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"In The Plex" - getting a clearer picture of what Google IS
tedster




msg:4348817
 5:20 pm on Aug 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

If anyone wants to sail, then they need a real appreciation for the ocean. If they want to go backpacking, they need knowledge of the woods and terrain, and the more accurate the better.

We want to use Google organic search results as one way to market our web businesses, and yet we often have a very unrealistic idea of what, exactly, Google is. And when we operate under false assumptions, sooner or later we can get crushed.

For this reason I work very hard to build a realistic model of what Google is as a business - and what they are not. No kool-aid for me, but no knee-jerk negativity either. Both are distortions and will lead use astray.

I'm currently about 200 pages into a new book called "In The Plex" by Steven Levy, published April 2011. It's good stuff, and I recommend it for anyone who is trying to appreciate what Google is and what they are not.

Google can be very secretive. This is something the book makes clear, as if anyone should ever had any doubts that any business (and especially a tech business) needs to keep some secrets. Especially in the early days, Google hid their rapid growth in size as new data centers were being added. We saw them buying all kinds of fiber networks but we couldn't really see why. The book explains.

The online age itself is disruptive, and within that realm Google itself is quite disruptive. They question every traditional assumption, including what a search engine "should be". They are data driven, and if an innovation tests well, they will go with that. So don't build your business expecting an old-school search engine here. That they will never be.

 

Cruxo




msg:4349752
 1:27 am on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

@MrFewkes: You were saying that you are #1 in organic rankings, but yet your site is dead because Google ads are pushing the organic listings further & further down.

Could you give an indication of how competitive is the vertical that your site is in? I am just curious

MrFewkes




msg:4349979
 4:31 pm on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Only 8000 exact match searches per month. Loads of adwords bidders (probably coming in on BM aswell as EM keywords). Probably about only 8 sites actively competing for the phrase - two words - consumer electronics market.

I hope this helps (somehow)
:)

storeowner




msg:4350002
 5:09 pm on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

[youtube.com...]

Robert Charlton




msg:4350081
 7:47 pm on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I wish I had time to say more about this now... but among the many video interviews with Steven Levy out there, this video (because of its provenance, if nothing else) is particularly worth a look....

Authors@Google: Steven Levy in conversation with Matt Cutts in Mountain View
trt 52:47
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RYmSWRRbUI [youtube.com]

tedster




msg:4350499
 6:30 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I just finished the section about Google's "adventures" in China. WOW! There was so much more going on there than was obvious at the time.

The book gives great detail on the "don't be evil" struggle and the practical challenges of cooperating with censorship versus not bringing anything at all to the Chinese people. This section is real winner.

I had no idea that so many other tech companies just bowed to China's demands so easily - or that the big publicized hack of Google's data coincided with a hack of about 40 other companies. The cultural differences between the West and Chinese society are quite a challenge that will be with us for many years.

I also loved Google's admission that Baidu's technology was better than theirs when it came to fresh results - and that this recognition triggered a major project for Google that lasted more than a year.

[edited by: tedster at 3:51 am (utc) on Aug 12, 2011]

nomis5




msg:4350526
 7:32 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

You've convinced me. The book is on order!

Play_Bach




msg:4351185
 5:01 pm on Aug 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Been reading it on my iPad and iPhone last few days. Thanks tedster for recommending it, great read!

supercyberbob




msg:4351493
 2:14 am on Aug 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Is the fact that Google doesn't pay corporate tax in a tanking US economy discussed in the book?

Or is it one of those secretive things?

tedster




msg:4351495
 2:59 am on Aug 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

There is some mention about taxes. Plus, Google is a public company - their finances are not secret. According to this article, they do pay tax but the rate is very low:

While many multinationals use similar structures, Google has managed to lower its overseas tax rate more than its peers in the technology sector. Its rate since 2007 has been 2.4 percent.

[businessweek.com...]

I'd also observe that Google did not create the tax codes, US or international. They just use them very intelligently.

nomis5




msg:4352157
 7:18 pm on Aug 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm halfway through at the moment and without a doubt anyone involved in Adsense, Adwords or Google SERPS has to read this book.

Reading it provides lots of specific information about Google but even more valuable is the overall impression it leaves about how they work in general.

If you don't invest the $15 to buy this book then you are not serious about your business.

johnhh




msg:4352224
 10:33 pm on Aug 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

um, Google UK Ltd pay UK tax ( or rather not ) by diverting profits via Ireland and the Netherlands and then onto tax havens. To be fair Amazon do the same via Liechtenstein.

The UK is I believe Google's second biggest market.

Legal - yes, morally - debatable.

Slight disclaimer I used to work for a company that used the Liechtenstein route.

Another disclaimer - all exposed by the Sunday Times some months ago in the business section - great article. No I don't work for Mr Murdock.

Bewenched




msg:4352252
 12:22 am on Aug 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Now that Google purchased Motorola Mobility I wonder what other metrics and information Google will be able to acquire from their lines of phones, routers and cable modems.

It almost seems like too much "private" information will be potentially available to them.

deadsea




msg:4353901
 11:19 pm on Aug 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the book recommendation, Tedster. My copy came a few days ago and I'm about half way through. There is lots of Google info in this book and its really filling in a lot of details for me about the personalities at Google and the business decisions the company has made.

If I have one complaint, I'd like to hear a lot more about the technical details that get glossed over in the book. But then, I'm a techie. As it is the, the reading is fascinating even if a little light on the meat.

I was surprised to no end when I read the three pages about Jon Kleinberg and his ideas that were similar to Google's initial implementation. He was my favorite college professor. I had no idea that he had such close Google connections.

MrFewkes




msg:4354292
 6:44 pm on Aug 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Im up to page 70 or so - at this point its mainly history. Im hoping for something useful to help me "do" something in life which may help my ranking.

In line pretty much with what deadsea above said in the first two paragraphs. Except I dont find it fascinating - I find General Relativity more interesting than cheap hard disks and poor quality Brin coding.

On we go though.
:)

jmccormac




msg:4354522
 1:35 pm on Aug 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

@MrFewkes Unbeliever! How can you not believe in the greatness of the Three Stooges of Search. These are the people who have brought you a search engine that gives you what they think you want and a stats interface that cannot count pages. They are so great that they can advise people on what makes a quality website while never actually having made one themselves. (Too many 'Life of Brian' quotes come to mind.) :) Let us know how it turns out as it would be good to see an opposing view of the book.

Regards...jmcc

tedster




msg:4354579
 4:02 pm on Aug 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Im hoping for something useful to help me "do" something in life which may help my ranking.

Then put the book down. It's more of a background book than a\ how-to SEO book.

It will help you to the degree that you can fill in a balanced understanding of how Google operates - much clearer than the PR, kool-aid version and also much clearer than the "I hate everything about Google" mind set, too.

MrFewkes




msg:4354692
 10:14 pm on Aug 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi jmccormac,

I have tried to set out with an open mind about the book - one part I read says that page can spot slow down rates down to 200ms or something - then says "which is the edge of human perception".

I dont know if theres something wrong with me or what - but I just think thats sycophantic (sp?) of the author. I am not impressed at all.

I think tedster thinks im a miserable git already - hey tedster :)

Oh no - now I am feeling like I dont trust the book - like its just more propaganda!

I dont hate everything about google tedster - as you well know - I hate everything about EVERYTHING!

(Hey Im laughing - im only kidding - its my dry brit sense of humour)

AlyssaS




msg:4373618
 1:25 pm on Oct 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here's another post (from a googler) that people might find interesting. The first part is an entertaining rant about amazon, but the bit that concerns Google's difficulty in making platforms is in the second half of the post. IMO the whole thing is a little gem that gives an insight into these companies that we don't get from official books. (You will need to paste the link below into your browser):

https://raw.github.com/gist/933cc4f7df97d553ed89/24386c6a79bb4b31fb818b70b34c5eab7f12e1ff/gistfile1.txt

P.S. They are discussing it on hacker news, but the discussion there is focused on amazon:

[news.ycombinator.com...]

Leosghost




msg:4373638
 2:34 pm on Oct 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

AlyssaS....thanks ;) interesting links.( the github one especially ) .confirmatory in many ways..

Panthro




msg:4373674
 4:31 pm on Oct 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the links, interesting reads.

Brett_Tabke




msg:4373698
 5:12 pm on Oct 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

I finished "Confessions of employee 59" in about 20 hours of straight reading. I couldn't put it down. It was the best page turner I have read in 10 years.

I got about 2/3rds of the way through 'in the plex' and never finished it. Just wasn't worth it. I did not enjoy it. It was a 'google fan' book.

Funny, the book written by the former employee reads antagonistic at points, while the book by the outsider is 'yeah, rah, yeah' google from start to finish.

walkman




msg:4373744
 6:24 pm on Oct 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Funny, the book written by the former employee reads antagonistic at points, while the book by the outsider is 'yeah, rah, yeah' google from start to finish.

Never read it, but some free paragraphs. I smelled a rat when Google's PR team started to push it in the blogs. There is a reason why some get access and some don't. If an 'insider' (be it a Google or a White House one) wants to keep that status he cannot deviate too much from the official line.

I gained a lot of respect for Employee 59 when he talked about his departure, Google's reliance on numbers and the mess that creates some times. In a WSJ interview, he also described G+ as a data gathering instrument, not that G cares about or knows social. So he can afford to be honest.

Alyssa, thanks for the link. It's amazing.

IMo the difference is in the founders: Amazon, Apple, MS, Oracle and others had founders that risked everything to achieve what they have. Google's founders were PHD students that had an idea to use an existing rank for web search and then money flowed in from VCs and now from ads. Need to make more money? There's no need for radical new products, just add more ads, send less traffic to other sites, and add some bling to ads. Losing market share? Go into PR mode, use all these products to kill competition and keep Google in people's mind. Google also hires booksmart people, hardly the type that take risks.

There's a huge difference between college dropouts (Gates, Steve Jobs, Paul Allen, Zuckenberg, Larry Ellison) and sheltered PHD students.

AlyssaS




msg:4373869
 2:10 am on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

^^^ Walkman, I was more agog about the stuff about Amazon than about Google, because all he was saying was that G was chaotic.

We've always known this. This is the reason we find them so puzzling - we keep looking for the unifying strategy and there isn't one! Each department seems to do their own thing and pursue their own visions.

Hell, even individual engineers feel free to post up their own vision for the company at midnight after a few glasses of merlot, as though they were Steve Jobs himself, and still live to tell the tale! If that Stevey guy was working for Bezos or Jobs he'd be looking for work today, but he survives and will probably produce another rant in a month's time.

Is the chaos in Google a strength or a weakness? It's hard to tell because we've never seen an operational experiment like the one they are conducting. In a sense the way they are organised is a massive risk.

They are doing some things well though. I get irritated with Facebook because at certain times of the day their platform slows to a crawl - so if you want to preview a draft note for example, it just seems to disappear and you have to wait five minutes till they've processed it and it's visible. The first time this happened to me I thought I'd lost my work and produced another one, and ended up with two versions. What a waste of time. I've never had this problem with G on any of their stuff, search, gmail, blogger, docs. People care about Time more than they care about anything else, so G is well ahead on the "lack of irritation" factor and the ability to process extremely large volumes of stuff smoothly.

Unlike Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook, they still have a lot of goodwill from Joe Public. And among webmasters, the disgruntled ones are neatly offset by the ones who are doing very well out of Google. Which means G has the space to continue their experiment for a good five years more.

walkman




msg:4373875
 2:45 am on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

The fact that he bashed Amazon (Kindle vs Google Android?) made me think too. My radar went off but who knows, a lot of leaks are fishy. I' not a G+ user but many are saying that it is hard to make that mistake.

Hell, even individual engineers feel free to post up their own vision for the company at midnight after a few glasses of merlot, as though they were Steve Jobs himself, and still live to tell the tale! If that Stevey guy was working for Bezos or Jobs he'd be looking for work today, but he survives and will probably produce another rant in a month's time.

Is the chaos in Google a strength or a weakness? It's hard to tell because we've never seen an operational

How do you know?


People care about Time more than they care about anything else, so G is well ahead on the "lack of irritation" factor and the ability to process extremely large volumes of stuff smoothly.

You are kidding, right? Facebook is just for fun, no one is in a rush, not that Google hardware is any better than FB's [techcrunch.com...] . You must have missed the account locking and other wonderful stuff that Google does, freezing people out of their entire digital life for days on end. This speed thing is a marketing nonsense, Google saves you 10ms so you can spend 30% of your day on Facebook.

I hope you continue to do well but that doesn't mean you're doing well thanks to Google, or that you wouldn't be doing better if Google was less greedy with ads and other fishy things. Yes Google is doing many revolutionary things, like Local, a credit card compare service, offers, a Bizrate clone with 'Trust' etc.


Unlike Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook, they still have a lot of goodwill from Joe Public.

Ignore the rants, people love FB and numbers tell that. I never really heard many complaints regarding Amazon. As per Microsoft, it's a religion to hate them :)
Once it starts it's like an avalanche, so I do not buy the 5 years. Like now they can't be doing anything wrong, but once it starts, they can't be doing anything right.

seodudez




msg:4373882
 3:54 am on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Tedster: I have been meaning to buy this and thanks for the review... I do have a problem with this statement though...

"And yes, organic results do not even look at income as a metric. There are many metrics, but they all have to do with user satisfaction and the pursuit of the "long click" - that is one click on the search result and you're happily away reading that result rather than being right back at the SERPs or making a new search."

This is simply not true. Google puts their own properties more prominent in the results regardless of metrics. They do it with Google Places over Yelp. They do it with Youtube.

tedster




msg:4373896
 5:17 am on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

The way Google sees it, their own properties are not part of the organic results. Google Places are definitely not part of the organic rankings.

YouTube results (or other video results, images, news. etc) are part of Universal Search. Those verticals get inserted into the organic results, yes - but there are still 10 organic results on Page One. With the Universal Results added, it pushes the Page One total to 12 or 13 "listings" at times.

So yes, Google is using SERP real estate to promote their own properties - but there are still 10 organic rankings on the page. And the success of those rankings is not measured by economics.

seodudez




msg:4374052
 4:47 pm on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

how convenient of them....

So when Google/Cutts, etc talk about "unbiased," "quality" and the "user experience" they are talking about everyone else's content. Not theirs. It doesn't matter for theirs.

They show their own content first regardless of metrics, then everyone else can fight fairly for the remaining scraps.

I can't wait until they lower the font size of the organic results to 6pt. :)

AlyssaS




msg:4374099
 7:01 pm on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

You are kidding, right? Facebook is just for fun, no one is in a rush


Facebook is becoming a place to do business. If you haven't got a fanpage for your website, then set one up.

I found that my fanpage was ranking in Google, fairly near to the ranking of my main website (probably because my website links to the fanpage and passes juice), so I've been putting in a lot of effort to make it good - images, substantial original facebook notes, bespoke tabs and so on. I've been promoting it within Facebook too.

My thinking is that if by chance my website gets nobbled by an algo change in the next month or two, my Facebook fanpage will still rank, and I can still do business either on the page or by redirecting traffic to my website, and I won't have to cancel Christmas.

At the moment this is the big difference between Facebook and Google+ - Google+ is like an old style forum where people gather to chat, whereas the fanpage side of Facebook (which Google+ doesn't have) is a business space in it's own right, with potential.

P.S. I'm pretty sure that 2.5% of all searches are conducted within Facebook itself. Given that so many websites and businesses neglect Facebook, ranking within Facebook is much easier, and it's an additional source of traffic. Not to mention the fact that your fans act like a traditional email list and get to see everything you put out into their stream.

HRoth




msg:4374119
 7:25 pm on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

It has gotten really hard to read the Google SEO threads because of so many people giving themselves fulltime jobs venting their spleen about how Google is evil. This is something I don't understand. Google's actions can indeed wreck my business, but so can any number of other things that are likewise capricious and about which no one has all the variables identified either. It is the nature of small business that it is fragile. That is just something a businessperson has to come to accept and work with.

Depending on Google or any corporation to act ethically is IMO irrational. Yes, they would cooperate with the NSA, spy on people, put their own products first, manipulate their product, and whatnot. How many big corporations have NOT done those things? Maybe people have just never read any literature. I suggest reading Sinclair's "The Jungle" or Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" to get an idea of how corporations have historically acted, although it's true--these are the sort of books a sheltered PhD would read.

The job of a corporation is to make money and sometimes they even break the law--or manipulate those who make those laws--to do that. My job is to figure out how I can on the one hand prosper and on the other keep from getting smashed whenever Google shifts in its sleep. If I get all het up about it, I will not be able to do that job effectively.

Thanks for discussing both the Employee 59 and this Plex book. I have put them on my list.

Leosghost




msg:4374122
 7:32 pm on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

@HRoth..yes !..agreed ! sanity :)

walkman




msg:4374150
 8:21 pm on Oct 13, 2011 (gmt 0)


Depending on Google or any corporation to act ethically is IMO irrational. Yes, they would cooperate with the NSA, spy on people, put their own products first, manipulate their product, and whatnot. How many big corporations have NOT done those things? Maybe people have just never read any literature. I suggest reading Sinclair's "The Jungle" or Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" to get an idea of how corporations have historically acted, although it's true--these are the sort of books a sheltered PhD would read.

The job of a corporation is to make money and sometimes they even break the law--or manipulate those who make those laws--to do that. My job is to figure out how I can on the one hand prosper and on the other keep from getting smashed whenever Google shifts in its sleep. If I get all het up about it, I will not be able to do that job effectively.


Agree with you 100%. Sometimes though, they are stopped by the law, like Microsoft was stopped in 1990's and like they'd be stopped again if they banned Chrome from Windows for example. We can talk about this here of course, since it's a thread about Google's "clearer picture." People can disagree on what that picture is, but as I said, I agree with you.

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