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Google Accused of Handpicking SERPS
Rugles




msg:3807194
 3:21 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Google this week admitted that its staff will pick and choose what appears in its search results. It's a historic statement - and nobody has yet grasped its significance.

Not so very long ago, Google disclaimed responsibility for its search results by explaining that these were chosen by a computer algorithm. The disclaimer lives on at Google News, where we are assured that:
...


[theregister.co.uk...]

( sorry if this has already been posted )

I found the link to this story on the Drudge Report, so its soon to become a big story among non-webmasters.

 

Receptional Andy




msg:3807358
 7:55 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Personally, I think the Register's conclusion based on the quote is way off the mark. It's an understandably tabloid headline though, and not surprising for the Register. If we look at the relevant quote:

But in the future it's likely Google will use [searchwiki] data to at least make obvious changes. An example is if "thousands of people" were to knock a search result off a search page, they’d be likely to make a change

I mean, this doesn't even imply the change would be by hand, and directly to an individual results page. A much better approach would be algorithmically, anyway.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if some Google results were manually re-ordered or edited (ala Yahoo), but I don't see any "smoking gun" here at all.

Robert Charlton




msg:3807378
 8:23 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree that the Register story is way overblown.

There's also nothing substantially new in what MM has said. Mayer has been mentioning for a while now that Google has been looking for indications of searcher behavior to factor into the serps.

I think it's likely that manual review of top results in competitive areas (from those fabled 10,000 human evaluators), along with user interaction with serps, is already factored into some sort of quality score, which undoubtedly includes linking and onpage quality factors as well, and that SearchWiki, if used, would simply be one more aspect of correlation and refinement.

There's also a video of the interview [techcrunch.com], which I haven't watched now available at TechCrunch.

whitenight




msg:3807389
 9:03 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

lol of course they hand-pick results.

What do you think the "Ghost Datacenter"(TM) is mostly comprised of?

And they were doing this waaay before "indications of searcher behavior to factor into the serps" was even a thought in SEO's conspiracy theories.

This IS the same company that banned ::cough:: BMW for what?
a day?
as an "ACT OF JUDICIARY IMPARTIALITY"?
and then let them back in...
lol come on.

mike2010




msg:3807392
 9:07 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Corruption is everywhere...im sure the first 10 search results for every major keyword is corruptly manually placed.

Thats basically what that article's about.

I used to know a guy 5 years ago that would get anybody at the top of google for any keyword for the right price. $10,000 or more sometimes it would cost. Depending on the keyword. He had connections... Not sure how widespread that type of behaviour is these days though.

[edited by: mike2010 at 9:12 pm (utc) on Dec. 14, 2008]

whitenight




msg:3807394
 9:11 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

im sure the first 10 search results for every major keyword is corruptly manually placed.

I wouldn't say the top 10.
But definitely the top 3 SERPs.

For about 50-100 super-competitive profitable highly-searched keywords

bwnbwn




msg:3807453
 9:55 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

im sure the first 10 search results for every major keyword is corruptly manually placed

I don't think this is true at all. I do feel that Google does keep a tight reign on the tops spots though and feel they want the best of the best in the top spots.

I would feel the exact same way if I developed Google. Serp placement is done through the algo and human reviews not through corruption.

You take pride in your site the look the feel the work you put into it well these guys are just the same as us just on a much bigger scale.

Human reviews can spot a website that has manulipated their position lots faster than it would take an aglo to be programmed to do so. Send and email to the right person and it doesn't take long to add a filter then study why whatever they did worked and apply that to the algo.

tedster




msg:3807470
 10:20 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm also quite sure that human review sets the top of the SERPs for the most competitive markets. The algo may pick out the candidates for those spots, but these markets are so intense that they do take constant human supervision. If you work closely with a site in one of these super competitive areas, you get to see it pretty clearly.

But I don't see how manual adjustments imply corruption. That's a leap too far into yellow journalism and unjustified "logic".

frup




msg:3807474
 10:36 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

"I'm also quite sure that human review sets the top of the SERPs for the most competitive markets."

I'm quite sure this is false, if you mean someone at Google places the SERPs in a certain order by hand. I watch extremely competitive areas, and I've been watching the same ones for years, and I've seen zero evidence of this. There's no question, though, that Yahoo DOES do this.

However, I think they have extremely sophisticated tracking of user behavior and it factors heavily into SERPs.

potentialgeek




msg:3807475
 10:37 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's more likely editors will be used to smash bad sites from the top than push up "slightly better" ones, i.e: what escaped the algo, spam that fell through the cracks. Just imagine the amount of time it would take to fiddle with other stuff for every major search or industry.

If you work closely with a site in one of these super competitive areas, you get to see it pretty clearly.

Tedster, do you have any hard-core data or Cutts Comments to support your belief in human editors?

By the way the official Google comment wrt the article is futuristic, is it not?

Google this week admitted that its staff will pick and choose what appears in its search results.

Expect Google to shortly qualify its statement, but in any case it's currently a possibility, not a fact.

But in the future it’s likely Google will use the data to at least make obvious changes. An example is if “thousands of people” were to knock a search result off a search page, they’d be likely to make a change.

The tone of the article implies Google is going to be evil, when it sounds more like Google's idea is to let its democratic system stop others from being evil. Just like its core algo is based on positive votes in the form of links on sites, its potential algo update could include negative votes in the form of flags clicks in its SERPs.

Not only is Google indicating the potential update would be user-based; it is also saying the dial would be turned hard so that decisions would be based on a lot of data, i.e., a lot of user complaints.

For a while now I've been calling for Google to institute SpamGuard(TM) into its search results that lets users flag spam. If thousands of users bash one site, I really don't have a problem with Google knocking it off its SERP page. It's probably one of my competitors!

p/g

Reno




msg:3807481
 10:56 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's more likely editors will be used to smash bad sites from the top...

If they do this, then they're a better search service for it; if however (as was implied in a previous posting) that a top spot can be bought, then the shine is off the rose...

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

extra




msg:3807484
 11:02 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

We are a small engineering company with NO knowledge of SEO (except what I've learnd at WW last 2 years).
We have some pages describing "how to", and we have put our pride in these pages. These pages have been at top 3 at SERP for a long time now for competiting keyword and phrases, and I can assure that nothing is paid. BUT, we have had many visits from Google doing what I will call "manual control".

Hand picked sites can of course happend but I think it's VERY seldom. Google depends on their popularity, and this can't be hold with a serp that is bought. But it can be held by a serp that have manual control.

Receptional Andy




msg:3807508
 11:39 pm on Dec 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

The Register is essentially a tabloid, but let's hope we can avoid similar here ;)

To me, the insinuation of the article is that Google results are manually changed, for reasons of self interest.

If anyone had any proof, or even just some reasonable evidence pointing towards that, then the media would be over it like a rash. I think Google could be permanently damaged by that type of thing. There'd be a lot of money in it for the whistle-blower.

If you contend that Google results are corrupt, then a little evidence is required. That could be a collection of "doctored" results, or a contact who claims to alter results at will.

But, if you have no evidence supporting such conclusions, then we're likely ending up with a tabloid headline, based on a leap of faith sprouting from conjecture. To my mind, that's what the Register article represents.

tedster




msg:3807524
 12:15 am on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

do you have any hard-core data or Cutts Comments to support your belief in human editors?

[webmasterworld.com...] for a start.

bwnbwn




msg:3807784
 12:16 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

This was a job posting on Graiglist for human reviews to judge the serps. I find it very hard to believe this was not added to the algo to heelp place a site.

"Search engine results rating:

We need individuals who can work from home to perform search engine results ratings. The work is straight-forward; you log into a Website and then look at predetermined web pages or other similar material and rank them based on how relevant they appear for a given search query. The workload could be anywhere from a few hours a month to a few hours a week. You will need to have a PayPal account as that is how you will be paid.

When you perform this testing you must have the ability to sit down at a computer uninterrupted for 1 hour periods. Also, we will check the data. If the data is inconsistent or done with little regard for quality, you will lose your opportunity to do this in the future.

If you’re interested, here are a few more details:
-You must be willing to be interviewed for approximately 15 minutes on the phone.
-You must be totally and completely fluent in English.
-Please have a college degree, or an AA degree at a minimum.
-Please send your resume along with a brief paragraph about yourself, and also tell us how long you have been using the Internet, how many hours a day/week you use the Internet, and what you typically do on the Internet.
The pay is approximately $25 per hour.

It may take us up to a week to get back to you so please be patient."

What do you think has been going on for the last couple years with the serps,and I now believe the addition of a ranking system in place now with Google to the general public is and will take the place of the human reviews, not all of them but a large chunk.

Why pay for the reviews when you can get it free from the public and Google users with toolbars.

[appscout.com...]

I believe this is a large chunk of them gone now.

randle




msg:3807932
 4:50 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

To me, the insinuation of the article is that Google results are manually changed, for reasons of self interest.

I wouldn't put much stock at all in that article, but manual manipulation is real, and yes "for reasons of self interest" which is improved results; be it for testing and or clear oddities. This leads to a better user experience, and more people using the search engine and ultimately clicking on Google Adwords which has proven to be quite lucrative for them.

No mystery here.

Shaddows




msg:3808001
 5:55 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm not a Google fanboy, but for the tin hat brigade I have a question.

What do you think they will be promoting? On what criteria (ignoring the silly corruption possibility)?

If you are following G guidelines and have produced a nice, user-friendly accessible site, you are likely to benefit. Of course, if you are there because of 'techniques' you probably wont.

Now, I'm all for the 'whatever works' school of thought. However, if you're going to be a front-runner, I guess now you are going to have to factor in the final manual review for top listing.

Rugles




msg:3808037
 6:34 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

This leads to a better user experience, and more people using the search engine and ultimately clicking on Google Adwords which has proven to be quite lucrative for them.

What if they get desparate someday and purposely put crappy results near the top to force people to click on the Adwords.

randle




msg:3808047
 6:58 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

What if they get desparate someday and purposely put crappy results near the top to force people to click on the Adwords.


They would experience a short surge in ad revenue but then over time less people would utilize the search engine, and ultimately their income would suffer. People come to it because of the quality of the organic results, not because their poor. Google involves itself in all kinds of stuff, but at the end of the day they only make money via their search engine; Adwords on the results page, and Adsense off of sites clicked on; thats it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy their “do no evil” PR rubbish, but their pretty bright people and they know the day they kill the golden goose, their done.

signor_john




msg:3808052
 7:05 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

This was a job posting on Graiglist for human reviews to judge the serps. I find it very hard to believe this was not added to the algo to heelp place a site.

Google has said publicly (in fact, GoogleGuy has said in this forum) that quality evaluators are used for benchmarking and quality-control purposes.

In other words, the role of quality evaluators isn't to override algorithms and filters; it's to gather insights on how well Google's algorithms and filters are working.

That's a reasonable explanation, and it makes a lot more sense than the notion that $25-an-hour quality evaluators hired through Craigslist are being given control over Google's search results.

skweb




msg:3808072
 7:41 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Computers are not perfect and can never completely replace human beings. I am actually glad that G is using human evaluation along with algorithm. It is still hard for a computer to know the difference between Apple the company and the fruit but a human knows that in a second.

Reno




msg:3808075
 7:48 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

but then over time less people would utilize the search engine, and ultimately their income would suffer

Agreed. As long as Google is run by its current management team -- or by people that share those values & vision -- they will stick with what works, which is to be the best.

If -- heaven forbid -- their board and/or majority stockholders start demanding as-high-as-possible profits in the short run, then the cracks will form and opportunities will open up for the competition. But at this point, it remains a pretty solid wall...

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

bwnbwn




msg:3808104
 8:23 pm on Dec 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

signor_john who said anything about the reviewers given control of the serps. I said the reviews were added into the algo as a ranking method and given weight on the overall vote on that site, not a serp placement.

I also said if they find something that just didn't fit right then all they needed to do was shoot off an email for a more experienced lets say "Mod" to review. This Mod would look at the results and this site and if there was someting not right send an email to Google Plex for another look and filter if needed.

Human reviews are given weight in the serp placement just as links, age and 248 other factors that all play a role in the serps, but these human reviews may be given more weight than domain age or just as much weight as links.

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