline bring it online and still be on time.

...it is a very ambitious plan...

NovaW




msg:186556
 7:47 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I really don't like this state of affairs either - but come on give them a break. I'm guessing that they know what they are doing - perhaps they see a bigger picture that we can only guess at right now?, and even if a screwup was involved - so what? - they are allowed to make screw-ups just like everybody else.

My guess is that when the dust settles - it will look very different. It's hard to believe that good valuable sites that play by the rules will end up shafted after being well recognized by Google in the past. Afterall - Google isn't in the business of promoting crap at the expense of sites that people want to find.

Napoleon




msg:186557
 8:41 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

>> but come on give them a break <<

No - it isn't a question of a break, and certainly not one of bowing down with a "they know best" approach. Some people did the same when AV and other former leaders of the industry hit the high road to oblivion.

The seeds are certainly there, and all I am doing is pointing them out - as much for Google's benefit as anyone's.

Who knows what's around the corner. Certainly Google can't take anything for granted.

Example? It won't happen because they are too close, but as a whatif:

- What if Yahoo launched a 'supped up' Inktomi as its main provider... NOW?
- What if they made pronouncements that Google had gone of the rails and Ink was now much better?
- What if they trotted out the three examples above (especially the first: with example searches showing poor results) along with some other areas in which Google is currently faltering
- What if they displayed all these as examples of how Google was in serious decline?

Yes... I reckon that might shake the market and cause severe damage to Google. It might well shift some of the balance.

As stated that won't happen, but all sorts of scenarios are possible, especially when Google has so many dodgy balls in the air.

Dynamoo




msg:186558
 8:44 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Napoleon, I'm with you 100% on this one. This is a really bad update for a whole host of reasons, and suddenly from an surfer's point of view, Google are no longer giving the best results.

Ignoring my concern about the sad state of the index, the badly applied PR0 penalties and all, it's clear from doing a search on the new Google index that it's not that good. Description snippets are out of date, the Google directory has reverted to one a couple of months old, dead sites are listed, new sites have dropped.

But.. if I go over to Alltheweb and type in queries, they look like Google's *used* to look like. OK, Alltheweb has issues (such as REALLY out of date sites), but it's much more up-to-date than Google.

The point is that Search Engines rise and fall. First, there was the Webcrawler, and then along came AltaVista which was a massive improvement in terms of scope and results, but AltaVista grew stale and Google came along offering much better results. The precedent for a better performing search engine to steal Google's crown has been set. Although I suspect this is just a glitch.. however, if Google don't sort out the index they will risk losing market share.

At the risk of repeating myself, my two cents worth is that this is an old index overlayed with freshbot results. It looks like the sort of thing that you might do if you were having problems with the Cassandra index and had to revert to Boston or earlier as a basis.

John_Creed




msg:186559
 8:54 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe these problems are only temporary?

If Google is going through a new process and what is happening during this "update" is happening on purpose, than it wouldn't hurt for someone to say so and to explain exactly why.(Or maybe someone did and I missed it)

Otherwise it appears like Google is having serious problems and something is "broke." More than two days but less than months is not a good answer.

Remember... when this all started... even GoogleGuy didn't know what was going on with the SJ index.

Personally I think eventually things will get back to normal. Google didn't become the top search engine on the net by being incompetant.

But as of right now...google is definately having problems. Or simply experimenting.

Napoleon




msg:186560
 10:00 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

>> Maybe these problems are only temporary? <<

Let's hope so. Problem is that perception can be important in this industry, and this isn't creating a great perception. And of course... it has gone on for weeks already (and the domain name problem has been known about for many months... it appears like they don't care).

>> Google didn't become the top search engine on the net by being incompetant <<

Neither did WebCrawler, Alta Vista....

Stefan




msg:186561
 11:55 am on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Remember... when this all started... even GoogleGuy didn't know what was going on with the SJ index.

I remember. He disappeared for a good while to find out what was up. I started to wonder just how high up in the plex he is. He didn't know anything about the great changes to the algo/indexing/whatever that were starting and since then his cryptic comments can also be interpreted as "maybe he still has no idea what's going on either".

Ltribe




msg:186562
 12:09 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

When the -sj 'adventure' began, I was one of those whose home page disappeared, but subsidiary pages were still visible.

About a week ago, the home page returned on -cw, and with a ranking that reasonably (?) reflected my PR, back links etc., relative to other pages. i.e. a minor difference from the previous dance.

Over the past few days, the various data centers all started to pick up this index, and last night, six centers were showing this.

This morning, my home page is gone again, and seven datacenteres are showing the original -sj index from a few weeks ago.

Very peculiar!

parabola




msg:186563
 12:14 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

The fact that Google decided to make the "new" index live to the public without using data past February, other than Fresh pages, is really disturbing. I'm not sure they are broke, but certainly this was a case of bad judgement. At the very least. they should have added the spam filters before going live?

jrobbio




msg:186564
 12:25 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>c) Unfair penalties. Anyone getting a human response on these? I bought a new domain in January. Worked for ages on it, and... PR0. Why? Someone had previously owned it in Sept 2001 and got a penalty. Emails explaining and begging for common sense over a month ago ignored. I'm not the only one. <<

This never occurred to me before you mentioned it. How did you find out (apart from the PR0)? I must say procedure rather than common sense reigns on this one.

As for "the wobble" I have no thorough conception of how complex the spam filters are, but I'm guessing that it requires a serious amount of experimentation on mass widespread data. Maybe there were errors in the Cassandra update, think about DMOZ screwing up since September, but people have still stuck with it.

Another thing I think Google are trying to cover is the approach LookSmart have had with Grub and they may be trying to counter that with the increased activity of freshie, which might be messing up the way Google originally worked.

Another thing is the idea of having changing SERPS rather than static front pages, which I got the indication of from the differences in a lot of the datacentres. Fresh data seems to be a lot more prominent in some datacentres than others although I think this is a dangerous idea since some people want reliable consistent results.

Rob

Napoleon




msg:186565
 1:00 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

>> This never occurred to me before you mentioned it. How did you find out (apart from the PR0)? <<

I created a new site with a new domain. No matter how good I made it, and how many people linked to it, it remained on PR0.

I checked Archive.Org and sure enough, it had had a previous life. I checked other domains that this particular reseller had owned and then ditched... and sure enough, they were all PR0. The new owners of them no doubt blissfully unaware that they had a penalty - probably wondering what exactly they have to do to get any traffic on the web!

This little gem has been there for a long time. Totally unfair and unreasonable of course.

These sorts of issues though have a cumulative effect. On its own it is patently unreasonable, but only relatively small numbers are affected, and even they don't usually know about it.

However, add a growing list of other issues, glitches and grievances and it starts to become a trend, and therefore a problem - not only of perception but of substance. It makes Google in some respects vulnerable, and increasingly so. They have some recovery work to do, IMHO.

textex




msg:186566
 1:09 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

"What if Yahoo launched a 'supped up' Inktomi as its main provider... NOW?"

If Yahoo! were smart, they would realize this opportunity and jump.....

kevinpate




msg:186567
 1:19 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hmmm wouldn't 'jump now' on their part simply subject yahtomi to pretty much the same comments/attacks/concerns/groans/laments which peeps are currently making about google releasing a new algo prior to applying all filters?

sanblasena




msg:186568
 1:37 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I woke up a few days ago and typed in www.google.com and it came up in Spanish. It finally dawned on me that Google was making some very bad business decisions. GG says the spams filters will be applied later, that the current data will come in later and the backlinks will come in later. It is not professional to release a database in this form - if they are having problems (which I am sure they are), they they should have delayed the update of the database until the problems were fixed. I worked as a DP professional for many years - often as a company gets larger they drop the technical people from the management and replace them with financial types who may not make good technical decisions. I'm sure there are some very smart people at Google who are just as upset about this as we are. I'm not so much affected by this myself, but many people depend on their sites for their income and its not fair to put out a database thats not ready.

Brad




msg:186569
 1:57 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Napoleon, I think all your points are excellent, it is the sum total of all the elements combined that should make Google worry.

>>What if Yahoo launched a 'supped up' Inktomi as its main provider... NOW?

A lot depends on what happens next month. If the wobble continues then it would be a perfect time for the major competitors to launch a media campaign and for others to switch.

If I were the other engines, I would be making plans right now to start getting myself noticed by the public and put on my best front for next month or the month after if Google stays off balance.

tombot




msg:186570
 2:06 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I find the previously owned domain thing kind of infuriating.

tombot




msg:186571
 2:14 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I should say that I find it to be infuriating, not just kind of infuriating. Thinking about all the people who innocently go and register a domain and then get shafted out of SE traffic because of what someone else may have done with the same domain a long time ago, gets my blood boiling.

trillianjedi




msg:186572
 2:29 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thinking about all the people who innocently go and register a domain and then get shafted out of SE traffic because of what someone else may have done with the same domain a long time ago, gets my blood boiling.

That's just a case of buyer beware - always check first. Otherwise it's like buying a house without a survey.

On the google wobble thing, I wholeheartedly agree with the bulk of posts on here.

I hope that alltheweb capitalise on the opening that currently exists. In my view, they are currently the best search engine in the absence of a good working google.

It would be great to get an allthewebguy on here, haven't seen such an employee on the forums. Perhaps we should email them and ask?

TJ

djgreg




msg:186573
 2:29 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

It seems very strange to me that the SERPS of the datacenters are so different. GG said the sj index will spread to other datacenters. IN -sj many of my sites dropped from their very good positions to nowhere, but in-cw some of them are again on good positions.
Also I think it is irresponsible to release an index without the spam filters applied. Now many rich content useful sites have dropped because spammy sites got the positions above them.
The main question for me is: Why show such an index to the searchers. Either they are not aware of the wickedness of this index, what I can't believe because only the posts in this forum should have scared them up or it is a technical glitch.
If they only wanted to test a new on the fly crawling and adition system they could have done it on a
www-hnengiefbwfi.google.com server where nobody can see it and nobody gets hurt

gstewart




msg:186574
 2:50 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I hope that alltheweb capitalise on the opening that currently exists. In my view, they are currently the best search engine in the absence of a good working google

Just went to alltheweb.com for the first time in ages - what a huge improvement! Just like Google used to be...

AAnnAArchy




msg:186575
 2:55 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

<<That's just a case of buyer beware - always check first. Otherwise it's like buying a house without a survey.>>

It isn't always possible, at least not through the Way Back Machine. I have several expired domains suffering through the penalty, even though they're clean sites that were fine for months.

tombot




msg:186576
 2:58 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

That's just a case of buyer beware - always check first. Otherwise it's like buying a house without a survey.

Always check what?

Are you saying there is always a way to tell that an expired domain was penalized by Google in the past?

Napoleon




msg:186577
 3:20 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Just reading the boards for the last half hour it does seem that temperatures are indeed starting to rise significantly. Not too many good things being said at the moment.

On this thread alone, the three large constituencies mentioned above are highly visible (the -SJ effect, the Spanish google.com, the infuriated domain buyer). Unfortunately, scratch the surface and there are plenty of other disgruntled groups like this.

How Google react to the growing criticism (which is the most widespread I can ever remember) will surely reveal much about their longer term intentions.

We already know the reaction to the domain name injustice. They have left it in place month after month, and simply watched the problem spread as more and more innocents have been caught. Not good. Maybe it wasn't properly on their radar for some reason.

The other issues? I suspect the geolocation is a quick fix if they actually want to step back and apply it. The ever lasting public update though... yes, wrong decision..... but it sounds like that could take a while to address. Need it? Conceptually I don't see why: the software is in place, surely importing fresh data shouldn't take too long? Especially given the clear discomfort this is causing, and the potential risks here.

I'd love a detailed comment from Google on all these matters. At least an indication that they could have been managed a lot better would help, and some commitment to address the underlying problems.

I don't want to be too critical, because Google have given so much and been so well managed for so long. They have earned a degree of trust. However, I worry that we may be at a watershed. The issues being discussed here are not fictional - they are serious problems and bad mistakes - and would in my opinion not have been made 3 years ago.

I suspect the next few days will tell us an awful lot about the shape of Google to come.

trillianjedi




msg:186578
 3:23 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Always check what?

You need to go back through every incarnation of the site back to it's first registration date and check the content for anything that may have got it banned.

In the absence of that information being available, don't buy it.

If the information is not available, but it's a domain that you *really* want then get a warranty from the seller that the domain is clean and don't spend too much time and money on it until you know for sure which will require building a small site and getting some inbounds to see what happens.

TJ

parabola




msg:186579
 3:36 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Good news is, YAHOO! plans on launching that new search this summer with INK and Google. Also, they are planning a big ad campaign for Yahoo search.

NovaW




msg:186580
 3:42 pm on May 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

It sucks no doubt, but for every down hearted webmaster there is an upbeat spammer. It'll work out. I don't think google see this as any kind of screwup - if they did - they would have stayed with the old index. So, one can assume this is a messy transition to something better - but no cause for too much alarm.

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