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Google's main algorithm is becoming dated

 4:16 am on Dec 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

Old Sites = more links because webmasters are lazy to take them down

New Sites = webmasters who refuse to add links due to time and effort - too many requests

Webmasters are just plain tired of adding links where in the past they were more likely to be willing to add. I'm not saying that links don't work...they do. I'm just saying that the older sites have too much advantage because back in the day it was easier to get a link...they live off the past links.

Another thought...Google needs to randomize search results more. If Google mixes up search results more then their users will see more variety. Variety is the spice of life.


Robert Charlton

 11:55 pm on Dec 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

It is indexed by Bing... and a minor change to the query will definitely result in WW as #1.

Yes, I noticed it in Bing this morning, with the three-word search as #2. Adding the zip (as in the original search) puts WebmasterWorld at #1. Note that this thread doesn't come anywhere near ranking for [sunday hours] by itself.

Some thoughts about how Google and Bing are treating this query (and forgive the length in advance), trying to oversimplify a complicated subject...

If in a query I misspell a word in a way where the entered word is nonsense and the correct version is predominant, both Google and Bing automatically display the corrected version and ask if I really do want what I originally typed.

On queries where there simply aren't very many good results, Google will look for alternatives. If appropriate alternative results exist, I'm seeing that Google will modify my query sooner than Bing will. Even when the problem is not spelling, Google will often reach for another word with a similar spelling when it can find one within the context of the query. Going further, Google will sometimes rewrite my query to include a synonym... or sometimes even include a result that contains an antonym of my original terms... if the context is right and there's no better match.

In this search (for which there's really no satisfactory result), we're dealing with several pecking orders, one of which is vocabulary matching... another of which is context... and another of which is branding, which Google reduces to "trust, reputation, authority, and PageRank", along with social buzz signals. Google, I'm thinking, for this query felt that vocabulary matching, which here includes the zipcode, didn't produce a useful result, for reasons martinibuster has pretty well described. "Sunday hours" by itself is so incredibly general a search that the engines have got nowhere to go except for the most statistically likely companies, big brands which are what both Bing and Google suggest for 'Sunday hours' related searches.

Again, the only exact match on the web for the query as a whole is on this thread... so Google must make a choice among iffy signals to deliver results most likely to satisfy the largest number of users. I'm positing that Google added some brands into the serps that are contextually associated to the zipcode and with the term "dermatology" part of the query. These are associated statistically via phrase-based indexing, and also via links from directory pages which come close to the vocabulary of the query.

With regard to the context, my guess is that contextual matching in general on Google is currently set on the high side, and Google will often go too far afield in its suggestions, particularly on longtail queries. I'm thinking that this may be a purposeful choice, as a way of speeding machine learning along... at least I hope that's where it's going. ;)

I'm also thinking that the best indications of what Google's AI has "learned" so far are indicated by Google's autocomplete suggestions, and that one of the suggestions Google does make...
dermatologist open on sunday jupiter fl

...is closer to the question that brinked said he wanted to ask...
I was looking for a dermatologist that was open on sundays

...than what he entered into the search box...
33458 dermatologist sunday hours


 6:48 am on Dec 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

1. I think we know what Google is doing and the logic for doing it (i.e. not enough relevant results, toss out a word and fill in with alternate results).

2. It's safe to say that most people in this discussion feel that what Google is doing is not working.

I've been doing personal searches all this weekend. Searching for a band that I forgot the name of. Searching for consumer products, for reviews of consumer products, searching for a restaurant by name, for computer related queries and other things. Google has not been giving me satisfying results for some of the searches. Some of the results have been odd in the same way the dermatologist search is odd.

I've turned to the Bing search box in the browser and have found more satisfying results there. Significantly more satisfying. I have been using Bing to break out of the Google habit but hadn't been totally satisfied with Bing. With this new way of presenting results where Google mixes in oddball irrelevant results I am now running to Bing for decent results and liking it.

Google needs to flip the switch back on this mix and match/sentence completion algo. It has bugs in it.


 10:15 am on Dec 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Searching with training wheels
Just a few hours ago I was searching for a music video and Google returned results that included gay pron sites. I was shocked. What part of the phrase "music video" did Google not understand? I would have been very upset if that happened while my child was sitting beside me.

I sometimes search with the modifier "forum" to read what people are saying about a product. But Google mixes in results from shopping comparison sites, amazon, and other shopping related sites, mixed in with the results I want to see. It's really frustrating.

If I type the word FORUM, I want to see those results, don't second guess me. Yes I can dig around for three or ten clicks and find Google's community search. Typing the word FORUM should be enough.

Search queries have been migrating to longtail phrases for a few years now. People pretty much know what they want. I don't believe putting training wheels on the search box is helping.

Robert Charlton

 11:48 am on Dec 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't believe putting training wheels on the search box is helping.

Granted, auto-complete may not be helping for experienced searchers, and I find it distracting. It recently hit me that those "training wheels" are there for people with mobile devices that don't have great keyboards. That's my take on it, anyway. I've watched teenagers who basically grew up with auto-suggest search search on cheap phones, and it's a whole different animal. They can be very fast in navigating it.

Bing's auto-complete works much the same way as Google's, but it feels less intrusive to me... perhaps because on Bing I'm not dragging around a serp-page url that is growing exponentially longer as I search.

But for the kinds of things I search, Google... for me, at any rate... is miles ahead of Bing in digging out information and pages by quality, in part, I think, because Google does risk making mistakes in public... and it's making many more so, it seems, than Bing. This is likely to give Google more direct user feedback. That said, several years of fighting these auto-correct features has been driving me crazy, and Google has taken a while to catch on.

At the same time, now that we have Verbatim, which has been indispensible for certain searches, I'm surprised how little I've wanted to use it generally. I should add that with Verbatim on, I'm now seeing, in the #5 spot for our test query, a machine-spun spam page, stolen from this thread and not acknowledging it. It disappears with Verbatim off, which perhaps should tell us something.

I myself feel that Google is digging deeper, but I'm not really trying to push one engine over the other. I don't think that's the point of this forum or this discussion. I'm trying to use opportunities like this discussion to get more of a sense of what Google is looking at vs what Bing is looking at, to get a handle on where search is going. More and more, as time passes, it's not the old algo.


 8:26 pm on Dec 6, 2011 (gmt 0)


I completely agree with you regarding the mobile auto complete aspect, the thing is, google should be catering their mobile version to mobile surfers. I do not see much of a difference when browsing on my iphone vs on my computer. The results are pretty much the same.

They should also take into consideration how people search on mobile devices.

Google should also be able to determine the experience level of a typical searcher by what they have searched for and how long they have been a googler. This is especially easy when someone is logged in to their google account.

Someone like me would not need training wheels on searches where as someone like my mother would need the training wheels to help her find what she is looking for.

I am surprised google does not do more of this. If I had a 12 year old son, I would like the option for his search results to be catered to him, not just general search results. This is one of the things that I have expected google to be doing by now but I guess I will have to wait a little while longer.

Robert Charlton

 3:07 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I should have said that I believe that one of the reasons those training wheels are there is for mobile devices. Google is throwing a huge number of considerations into that one search box.

My observation about the quality of results with auto-complete, at least in this particular query, had to do with how I think Google classifies data into a virtual model of searcher behavior. The auto-complete structure, I'm guessing, provides evidence of an underlying structure that Google uses to more efficiently organize queries and to correlate them with its index, and with user engagement and the rest of the algorithm. It's likely that Google is using the training wheels to guide us to statistically-determined "most satisfactory" results in the shortest amount of time.

But in the case of AI, even the training wheels need training. In longtail searches, I've observed that when you go outside of the auto-complete suggestions, Google falters. Here, the auto-complete may be not so much a feature as simply a reflection of a limitation. AI needs lots of data. When an area of the index is infrequently searched, the longer it will take to train the AI engine to determine where the problems are and to apply algorithmic fixes. This search is one such problem area.


 3:44 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've observed that when you go outside of the auto-complete suggestions, Google falters.

That feels like a key observation, Robert. Thank you!

I was speaking recently with someone who had done a lot of auto-complete testing and probing. His main observation was that the auto-complete suggestions vary intensively with location. He said, "almost down to the zip code level."


 4:18 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

What I find interesting in this particular discussion and the results which have appeared at G and B, is that a relatively small number of web users can alter serp results via selective and intensive queries. This even with an AI attempting to learn. I also wonder how many web users actually have G accounts. The web is a Very Big Place, after all.


 5:07 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

a relatively small number of web users can alter serp results via selective and intensive queries.

I agree it is an eye-opener. The OP for this thread was 4:16 am on Dec 1 and by 5:41 pm on Dec 1st martinibuster was reporting WebmasterWorld at position 4.

Makes me wonder if a network of users with a common purpose can promote a product the same way:

~ Select an established forum or blog;
~ Someone starts a thread such as "blue widget store in 90210";
~ A network of participants agree to post in the forum using that exact query somewhere in their response;
~ All participants agree to use Google to search for that same query.

Am curious if they'd get the same immediate & very positive results. If so, it seems it could be ripe for exploitation, at least in the shortrun.



 6:51 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

But after all, we are working with a relatively low volume search phrase here, so I'm not very surprised. And remember, every thread here is read by many more people than just those who post - and I'm sure many of those have checked out the search, too.


 10:05 am on Dec 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

But after all, we are working with a relatively low volume search phrase here, so I'm not very surprised. And remember, every thread here is read by many more people than just those who post - and I'm sure many of those have checked out the search, too.

Which is a reminder of why Webmasterworld general policy errs on keyword speculation, link drops, etc. We are an authority site and should uphold a higher standard.


 9:37 am on Dec 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Back to the original subject

I have a link from a university website which is in the middle of a well-trafficked piece of learning material. The link to my site is both relevant and very helpful for users, it leads to a page that drives discussion on something I am an expert in and I can only think of one, perhaps two, sites that would serve that link equally well.

The pagerank boost from this single link is nice but I got it 8 years ago and the author of the material, now professor at the university, told me he entertains 5-6 requests per month for that link but none of the sites amount to more than MFA or quickie article. (he has been offered cash but cannot accept it).

That link should NOT be downgraded by Google just to make link competition fair. I should not be penalized for having spotted a good place for a link to one of my articles that many years ago.

Basically what I am saying is that if a site wants that link they will need to both deserve it and earn it and I don't make it easy, I put effort into my pages. I just don't feel sympathy for those who claim "unfair" because they cannot get it through begging or bribing... ya know? The BEST way to obtain a link is to create worthwhile material, it always will be.


 12:51 am on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

What I am noticing is that ever since panda was released, google has made a point of showing "high quality results". However, the answer we are searching for is not always found on a high quality page. Maybe the answer to my question is on a low quality directory page filled with no content and just basic rehashed information.

Google feels well if this high quality page has authority backlinks and has unique in depth content, it must be the answer to everyones questions. This is not the case. Showing relevance is sometimes a lot more important than showing a quality site. Google would rather show an authority site that has only one of the words in my search rather than show a result that has the exact phrasing or contains all of the words in my search because clearly to google, if this result has ALL the words listed in my search they are clearly trying to game their algo by purposely listing all those words for searchers like myself.

The proof is in the pudding, if you search google right now anything related to jupiter dermatology, this webpage will show up. Why? because WebmasterWorld is an authority site. Meanwhile a low quality website with questionable content and a handful of low quality backlinks may have the answer to my question, but I will never know.


 11:24 pm on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sgt_Kickaxe -

Good to see someone staying on topic - yes, I agree with you! Your link deserves to remain. However, the point I am trying to make is exactly what you are saying...just from a different direction.

I have 2 sites - one an e-commerce site and another is a informational site. I tried and tried to let webmasters know about my informational site - it was clean - had no ads - the information was relevant - and it had a tool that no one else had at the time that made the site super unique.

My competition (older sites) were dated and ugly. Their information was not in depth and their sites were covered with ugly ads...

The webmasters would not budge - it was obvious my site was better...they just were bored with link requests - I don't think they were lazy - but why should they care...I don't blame them. They have better things to do with their time than help me. I blame the "main skeleton" of the Google algorithm - the heart of how Google runs...looking for links is a waste of time...something that I must do but a waste of my time...


 11:49 pm on Dec 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here's another example - from my e-commerce site now...

One way of getting links is by writing manufacturers of products that we sell. Several had "old links" up to our competitors and when I asked for a link they refused...no one wants to go through the bother of adding links - they would usually say if we added your link then we would have to add everyone - I would then suggest nicely that they should take down the old links - not fair everything being equal (clean site, good reputation, etc.) - they have every legal right but it's not fair - the site owner does not care...again, I can't blame them.

Then there's the business owner who lost their webmaster and does not know how to run their own site...they cannot even access the site - you would be surprised how many authority sites out there who have a clueless owner.

I know the answers are not easy - but Google has plenty of smart people working for them. I know there are algorithm tweaks here and there and different forks - filters - social that have been added but the heart of Google is still linking I would argue - even today.

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