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Google's Udi Manber in a Rare Interview about Search
tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 6:05 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Udi Manber is Google's VP in charge of search quality, and Popular Mechanics has published a rare interview with the computer scientist. It's always interesting to learn how key people at the 'plex see the big picture - because their point of view is otherwise something we can only guess about. They also can confirm (or explain in more detail) things we've been puizzling over.

Along those lines, here's one answer that I particularly appreciated: the idea of "adding diversity" to search results.

...I’ll give you an example of something that came last week. We were evaluating a certain algorithm that adds diversity to the result. We did live experiments, which means we launched the algorithm to a very small percentage of users and then see how that compares to the result without the algorithm.

[popularmechanics.com...]


 

Patrick Taylor

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 6:25 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

"I wish people would put more effort into thinking about how other people will find them and putting the right keywords onto their pages.

The right keywords onto the pages. How much effort is he recommending, I wonder.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 6:31 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

That jumped out at me, too. I don't think he's talking about the meta tag here - I think it'smore about not including the key information on the page and in text, not images. It's still way too common for websites to omit the most important bits of text.

Those of us who focus on SEO are often not aware of this out on the general web, because those pages never come to our attention since they don't rank well! I've seen some crazy stuuf in this direction with prospective clients, however, even from very big enterprises.

bwnbwn

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 6:46 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

What I found most intresting is there is no way in the Google algo to manually affect a search result or page placement, to go up but we all tknow there are manual reviews to go down.

If they see a result that shows the incorrect placement as they see it the algo is adjusted to return the most desired results.

I wonder if this is coming from the human editors as to the algo tweeks by thier votes or input into the system.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 7:09 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Human editorial parameters can move a ranking either up or down, according to the editorial opinion patent [patft.uspto.gov].

[Description]...An editorial opinion parameter for a favored source may, for example, cause the score of the associated web page to be upgraded by a percentage of its previous score or by an absolute value.

Similarly, for non-favored sources, the applicable editorial opinion parameter may cause the score of the associated web page to be downgraded by a percentage of its previous score or an absolute value.


jimbeetle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 7:20 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

What I found most intresting is there is no way in the Google algo to manually affect a search result or page placement, to go up but we all tknow there are manual reviews to go down.

Yeah, was a bit confused at first, then found Matt Cutts' companion piece [mattcutts.com] in which he says:

That’s the right answer for a general/Popular Mechanics audience. For the nitpicking search junkies that read here, I’ll just add that we are willing to take manual action on a small number of issues like webspam and removals for legal reasons.

In is first comment to that post he references the WebmasterWorld Google says it cannot change results [webmasterworld.com] thread from a few years back.

zeus

WebmasterWorld Senior Member zeus us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 10:56 am on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

well thats how it works they dont tell us all, but we do here on webmasterworld

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 11:51 am on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thanks tedster for bringing this interview to our attention. I was happy to see him say that algo changes are made independent of any consideration on Adwords revenue.

I would have liked him to explain a little more what he means by "diversity". It seems to me that in a lot of the searching I do, "diversity" is NOT what I want, as many of those results might seem irrelevant. What I usually want initially is focus -- if I want wider (more diverse) results, I move in that direction in subsequent tries.

Using "New York Times address" as the example -- if I type that in, then I'd want the address for the NYT, not an address they published 2 days earlier. So rather than putting some unwanted external addresses in my primary results, I'd prefer Google to ask me a question -- "Do you mean the address of the New York Times, or, an address that was published in the New York Times?"

Now THAT'S refinement!

........................

potentialgeek

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 12:10 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

> That jumped out at me, too. I don't think he's talking about the meta tag here.

On-page words are the new meta tags. Whatever you used to put in keywords, now drop from the tags to the text.

> The right keywords onto the pages. How much effort is he recommending, I wonder.

Enough to snag traffic: not so much you trip the Google Phrase Spam Penalty.TM

> What I usually want initially is focus -- if I want wider (more diverse) results, I move in that direction in subsequent tries.

Google still doesn't have a One-Click Focus button to close quote an open search. Which, quite frankly, in 2008 is absurd.

You should be able to toggle these two searches in one click, and the button should be right beside the search bar:

Red Widgets
"Red Widgets"

Google used to close quote right-click searches after you selected a series of words with your cursor; then it stopped doing that.

Has every Google user stopped closed-quoting searches?

Google gives out this tip:

Tip: Save time by hitting the return key instead of clicking on "search"

It saves less time than having to add quotes to a search string.

Google keeps offering "Suggestions" for searches. Here's my Suggestion for searches, Google: One-Click Focus.TM

Is that really too hard to code?

p/g

Update

I just checked the Google.com search bar. I found out there's enough space to the right of "Google Search" and "I'm Feeling Lucky" to add "Focus."

potentialgeek

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 12:47 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

This Q&A is possibly the most significant. It could even lead to a paradigm shift in webmastering:

Q. I’ve noticed, anecdotally, when watching people search, that they will rephrase their query over and over again until they get a proper answer. To what extent can that be fixed on the search engine side?

A. Many ways. First, we take that into account. The results we show you are based not only on what we know of the Web, but also what other people have searched for. Second, we are developing more tools to allow you to refine your queries—at the bottom of many pages, you’ll see query refinements. These are suggestions from us about what your next query should be. And we put it at the bottom because that’s where you run into problems—you tried to read the page, you didn’t find what you want, you may need other suggestions.

If I read that correctly, he's saying Google is now reprogramming its Search Results based on Related Searches, not just adding related searches or suggestions to the results page. That could explain a lot of recent Google rankings.

Also, the interviewer's comment is very interesting and potentially instructive, too. I wasn't aware of this. I personally don't rewrite search strings like I'm editing a book. I thought most people would choose one search string and then go through the results top to bottom (or a few pages).

Any public research data into rephrasing by Google users or SE users in general? Google's own suggestions obsession lately no doubt is due to its own private data on search string rephrasing.

p/g

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 3:25 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Google keeps offering "Suggestions" for searches. Here's my Suggestion for searches, Google: One-Click Focus

Good one. Here's my idea -- they could stick a couple tiny icons on the page -- a microscope for a more narrow, focused search; a telescope for one that was wider and more diverse.

..................................

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 3:48 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I would have liked him to explain a little more what he means by "diversity".

Me too. From what he did say, I'm pretty sure he's talking about the search terms where user intentions are not clear, based on how frequently that particular query gets revised. In other words,the kind of thing discussed in the 2006 patent we discussed about Query Revision [webmasterworld.com].

In some cases, Google is going a good bit further than a list of refined searches. In fact, I strongly feel that the Position #6 Bug [webmasterworld.com] from last December was part of this "diversity" focus.

jimbeetle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 4:50 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

From what he did say, I'm pretty sure he's talking about the search terms where user intentions are not clear,

The problem I have in understanding what he means by 'diversity' is that in the paragraph he mentioned it he's talking about what Google assumes is a pretty unambiguous search, [new york times address], where the user's intention appeared pretty clear. He goes on to say that because of the "diversity" of results (I'm assuming because of the algo test) and the "freshness", Google was able to return a user relevant result somewhere within its set.

So I guess I'm just not sure were the diversity algo tested should have improved on the freshness algo: Shouldn't the freshness algo have pulled up a result that just appeared the day before? I guess the tested algo has to widen the net of candidate results somehow.

The only thing I can come up with offhand is that since the 'new york times' part of the query is so specific that any [new york times term] will return mostly results from the Times' domain and subdomains, as the [new york times address] query happens to do today.

So, maybe, possibly, shot in the dark, in the context of this test diversity doesn't mean expanding the query, but widening the possible domains or sources from which candidate results can be returned.

Pico_Train

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 5:01 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

The results we show you are based not only on what we know of the Web, but also what other people have searched for.

That's toolbar data is it not? Not necessarily "related searches". And I'm sure it can be stretched to include something along the lines

"but also what other people have searched for and how useful it was to them" - length of stay, further deep clicks, back button, close browser,... you name it.

Pico_Train

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 5:06 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

And because of this diversity and because of our emphasis on freshness and highlighting fresh results...

So who's going to update their site and write loads of stuff in the next couple of days, everyday as long as you shall live?

IanKelley

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 11:30 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

When we decide to launch something, we have a weekly meeting...revenues and any effects on ads do not come into those meetings. We don’t even know what the effects are.

Glad someone at Google finally said it. Maybe this will cut down on silly posts claiming that Google somehow alters organic results in order to make more money through their PPC.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 11:45 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

In his blog today, Matt Cutts made an interesting statement about Google's philosophy that lines up with the idea of "diversity" in the search results:

The other reason that I like this feature is that it fits in with a basic Google philosophy, which is "you enter whatever interests you in the search box, and we’ll try to do something smart to help."

[mattcutts.com...]

This type of "diversity" is a pretty expansive vision, and one that goes far outside the traditional idea of search. I would be quite happy with a set of traditional search results that grows more and more relevant as the algo improves.

I know I'm not considered a "common end-user", and I guess that they are the target. But when I want a mind-reader, I'll go to a psychic.

IanKelley

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 1:28 am on Apr 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Agreed, but it really depends on how far they take it. For instance, I would welcome a few odd results ranked by an alternate interpretation of my query. Provided the majority of results were still conventionally ranked.

It could even get something useful into some of the long tail spam dominated search results.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 7:47 pm on Apr 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

An interesting bit of trivia caught my eye...

Last year we made over 450 improvements to the algorithm.

In the past we've talked about the 100 fabled algo factors, and some of us have expanded that number to 200. If there were 450 improvements last year, either they're revisiting some of these factors a lot... which is possible... or there are many more than 200 factors.

"adding diversity"

I assume that they're aware of the problem of trying to serve all users, which is why they're also pushing personalization. Both kinds of adjustments make me uncomfortable, though, as they're playing "mind-reader" either way.

Are they going the way of point-and-shoot cameras, where so much is done for you that you have to trick the camera to achieve any sort of manual control? I hope they keep a "manual mode" somewhere in advanced search, at least.

It could be argued that even with manual mode on Google, they're doing quite a bit of mind-reading.

Pico_Train

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 5:35 am on Apr 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

With regards to the mind reading, that may the be the only place Google has left to go with Search. They've essentially covered every other base. Personalisation is great for some, not me, I turned it off and deleted everything in there, but it also is a bit worrying nevermind the thought of millions of servers being able to store so much information. I though Big Brother was a tv show?

potentialgeek

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 6:10 am on Apr 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

>> When we decide to launch something, we have a weekly meeting...revenues and any effects on ads do not come into those meetings. We don’t even know what the effects are.

> Glad someone at Google finally said it. Maybe this will cut down on silly posts claiming that Google somehow alters organic results in order to make more money through their PPC.

Sorry, this is a bit flippant on Google's part. It's a business and to take the attitude we don't care what it does to our revenue is weird.

If Google's SERP Team comes out with a stupid algo change that kills off sites which are making it good money (ads), it's bad for business if there's no redeeming part of the change.

Pure geek theory. It's all about the code. Business be damned!

All these geek changes with Media Content flooding SERPs are pushing sites that do well for Google with ads lower and reduce its revenue.

But, we just turned a 30% profit, so whatever.

I'm with Tedster on pure search results. The noisy new layout doesn't do it for me and "hand-holding" (suggestions) is condescending.

Google should tone it down--e.g. use a + sign to bring up video results instead of the image/thumbnail.

Google's staff now looks like it's doing "busy" work. "We've got to do something." Well, no, not really.

Who stopped using Google.com because it wasn't cluttered enough?

Put human resources into spam control, not making google.com search results look spammy.

p/g

IanKelley

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 7:44 am on Apr 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's a business that, at least on the organic side of it, benefits from ignoring everything that doesn't improve end user results.

asher02

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 7:48 am on Apr 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

The diversity I see in my industry is that the top 10 results are not containing only 10 e-commerce website as before.

As if they grab the top 3 results for a keyword from each class (e-commerce, informative, etc) and serve the first page with the top 2-3 results from each class.

santapaws

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 8:03 am on Apr 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

why are you guys talking like this happened yesterday? its been happening for at least 2 years. The only difference is the diversity is diversifying. The only question i have is as default serps diversify and there are more and more buttons to focus the results (for example, groups, maps, news, videos) why isnt there a button for default serps without the diversity?
It would also help them determine if the diversified results are actually serving the majority of browsers with a better experience.

whitenight

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 8:56 am on Apr 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Maybe this will cut down on silly posts claiming that Google somehow alters organic results in order to make more money through their PPC.

It's equally silly to think that Google forcing Youtube (how much was that acquistion?) and other Universal Search acquisitions down searchers throats isn't about money, either.

Let's take an example for a highly searched word that can be both informational and commercial.

Why the heck is the #3 listing a song by a somewhat popular band?
Is it because of the song's infinite popularity?
Nope, it's one of the bands worse songs and never had national airtime.

Is it because masses of people are searching for the song?
Nope, according to a quick bug in Youtube, not even a handful of people are added to their favorites or visit the page.

Oh yes, it's about "diversity".
Except that the name of the song just happens to be "highly searched widgets".
Nobody is actually having difficulty finding the song, cause no one wants to hear it.

But it's a good way to advertise YOUTUBE which Goog is still figuring out how to make profitable.

Like EVERY company, politician, public figure....
National recorded interview = lots of bs spin that may or probably won't resemble truth.

So let's try to read between the lines, shall we?

Or did I miss the massive write-in campaign insisting that Goog force youtube videos in the top 5 results? Deserving or not?!

Sorry, this is a bit flippant on Google's part. It's a business and to take the attitude we don't care what it does to our revenue is weird.

Ah yes, this is more sound reasoning. :)

Gimme a break, as p/g points out, who ACTUALLY believes that Goog engineers are allowed to do whatever they want regardless of profit-potential?

That's corporate negligence and every investor should be calling the board of directors to have a very SERIOUS discussion about lost dividends.

No worries tho, cause Udi's statement was corporate spin...
No, actually, it was a corporate gaffe that I'm sure the lawyers will tell him not to "phrase so oddly" about in future interviews. ;)

IanKelley

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 8:04 pm on Apr 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I disagree. I'm not even going to speculate about how other divisions at Google make their decisions (adsense, etc...) but I have no trouble believing that the organic search engineers are making decisions without taking revenue into consideration.

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 8:56 pm on Apr 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I too agree that Udi's team of engineers almost certainly make their algo modifications without any regard to ad revenues. What we don't know however is whether or not there are other links in the chain above his level that have the expertise/power to take the impact on revenues into account. In other words, his statement can be 100% truthful and yet the suspicions of some posters here may have some validity. I'd love to see someone in the top leadership make a clear statement in print, in regards to the relationship between algo & revenue, to put it all to rest once and for all.

....................

trinorthlighting

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 1:54 am on Apr 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

Robert,

I think you hit the nail right on the head with the 450 improvments. That is 1.23 changes a day to the algorythm. There is a lot more there than meets the eye.

cryonerve

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 12:07 am on Jun 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi Guys, Am n00b here- but have been around the search space for some time... find the 450 comment a bit too outlandish- is it even possible to incorporate 450 improvements in something working as seamlessly as Google? Unless he is counting the bug fixes to the bug fix?
Could someone point me to 45 of those 450 improvements? I think if we had a list of changes we can see where Google is headed…

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3629342 posted 12:33 am on Jun 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hello cryonerve, and welcome to the forums.

I think most of these changes are changes and enhancements to the ranking algorithm - they go well beyond bug fixes. And some of it seems to be actual bug creation ;)

We maintain a regular thread every month where members discuss the changes they see in the SERPs. The one for the current month is here: June 2008 Google SERP Changes [webmasterworld.com]. If you track these threads over time, you'll see that our members pick up on a lot of the tweaks.

Google is not about to list for us how they are adjusting the algorithm day by day and week by week. But our community has noticed a lot.

Here's just a few areas recently discussed: some major changes to how Google handles repeated queries from the same user, "forced" ranking positions for certain types of search results, efforts to create diversity when a query is too ambiguous, changes to geo-located results, changes to the way link juice is calculated, major changes in linguistic handling (including mixed case queries), shifts in the way quoted search terms are handled, and on and on.

As good as Google Search is today, I think most members here feel they've got a lot more to do - and Google definitely agrees with that.

This 31 message thread spans 2 pages: 31 ( [1] 2 > >
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