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Google Algo Change - Human Behavior Theories
browsee



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 3:31 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just checked several losers from Feb 24th and Apr 11th, sites with dark/shady colors are affected. This is in line with their statement in Wired.

"We used our standard evaluation system that we've developed, where we basically sent out documents to outside testers. Then we asked the raters questions like: "Would you be comfortable giving this site your credit card? Would you be comfortable giving medicine prescribed by this site to your kids?"


So they tried to convert user behavior into an algorithm. I've been trying to understand how we can correlate human behavior to our website design.

Based from my research I've found that there is a relation between the Google algo change and Maslow's 'hierarchy of needs' theory in psychology.

I found this article describing Human Behavioral Theories That Can Be Applied to Web Design
[sixrevisions.com...]

Important factors in order of importance.

Accessibility: The website can be found and used by all people.
Stability: The website is consistent and trustworthy.
Usability: The website is user-friendly.
Reliability: The website is consistently available, without downtime.
Functionality: The website offers content, tools and services users value.
Flexibility: The website adapts to needs and wants of users.

Most of the Google engineers are PHDs, they tend to follow academics rather than reality. I am very confident that they included some of these behavioral theories in this algo update.

 

fringedgentian



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 5:17 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've been researching this a lot and I have come up with a similar opinion.

The only thing Google can rely on keyword data for is to indicate that a certain page falls in a subject area. Anything else is heavily manipulated and thus unreliable.

The scientific way for Google to go about it would be random testing, where for each keyword phrase Google displays different SERP from that subject area and tracks what pages the user seems to find useful for that phrase.

They can track who came right back and clicked on another link to indicate non-usefulness, not to mention all the information they can get if the webmaster installed Google Analytics on the site.

And I've noticed a lot of people saying they are getting kind of bizarre rankings lately, I think that is the random testing going on before things shake out.

browsee



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 5:40 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

In 1998 they had two great engineers, they connected users with good relevant search results. If they started with "quality", Google would have been a major failure.

Now, machine definitely misunderstood the meaning of quality.

danimalSK



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 5:43 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)


This may be a factor, but I don't think it is the basis for the algorithm.

My site is an amazing product (has design awards, thousands of testimonials, rock solid branding), with best in class user engagement, and it got hit by the update.

crobb305

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 5:47 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Browsee, you and I are thinking along the exact same lines. I have been focusing a lot of my attention on potential credibility signals based on:

1) Information gleaned from the Microsoft website credibility study [webmasterworld.com...]

and

2) A comments made by Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts in the March 3 Wired interview: [wired.com...] They asked users
Do you consider this site to be authoritative? Would it be okay if this was in a magazine? Does this site have excessive ads? Questions along those lines... [then] you look for signals that recreate that same intuition...

[edited by: crobb305 at 5:51 pm (utc) on Apr 13, 2011]

Sgt_Kickaxe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 5:48 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

danimalSK, was your sites backlink profile heavily represented by links from article directories, link directories and/or any site which has an above average level of user generated content?

It's possible you didn't get directly hit by Panda but that the sites which supported yours did, causing you to take a tumble too. Those types of sites suffered up to 98% exposure loss so it stands to reason that the link value from those sites was also downgraded.

edit: The timing of Best of Webs closure is interesting if they knew directories would be hard hit.

[edited by: Sgt_Kickaxe at 5:50 pm (utc) on Apr 13, 2011]

HuskyPup



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 5:49 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Accessibility: The website can be found and used by all people.
Stability: The website is consistent and trustworthy.
Usability: The website is user-friendly.
Reliability: The website is consistently available, without downtime.
Functionality: The website offers content, tools and services users value.
Flexibility: The website adapts to needs and wants of users.


I can't disagree with that, is it called the K.I.S.S. principle? :-)

browsee



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 5:51 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Crobb305, I've been trying to search for this pdf. Thanks for sharing. I also agree with danimalSK, there are other factors too, IMO this is one of the biggest factors.

browsee



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 5:53 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

HuskyPup, don't forget to read "in order of importance.", it is a hierarchy

danimalSK



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 6:00 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)


danimalSK, was your sites backlink profile heavily represented by links from article directories, link directories and/or any site which has an above average level of user generated content?


Nope, we have a pretty stellar backlink profile. A large number of the big players in our industry link to us, including > 100k links from Youtube (not very SEO friendly links, but they are still there for Google to see..)

Biggest suspect for me so far is thin content / site structure issues. But I'm not going to waste precious time chasing the Google algo when I've got better things to work on (like Facebook and iPhone).

Incidentally I can get an answer out of contacts in Facebook and Apple in minutes, whereas getting an audience with Matt Cutts is harder than meeting the President. Google is so far down my reputation ranking at the moment even the thought of them makes me feel dirty...

kd454

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 6:26 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have to agree with this somewhat, I am seeing the more "attractive" looking sites doing very well, and old ugly sites getting tanked. I am seeing the more attractive sites coming up in the rankings regardless of content amount or quality.

Google has somehow been able to figure out human engagement or the "like" factor.

The most fluffy looking site I have is doing very well, it has to do with colors, pictures etc. I have other sites using the same template and layout that tanked (they do not look as good due to cosmetic reasons).

I am going to build out a fluff site to test this theory and fluff up my current sites.

User engagement is a big part of this, tools, videos and other fluffy crap wins.

browsee



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 6:34 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've seen thin one liner pages in the first page. I used to wonder why thin pages are in the first page, they don't give any value and zero quality(not sure Google ever mentioned about "content quality", they are talking about just "quality"). Only positive thing about those pages are colors and design.

Agree with DanimanSK(again), I don't want to waste more time on Google optimization. But, I was very curious about design aspect, I will change the site design to see if there is any change.

Leosghost

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



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 6:50 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Again "colors, pictures etc" look nice in "preview"..and score well with users..Just make sure to KISS...btw "dark" is a colour ..as is "light" when talking backgrounds..colours does not always mean "rainbow" or "acid" is best ..depends on your target.
Japanese teenage girl or German 60 year old businessman or USA 25 - 30 self employed woman ..and there are variations in how one designs for groups with those groups ..but again KISS.

Google has somehow been able to figure out human engagement or the "like" factor.

Yes;-) or they trust what they think they have figured out, more than they trust a lot of links ( they have realised that they created a monster with "rate according to links")...and are changing the weighting.

browsee



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 10:57 pm on Apr 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

More I search for my keywords, more I realize that credibility signals are a big factor. Just search some keywords, look for the top 10 search results in the Google preview tool. Most of them have very eye friendly colors.

walkman



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 11:33 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

"Most of them have very eye friendly colors. "

That's obvious, because it's good for visitors and it's normal today. Even slammed-by-panda sites have good colors.

fringedgentian



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 11:44 am on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

> More I search for my keywords, more I realize that credibility signals are a big factor. Just search some keywords, look for the top 10 search results in the Google preview tool. Most of them have very eye friendly colors.

Yes, I think this is key--Google only cares if the general population *thinks* a site is useful. Thankfully for SEOs (and politicians) the general population is easily manipulated.

They have proven that taller and better-looking political candidates get more votes, even though this can't be any sign of their quality. In the same way, you just have to make your site LOOK like a useful site, because half the people aren't going to stick around long enough to tell the difference anyway.

browsee



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 3:59 pm on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Even slammed-by-panda sites have good colors.

I am not suggesting that color is the only factor, but it is a major factor along with ads above the fold, thin pages, back click rate and some other factors(Mahalo does not have bad colors, but they have so many thin pages).

Just look at the major losers in Panda 2.0, you will notice the difference.

tedster

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



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 4:00 pm on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google only cares if the general population *thinks* a site is useful.

Even more than that, this is pretty much all that machine-based intelligence CAN measure.

crobb305

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 8:58 pm on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google only cares if the general population *thinks* a site is useful.


I agree, and aside from links and tweets, on-page factors seem to be getting a boost...factors that the general public might glance at and feel more secure. Every verified privacy policy & every valid/signed SSL certificate presented on the site, certain colors, images, fonts, fewer redirects, fewer/no popups, faster page loading (which seems to go argue against adding more more images/templates to beautify the site, so I am still working on this one), etc... each could count a little toward that vote of confidence, even if each in and of itself is unnecessary (e.g., SSL) or may vary significantly from the vast majority of websites.

Certain annoyances are an immediate tap of the back button for me. For example, when I see a commercial play before a video starts, I will spend the extra time to find a version that doesn't show a stupid commercial. People feel the same way about intrusive popup ads or elements in the html that take forever to load ("downloading from...STILL downloading from...").

There is another thread analyzing the winners/losers from Panda. It's a good discussion because people are thinking about the elements (like we are here in this thread). Some of the possible signals are right within arms reach. Apply them to your site. These are some of the things I have been thinking about, when stepping back to take a look at the big picture. The Google algorithms are complex mathematical models and I think conspiracy theories (i.e., removing Google Analytics, deleting Google accounts, etc) is definitely the wrong path to be on -- and a lot of folks seem to be on that path.

Just some ramblin' that I do so well :) Now, watch me edit a few times, because I have a hard time typing/reading in this little box lol.

Dan01



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 11:47 pm on Apr 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I want to know for sure. Someone needs to ask Matt Cutts.

One of our websites has a black background. My wife once said we should change it, but I didn't because it made the content part of the page stand out better.

Also, look at IMDB. They have images in the background surrounding their content. It is a little distracting, but I am sure they get paid for it (usually advertising a new movie).

An old study found that a black background and white text is easier to read than black text on a white background. I don't know why - perhaps the light-white stands out more?

But if the BG color doesn't play a role in the algo, I am not going to change it - at least right away.

tedster

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



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 12:07 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

An old study found that a black background and white text is easier to read than black text on a white background.

I've seen quite a few studies that showed the exact opposite. One of the most reputable was from Nielsen-Norman and another was from the highly regarded Software Usability Research Laboratory (SURL) at Wichita State University.

None of which means anything about whether background color is part of the algorithm or not. If I had a black background/white text website, I'd do some split tests to see how a subset of users respond to a change. If the data says it's better, only then make the change for all.

helpnow

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 12:42 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

"An old study found that a black background and white text is easier to read than black text on a white background."

More specifically, that old advertising study noted that a greater percentage of the population is unable to read white text on a black background, as compared to black text on a white background. So, its not so much that it is easier to read, it is that a greater percentage of the population will BE ABLE to read it.

; )

tedster

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



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 12:58 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

The best way to do black text on a white background is not to use pure values (#000 on #fff) but to slightly moderate them so they approach physical world values. In the physical world, where our eyes actually live, pure black on pure white doesn't exist. The high contrast of pure black on pure white generates too much eyestrain compared to something slightly gentler (such as #111 on #eee).

Dan01



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 1:31 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've seen quite a few studies that showed the exact opposite. One of the most reputable was from Nielsen-Norman and another was from the highly regarded Software Usability Research Laboratory (SURL) at Wichita State University.


Ted, the research I saw was pretty old. It was at least 15 year ago. Notice that road signs have the letters reflective and not the background? They want the letters to stand out.

Dan01



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 1:36 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here is another advantage to a black background. It uses less energy. At least for the older monitors.

I just thought of something.

Perhaps both are right. I haven't seen a study about monitors with black background and white text, but perhaps if you had to sit an read a lot of text, black text would be easier on the eyes, but if you want your ad to stand out (or an important road sign), you want white text.

I don't know, maybe that could be the case.

But like I said earlier, it is important to know what the algo does.

Leosghost

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



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 2:07 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Notice that road signs have the letters reflective and not the background?

Depends on the country..some use reflective backgrounds on some signs ..precisely because the larger area of bounced light gets your attention ..and as you get closer you read the letters ..also in daylight it is easier to read black letters on white or pale or reflective grounds..

The UK had large reflective background panels for motorway signage ( more than one town name per panel indicating your distance before each town on the road ) when I last was in The UK...

They want the letters to stand out.

Making the letters reflective on signs uses less highly expensive reflective material ..and the material can be produced on rolls with a width only a little more than the height of a letter "I" ..so less waste when cutting ..this applies to reflective foils and plastics such as the "glass bead" adhesive backed type for which type 3M have the patents..and "lenticular" types ..search for "3m reflective sheeting" to see sizes and application methods.

The same "less waste" principle applies to printed letters using reflective inks, whether they be "glass bead inks" or "mica derivatives" ..One uses less ink to print the reflective letters than one would if one was to print a reflective background.

I had both a signage business and a printing business at separate times in the past..

Dan01



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 2:21 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Leosghost:

I noticed some signs have reflective letters and some signs do indeed have reflective backgrounds. The large signs that need to be read from a distance, seem to have white reflective letters. Like Main Street 3 Miles.

If I remember right (like I said, it was more than 15 years ago), the purpose of the study was for advertising.

Sorry about the thread-creep guys.

Leosghost

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



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 2:52 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

White text on dark grounds uses less energy to create on monitors ..but dark text on light grounds is less tiring on the optic nerves and the small muscles in and around the eye that control the pupil dilation, such as the iris and the ciliary muscle which controls what could be called the "fine tuning of viewing" ..also surrounding muscles of the face. search "Vision and Information Processing" amongst other terms if you really really want to get into effects of colour, contrast and typography etc on perception..

You can also search for "the psychology of color"..and "the psychology of perception" and "the psychology of persuasion" and especially "the colour research institute" ..the latter used to publish papers and data upon the influence of colour etc ..heavily used by the Ad ( and the military ) industry for decades before the internet ..still applies though ..as does the study of colour in religious architecture and a whole load of other things ..far too many to go into here ..but relevant for designers and marketers and webmasters anyway ..worth your time ..

Ted, rocknbil and some others here, will , I'm sure be familiar with some of these.;-)

I used to teach this stuff and related things part time at University ( not full time ..too much staff room "politics" in teaching for me ;-) and apply it the rest of time in advertising campaigns and ideas for Ad agencies.

Apparently they still teach some of it in UK Universities to "design" students, according to a reply I received in another thread here [webmasterworld.com]

Very many webmasters forget you are working in what is primarily a visual media..forgetting /neglecting that ..and only concentrating upon the text aspect of the content of your sites has resulted in many being hit by Panda in spite of them having what they thought was a very good site with all original written content, good links ..and even social engagement..the sites simply did not look appealing, and were too complex to the non geek user to find what they wanted ..or were over heavy on ads ..especially bouncy, dancing, off topic ads..visual spam.

Been saying all this for years ..here and elsewhere .

edit for Dan01 ;-) last time I was in the USA was even longer in the past than the last time I was in the UK ;-)

[edited by: Leosghost at 2:59 am (utc) on Apr 15, 2011]

Dan01



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 2:58 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

White text on dark grounds uses less energy to create on monitors ..but dark text on light grounds is less tiring on the optic nerves and the small muscles in and around the eye that control the pupil dilation, such as the iris and the ciliary muscle which controls what could be called the "fine tuning of viewing"


That is in line with my post above. It make sense. If you have to read a lot of text, black on white, but if you want your ad to stand out, put the white on black.

Leosghost

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



 
Msg#: 4296934 posted 3:31 am on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

You also need to be careful not to use colours or text to make "striping".... This can actually happen with text ( especially with white text on black or light on dark ) the total area of the space around the text ( the background ) must be considerably greater than the total area of the text colour ..

( relates, in part, to the idea of what is called "white space" by designers.)

This is because we evolved to be either confused and disorientated by "striping" ..ie; like trying to see an individual zebra in a herd..or a tiger in the tall grass...or if you get the colour combinations wrong as well ..it triggers evolved "warning" like wasp stripes...stripes in nature usually is camouflage ..or a danger/ "this may be unpleasant" sign.

And it doesn't need to be in yellow and black for some of the "its striping" parts of our brain to fire up in the back there when we look at a page.

Users won't always ( rarely in fact ) be able to express what it is that makes them uncomfortable ..they will just avoid what does.

If you don't think you have a problem with "striping" or lack of "white space" .screw up your eyes a tiny bit ..squint a little..turn your head a little to one side ( not like a dog but so that you see your page out of the corner of your eye )..how is your layout and colours now ..coherent ? ..clear ?

..white space can also mean just areas with nothing going on not necessarily white..because the eye and the brain need to be able to rest a little ..even while they are scanning and reading ..your eyes dart about ..inspite of what you may think, they don't read along a line in one go ..and are easily distracted..and confused if the elements on a page are too close together.

Couple of other searches for you "visual language" and "visual language for designers"..

This 88 message thread spans 3 pages: 88 ( [1] 2 3 > >
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