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This 174 message thread spans 6 pages: < < 174 ( 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 > >     
Google AJAX Powered Serps Kills Referals
Brett_Tabke




msg:3841738
 2:56 am on Feb 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

Story on Clicky [getclicky.com] about Google testing ajax powered SERPs. I believe the finders credit goes to this story [smackdown.blogsblogsblogs.com]. I think it is a major story. It has big implications for site owners and webmasters.

About 7 years ago, in the classic "3 characters from done [webmasterworld.com]" thread we had talked about the ramifications on seo of se's switching from GET to POST'ed data. However, it never came to pass that browser programmers would allow an unchecked form "post" submission. However, the hiding or obscuring of referral data is nothing new:

March 2002: [webmasterworld.com]
Both AOL and Overture routinely encode urls and session strings. There are some meta engines and java script based forms on engines that already hide referral strings. Most of us have seen this effect from search MSN already.

I honestly don't think G is shortsighted enough to do something like that system wide for the sake of obfuscating seo efforts. Websites would have little incentive to look to Google for traffic or optimize for Google. The focus would no longer be on Google for optimization. We wouldn't know what or how to optimize for keywords - optimization would be shots in the dark. Our only option would be to look for other big sources of traffic [webmasterworld.com].

There has always been the unwritten trust between websites and search engines that they could use our data, as long as they sent us traffic. Refererless traffic pretty much breaks that unwritten but implicitly agreed upon trust and treats websites as commodities - just food for the engine.

On the other hand, we have to respect a websites - even Google's - opportunity to innovate. I think we have to see what G is doing with the Ajax before passing final judgment on it and it's intentions. I doubt that it is Googles will to break log analyzers and keyword trackers with this test. I think that is a by-product of whatever Ajax implementation google is currently testing.

On the third hand, it would probably drive alot of webmasters to look to AdWords for traffic. hmmm

 

signor_john




msg:3844034
 7:19 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Shouldn't the no-archive tag fix that, no cache - no preview, the user HAS to click to read and users are curious fellows.

Beats me, but if I were a user digging my way through the SERPs, I wouldn't bother with Web sites that played hide-'n'-seek--I'd make my choices from the previewed sites, unless the previews didn't reveal any useful content.

Dave_Hybrid




msg:3844063
 8:16 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

You're a minority. The normal non-webmaster public will assume it's just a feature for some sites or a bug that some get it and others don't. Either way, if Goog wants to offer my site to it's users it must hold it in some value, as do I, and thus I wont be giving users or Goog what they want unless they click. It's a trade. Content for traffic.

physics




msg:3844096
 8:54 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)


Incidentally, using a US IPand with cookies disabled, I can consistently retrieve AJAX results by visiting a URL with the following syntax:

[google.com...]


My question is - why is Google #3 for the word test?

dibbern2




msg:3844136
 9:50 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

You're a minority. The normal non-webmaster public will assume it's just a feature for some sites or a bug that some get it and others don't.

Nope. The normal non-webmaster public never makes assumptions on that scale, they just look, read, and click-- or not.

Philosopher




msg:3844141
 9:54 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Very true dibbern2.

You see the same things on the dating sites. No picture, no love. People are curious, but they are also lazy. If all the competitors were to offer that preview and you didn't, you would lose out big time.

If people assumed anything in regards to that, it would likely be that only "quality" sites had their preview shown. No preview would likely equate to "not good enough".

signor_john




msg:3844144
 10:04 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

You're a minority. The normal non-webmaster public will assume it's just a feature for some sites or a bug that some get it and others don't

By the time Google finishes its test, it will know far more than we do about how searchers might perceive and use (or not use) previews.

marketingmagic




msg:3844151
 10:12 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Be nice to hear from MC on this topic....

Receptional Andy




msg:3844167
 10:42 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

By the time Google finishes its test, it will know far more than we do about how searchers might perceive and use (or not use) previews.

Not from this particular test, though, which does not appear to have implemented any new functionality whatsoever. It seems to have just tested what happens when AJAX is used to deliver results as opposed to using traditional methods.

To my mind, the results are something like:

- Web analytics vendors despair
- Webmasters who have come to depend on web analytics get annoyed
- Users don't notice any difference

I'm sure there are lots more findings behind the scenes too ;)

steveb




msg:3844169
 10:46 pm on Feb 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

"By the time Google finishes its test, it will know far more than we do about how searchers might perceive and use (or not use) previews."

You're in the wrong thread. This one has nothing to do with previews.

Philosopher




msg:3844199
 12:25 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

not yet. ;)

signor_john




msg:3844234
 2:22 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Steveb, you might want to tell that to Brett, who started this thread and brought up the topic.

tedster




msg:3844235
 2:28 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

You're in the wrong thread. This one has nothing to do with previews.

Actually, Brett opened up that possibility early on in the thread, in his third post

Imagine, just mousing over a result on a serp, and having that result open up further and further - showing you more-n-more information from that site. You would never have to leave Google again. That is the kind of ajax testing Google is doing.

But no one has currently reported that kind of thing actually showing up, so for now it's just an AJAX possibility that's been raised.

signor_john




msg:3844244
 3:20 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

But no one has currently reported that kind of thing actually showing up, so for now it's just an AJAX possibility that's been raised.

Hmmm. Brett said "That is the kind of ajax testing Google is doing," so does that mean Brett has seen something (or been shown something) that the rest of us haven't been privileged to see?

steveb




msg:3844256
 3:52 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

No, it means the testing is about statistics not being tracked, so let's talk about that, not what has not happened.

"Google AJAX Powered Serps Kills Referals"

tedster




msg:3844282
 5:41 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's easy to see this as an intentional move on Google's part to hide search data - that's certainly a highly noticeable effect. However, my feeling is that they've been testing for some other purpose and weren't thinking about this repurcussion.

Until quite recently, I would not have even entertained the idea that Google would go live on a major test without thinking through some of the basic implications. But we've recently seen some seriously unvetted things happen with Google, the biggest of which was last weekend's "the whole Internet is malware" fiasco.

These AJAX test SERPs break Google Analytics, too. That seems like the sign of an accident to me - an unforeseen consequence that certainly SHOULD have been foreseen, but wasn't.

tigertom




msg:3844304
 7:10 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Always nice to have a wake-up call.

Google has accomplished the amazing feat of #*$!ing off other people's data and making the producers like it. It's now a near-monopoly with insane levels of consumer data. Usually not a good thing.

It's got webmasters to 'give them the farm for free' by their signing up to Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Adsense, Adwords etc.

All without producing any content of their own.

It's so much easier if the servant indentures himself, willingly.

steveb




msg:3844346
 9:13 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Cue the black helicopters. If Google adds those tracking links to the SERPs URLs, they could sell the traffic/click data to webmasters...

"Hey webmasters, want to know what search terms drive traffic to your websites?"

Robert Charlton




msg:3844355
 9:59 am on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Came across a blog that provided an unattributed quote from "a Google rep" saying that this was intended to provide "faster" results, that it was a test, and that it is not G's intent to interfere with referral data.

The posts out there that I've seen appear to derive from statements made back in 2006 on the Google blog, about Google testing in general.

I assume that this is/was a test, and that the consequences were not well considered. I'm surprised that no one from Google has yet commented on them. It's likely that the large scale loss of referrer strings wasn't even anticipated.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 10:00 am (utc) on Feb. 7, 2009]

potentialgeek




msg:3844393
 12:20 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Until quite recently, I would not have even entertained the idea that Google would go live on a major test without thinking through some of the basic implications. But we've recently seen some seriously unvetted things happen with Google, the biggest of which was last weekend's "the whole Internet is malware" fiasco.

Google said it was a human error, as opposed to a test, if memory serves. (AdSense publishers have had earlier problems due to human errors in the last year, too.)

These AJAX test SERPs break Google Analytics, too. That seems like the sign of an accident to me - an unforeseen consequence that certainly SHOULD have been foreseen, but wasn't.

Yes, left hand not knowing what the right is doing. It wasn't long ago that Google Analytics was developed with new features. Usually that's not the sign of a product being phased out.

p/g

Dave_Hybrid




msg:3844402
 1:04 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

FYI, Matt C said this 5 days ago on seomoz;

"We’re continually testing new interfaces and features to enhance the user experience. We are currently experimenting with a javascript enhanced result page because we believe that it may ultimately provide a faster experience for our users. At this time only a small percentage of users will see this experiment. It is not our intention to disrupt referrer tracking, and we are continuing to iterate on this project. For more information on the experiments that we run on Google search, please see: [googleblog.blogspot.com...] ."

Receptional Andy




msg:3844413
 2:01 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

It seems a bit strange to suggest this would result in "a faster experience" since the AJAX SERPS resulted in identical HTTP requests. I suppose you could argue that not triggering a page load gives the appearance of faster speed, but then, you also have no feedback from the browser if there's a timeout either.

Samizdata




msg:3844414
 2:02 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

It is not our intention to disrupt referrer tracking

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Referrer tracking seems to have been disrupted - as expected - for the "small percentage".

...

signor_john




msg:3844452
 3:27 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Referrer tracking seems to have been disrupted - as expected - for the "small percentage".

No biggie. It's a test. Tests don't last forever, and the people who do the test generally look at the results.

Also, I think it's pretty naive to think that Google would make such a big change to its way of delivering search results just for the sake of messing up people's referrer strings. As Tedster suggests, the referrer problem is a side effect, not a goal. And the scenario that Brett described (making it possible for searchers to preview sites from the SERP) is too compelling to ignore if it can be done. If Google doesn't do it, somebody else will, and I can't see Google being willing to let a competitor or an upstart be the game-changer.

Samizdata




msg:3844472
 4:07 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

As Tedster suggests, the referrer problem is a side effect, not a goal.

I am happy to take Matt Cutts at his word that it is not the intention.

But if the time of his quote is accurate, he seems to have been aware that it would happen.

I suppose it depends what you mean by "intention".

the people who do the test generally look at the results

The people who are tested in an experiment are generally volunteers.

Referrer tracking appears to have been disrupted knowingly, without warning - or apology.

It didn't affect me, but I am not surprised that others are unhappy.

...

signor_john




msg:3844565
 6:26 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

It didn't affect me, but I am not surprised that others are unhappy.

I'm never surprised when forum posters are unhappy. But in this case, people are getting worked up about what's likely to be a short-term problem (referral strings) instead of looking at the bigger--and more important--picture. Google SERPs already let users see what they'll find when they go to an image or video page, so why wouldn't Google want to let users get a preview of a Web page that goes beyond a page title and a snippet or a few words of meta description text?

If anything remotely resembling Brett's "mouseover" scenario comes to pass, the implications and impact will be huge.

zett




msg:3844576
 6:34 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

If [...] Brett's "mouseover" scenario comes to pass, the implications and impact will be huge.

I agree. The more I think of this, the more I think that the "test" we have been seeing (and it's effect) were indeed an unintended glitch. They (Google) probably did not want to drop their pants and allow webmasters a glimpse at what lies ahead.

Busy times for those defending Google.

willybfriendly




msg:3844605
 7:10 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Google SERPs already let users see what they'll find when they go to an image or video page, so why wouldn't Google want to let users get a preview of a Web page that goes beyond a page title and a snippet or a few words of meta description text?

There already exist any number of places that show more, e.g. thumbnail images of a web page.

What you are advocating (based on what Brett posted) goes far beyond simply returning search results.

Would you advocate for my right to allow my users to drill down into your site's pages via AJAX on my monetized site? I think not. At that point I suspect you would think of me as a scraper and would be blocking my access to your server. You might even be initiating legal proceedings against me for copyright infringement!

Of course, I would argue that I was simply providing my users a service and a more pleasant user experience.

US Copyright law looks at 4 criteria for fair use

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Within that context, how would you defend G's right to display substantial portions of your material on their monetized (i.e. commercial) pages?

signor_john




msg:3844615
 7:35 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Within that context, how would you defend G's right to display substantial portions of your material on their monetized (i.e. commercial) pages?

I don't work for Google, I'm not an attorney, and I'm not defending Google's right to do anything. (A lawyer might point out that Google Image Search has previewed entire works for quite some time, though.)

Also, debating what search engines should or shouldn't do is less productive than finding ways to profit from the choices that they do make. If Brett's "mouseover" scenario does come to pass, it's likely to benefit Web sites with real content and user-friendly presentation. This might be a good time to think about the question, "How can I maximize my search-engine referrals if Google Web Search offers searchers a WYSIWYG experience?"

tangor




msg:3844637
 8:12 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

It won't be long before we are all unpaid employees working for "the company".

Wnat my stuff? Come see me. Not somebody else.

Robert Charlton




msg:3844638
 8:13 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

Within that context, how would you defend G's right to display substantial portions of your material on their monetized (i.e. commercial) pages?

Back in Sept 2008 there was a discussion about SearchMe, a new search engine that offered an attractive and useful interface that enabled users to view less-than-full-sized images of pages and thus preview them....

SearchMe is pretty cool
[webmasterworld.com...]

Generally, members here liked the interface, but site owners who had content that could be read on the page images disliked the preview feature intensely.

This early comment sums up the issue succinctly, before the discussion turned really nasty...

Giving away my content without the ads that pay for it.

I think that providing content drill-down via an Ajax interface on Google, and not sending that traffic to the site, would unleash a huge anti-Google backlash, probably larger than any Google has yet experienced. I say this whether the feature were opt-in or opt-out. Just having the feature would be crossing a line.

willybfriendly




msg:3844692
 9:19 pm on Feb 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't work for Google, I'm not an attorney, and I'm not defending Google's right to do anything. (A lawyer might point out that Google Image Search has previewed entire works for quite some time, though.)

Yet, in another thread that you started on the possibility of G providing the functionality to preview pages in detail you made comments such as:

Actually, it's all about the search experience--which translates into a better search product...

On the whole, it could be a good development... if the Google Search team can improve the user experience through more informative SERPs...

As a user and as a publisher, I think the idea holds great promise...

As far as image search, I seem to remember that the argument was that a thumbnail was "fair use" in as much as the visual information was the only way to effectively identify and index the image.

I might also point out that image search does not carry ads - i.e. it is not commercialized (yet).

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