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Big brands do not have the upper hand - Matt Cutts
Whitey




msg:4554060
 8:41 pm on Mar 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Big brands cannot do whatever they want. They look at value add, etc. Faster, better, better UI, content, etc.

It is weird, Google does take action on big sites and big sites often do not like to talk about it. So it happens a lot. [seroundtable.com...]

Live blog interview with Matt Cutts.

How are members seeing those quality signals playing out in the SERP's compared to "smaller" brands.

 

Whitey




msg:4566505
 1:02 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

No, definitely not for lots of reasons learned over the years

NONE of the brands I work with or compete against appear to have reduced their ad spend, even with stellar organics. I don't either

@Randle / Netmeg - are the verticals you're associated with, perhaps fundamentally different and does that play into this. e.g. niche, local. I mean could you anticipate that other verticals may not work the same way due to issues around margin, scale and of course intense competition.

Maybe a brand signal is all about volume of brand searches (i.e. thousands or tens of thousands per day) no matter the niche? If so what hope do small businesses have?

To scale brand you need to spend money smartly with good expertise behind it. How you fund campaigns and resource the skills in support is another issue. Somehow Google has to measure brand signals relative to others to give you the edge, so knowing what your competitors are doing is perhaps an indication of what you should be taking note of.

Amit Singhal simply says that probability is a driver for Google Suggest, so it's reasonable to assume that in promoting relevance the probability surrounding the brand is somehow baked into the normal search algo. In paid search, perhaps that also plays into the quality score with Google again recognising brand. Who knows.

As the 2012 SEC filing says, from Google's standpoint, they simply focus on serving relevant content.

Strategically, Google cannot have one player dominating otherwise it would loose it's grip. So there must be other churn factors involved, which makes me wonder if this promotion of organic brands will last.

One possibility is that the massive changes brought about by Panda/Penguin and promoting brands into the organics is part of an interim plan to encourage a more balanced and competitive playing field amongst quality driven sites. If the critical mass of smaller sites improves in terms of quality it could be a good thing all round for those that survive.

The problem with a lot of SEO advisory is that it has been hijacked over the years by the need to compete with black hat and low quality cookie cutter techniques and neglected the visitor. Do business well in areas of neglect, then enable it for SEO. That's the challenge that folks should probably be focusing on, rather than if Google makes more money than them. Playing Robin Hood [ rob the rich to feed the poor ] is a waste of time strategy. And that I suppose feeds into brand strategies and perhaps working with them, at times, to your advantage.

So in another set of senses, brands do have the upper hand - they perform better and they have the resources to reinvent themselves better. But they can rarely move quickly or be good on personalised levels.

Having said that, how long is it going to be before Google rewards sites for climbing out of the small/medium bucket with tidy ups and UI's with equal content quality, to compete with Brands - it has to be supported in some way by Google. Have we been deceived or is there a flaw in the current algorithm?

This whole Panda / Penguin / Brand / Geo-Local / Personal way of re ordering things, with Brand the highest of the ranking signal factors, I think, is one of the biggest turning points of recent times.

netmeg




msg:4566520
 3:11 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Randle / Netmeg - are the verticals you're associated with, perhaps fundamentally different and does that play into this. e.g. niche, local. I mean could you anticipate that other verticals may not work the same way due to issues around margin, scale and of course intense competition.


I compete in office supplies and healthcare, among other things, in the US and Canada. Pretty competitive.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4566524
 3:24 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

It almost sounds to me like diberry's talking about advertising mentions, so maybe it's not even based on dollars spent, but rather advertising mentions on "trusted" sites? The "more trusted" the site the mention is on = the more weight it gets or something along those lines?

It would seem like if they counted the mentions in some way that would be a way to "count" nofollow links without actually counting the link for PR purposes. They say they drop the link from the graph, but they don't ever say they drop the fact the URL/Site was mentioned on the page that I've heard anyway.

randle




msg:4566531
 4:43 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Randle / Netmeg - are the verticals you're associated with, perhaps fundamentally different and does that play into this. e.g. niche, local. I mean could you anticipate that other verticals may not work the same way due to issues around margin, scale and of course intense competition.

I think thats certainly possible, the internet is one vast ocean so I'm sure theres lots of businesses that are unique from a monetization perspective. But the changes over the past 24 months have been dramatic and from a bottom line perspective its just a lot harder to try and position yourself into some sort of monetarily successful arbitrage.

Take a look at Adsense for example - Years ago there were people making huge sums of money by building sites specifically designed to attract the widest stream of traffic possible with the sole goal of getting those visitors to click on an ad. (using organic and paid search) That business model is much more difficult today than it was then for a lot of reasons, but I think we can all agree that sites that offer minimal value to the visitor generally rank lower, or incur a greater cost per click, than sites that offer more value.

You can argue all day long, and I think its a very valid argument, wether or not a site built for a popular brand offers more value to the visitor than a site that isn't brand specific. But if you look at the mechanics of things from a purely ranking perspective, you can sort of see why Google has latched onto what is a bit of a "quality" crutch, that provides them the safer bet.

Which one of these might get a little more ranking love from Google these days?

A.
For the best prices on <a href="http://www.red-widgets.com/">red widgets</a> visit us today.</p>

B.
Don't settle for plastic imposters, get true WIDCO widgets in a variety of colors, made with high grade stainless steel. Visit <href="http://www.widco.com/">WIDCO</a> today and get our standard free shipping.</p>

Taken a step further to the issue of organic vs. the paid space and the challenges of monetization there, the brand issue rears its head again. Its always going to come down to:

Impressions - Click through rate - Conversion rate

Brand, in our experience, improves the click through and conversion rates making the paid space much more financially feasible than what is often experienced from PPC without brand (or even branded keywords for that matter). Brands, usually have spent money somewhere to popularize their name and products - that expenditure carries over into the paid area helping to boost click through rates, conversions and overall ROI.

Maybe theres some sort of similar dynamic at work in the organic space.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4566532
 4:52 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

One thing I keep thinking about "brands" is it may not necessarily be "a Google bias", but rather their visitors have a bias, and they have to please their visitors, because I've been to quite a few shopping malls and malls really can't discriminate (have a bias) due to "name".

As long as a business, regardless of name, can [prove they can] pay the rent and there's an open space, a mall can't say, "Well, you don't have the right name name, so sorry, you can't have the space.", but what I have seen time and again is "no names" last for 6 months to a year in a mall, then get replaced, not because the mall itself has a bias (it would be a huge lawsuit if they did) but because the people shopping do and the shoppers don't bother with the name they don't know. (IOW: The mall didn't decide they didn't want what the "no name" had to offer, the visitors to the mall did.)

So, the "brand is better" reasoning could be along the lines of: Visitors like a brand better based on behavior. Google tries to please visitors and sees visitor behavior indicating a brand is a better result. Google tries to show brands more often algorithmically. (However they determine what a brand is algorithmically.)

That's really not them being biased, imo, it's them showing their visitors what their visitors indicate, based on behavior, they want to see the most often, which happens to be brands.

Personally, I highly doubt they give a fylin f*ck what the name of a business or site is, as long as a site/business is what they get the indication their visitors are most likely to want to see based on behavior that's what they'll try to show more often and higher in the organic rankings.

That's not a bias on Google's part, because they're fair about what they show by not really caring wtf the business/site is but rather showing visitors WETF it is they want (or expect) to see most/highest in the results, based on behavior. The actual bias present in that type of situation is on the part of visitors.

A bias on Google's part, imo, would be if they got the indication their visitors wanted to see brands more often and they kept showing "no names" at the top of the results.

[edited by: TheOptimizationIdiot at 5:30 am (utc) on Apr 20, 2013]

diberry




msg:4566534
 5:30 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Correct, I'm not talking JUST about the money spent on ads, but the overall profile it creates. IF Google is tracking your "serious marketing" efforts as part of the algo, then I imagine they would track every aspect of it that's practical to track (I just don't know what that is).

As long as someone can [prove they can] pay the rent and there's have an open space, a mall can't say, "Well, you don't have a big enough name, so sorry, you can't have the space."


Oh, but there's a simple, legal way (in California, anyway) to effectively do just that, and they do it all the time (source: my discussions with many, many tenants this has happened to over the years). At the end of a lease, you crank the rent up to double or even 10 times what it was. This effectively forces the tenant to leave. Then you quote an extremely high rent price to any tenants you don't want - because, legally, you've established that ridiculous price by pushing it on the former tenant. Later, when a desirable tenant shows up, you offer a lower price because, hey, none of those other potentials took the high one.

Strangely, there's one mall here that kicks tenants out this way and then leaves the space empty for months or years. For years, I just couldn't understand this, but my best guess now is that they are deliberately running this mall at a loss to offset profits from their other businesses, in order to cut down their tax bill.

I always go back to how Panda was supposed to end content farms - a perfect solution to the problem of "too much internet" for the algo to process. At first, ehow sank along with the rest... then suddenly it figured out how to get back to the top despite being the very thing Google was trying to crush. You can either assume Google was lying all along, or (more plausible IMO) assume this backfired on them and then they had to find another way to shrink the web, so they went with a "trust" signals boost (rather than admit they weren't on top of everything utterly and completely).

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4566538
 5:42 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Oh, but there's a simple, legal way (in California, anyway) to effectively do just that, and they do it all the time (source: my discussions with many, many tenants this has happened to over the years). At the end of a lease, you crank the rent up to double or even 10 times what it was. This effectively forces the tenant to leave. Then you quote an extremely high rent price to any tenants you don't want - because, legally, you've established that ridiculous price by pushing it on the former tenant. Later, when a desirable tenant shows up, you offer a lower price because, hey, none of those other potentials took the high one.

But, to keep going on the point, just for fun (lol)

Did the visitors care, or did the mall have enough brands there to keep the visitors happy and coming back? Did the visitors ask for the "unfairly removed" store by name at a high percentage or did most not even notice it was missing?

Think about those questions algorithmically.

You remove "Mom & Pop tv sales" from a resultset. Not may people search for it when it's missing after they search for "42 inch television", because it got traffic from the results based on placement, but wasn't a "brand" people look for. Basically, it got traffic because it was there, not because "people expected to see it and liked it".

You also remove, say Best Buy, from a resultset. But, when visitors search for "42 inch television" a "decent percentage" search again for "42 inch television at best buy", because it's a "brand" people look for in the results and Best Buy is not spending enough on advertising to be at the top of the results in the ads for "42 inch television" that month.

As a search/knowledge engine is it a better idea to remove Best Buy or "Mom & Pop tv sales" from the results if you want your visitors to keep coming back to you more often so you can show them more ads?

I know some people will say "Oh, yeah, they'd be better off removing Best Buy, because visitors'll click more ads that way." but if you're really looking to provide people with the answers they're looking for to keep them coming back, then including Best Buy in the results is a way better plan if it "goes missing" and visitors start to search for it specifically, imo.

At first, ehow sank along with the rest... then suddenly it figured out how to get back to the top despite being the very thing Google was trying to crush.

Along the same lines of my above example above, do you think when eSpam, er, I mean ePlagarism, oh, wait, that's not it, I mean eJavaScript all links out so they don't pass PageRank by including the source in the title="" of the link then using JavaScript to create a clickable link for real visitors to the original source they copied, no, wait, that's not the right name either, maybe it's eThieves? IDK

Anyway, whatever they actually call what I think is a spam pot you referred to, the point is when eWe'llStealYourContentAndNotEvenThinkTwiceAboutItOrEvenGiveYouALiveLinkFromIt disappeared from Google did enough visitors search for it by name or add the name to their query when searching again to indicate it was an "important result" to Google's visitors? I would guess since most people have no clue eWeStoleYourContentHaHaHaLOLWhatchaGonnaDo is the type of site it is they searched for it specifically more than we might think they did.

Whitey




msg:4566551
 7:53 am on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

@randle / netmeg - How do the pages you render for paid v organic differ for the same subject?

Are the organic landing pages filled with relative optimization excess compared to paid, which could explain part of the success of paid.

If brands with their organic bias can render simpler pages without excess copy, surely they are at an advantage with conversion rates. What do you think?

netmeg




msg:4566622
 2:37 pm on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't do "relative optimization excess" so I can't answer that.

PPC pages are supposed to focus tightly on the goal (conversions, in my case) so we minimize any distractions, like navigation, links, images, etc. We want that page to do nothing but sell.

Organics have a little more flexibility, but are mostly optimized for users, not search engines.

randle




msg:4566629
 3:13 pm on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

@randle / netmeg - How do the pages you render for paid v organic differ for the same subject?

The paid page is stripped way down, the less distraction the better - but there has to be enough relevant material to satisfy the Quality Score gods (who dont need nearly as much as the organic ranking gods).

Are the organic landing pages filled with relative optimization excess compared to paid, which could explain part of the success of paid.

Definitely, and "excess" is a good description for it.

Generally the chase to convert in the organic space is driven by efforts to rank. So most (well, I know we do) have trouble keeping ourselves from over optimizing the pages because if it doesn't rank, its never going to convert. This is so much at the core of the "new ranking" world we live in; the post "Penguin/Panda/EMD" influenced algorithm. What does the visitor want vs. what needs to be on the page to have a fighting chance for the visitor to find the page.

The conversion rates for the paid space (at least for us) are way higher than in the organic. We attribute that to both the nature of the visitor (organic visitors can be more toward the research mode in the sales cycle spectrum), and the amount of distracting material on the respective organic landing pages.

Now, of course it all comes down to the bottom line - each has its own ROI - some days one looks like the prettiest girl in class, and the next day its the other way around.

If brands with their organic bias can render simpler pages without excess copy, surely they are at an advantage with conversion rates. What do you think?

I think thats a very good point -

Wether its the paid space, or the organic, it all comes down to the same old formula:

Total Impressions - Click through rate - Conversion rate

If you can rank well enough to keep the impressions high, and at the same time deliver a very targeted landing page, you gotta believe life would be good.

diberry




msg:4566633
 3:54 pm on Apr 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Did the visitors care, or did the mall have enough brands there to keep the visitors happy and coming back? Did the visitors ask for the "unfairly removed" store by name at a high percentage or did most not even notice it was missing?


As a search/knowledge engine is it a better idea to remove Best Buy or "Mom & Pop tv sales" from the results if you want your visitors to keep coming back to you more often so you can show them more ads?


I'm afraid it's just the opposite - they removed busy, KNOWN chain shops and eateries, and in one case a big box store as well-known as Best Buy, and replaced them with the retail equivalent of spam: little one-off shops and eateries no one had ever heard of, that hardly ever seem to have a customer in them.

And yeah, a number of visitors were hopping mad and complained to the mall. The press wrote some articles about the mall's bizarre determination to drive out the big box store, which almost functioned as an anchor store, and replace it with another type of store the mall already had more than enough of.

It's not completely analogous to Google's situation, though. If the mall doesn't have what I want, it doesn't get any money from me. Google, however, can make money even when it doesn't give me what I want, because I might click an ad or 12 before I realize I'm not getting what I want from them. BUT if the Adwords buyers are getting poor conversions for their advertising dollars, they go away, right?

So the most important thing for Adwords is to deliver conversions for the ad buyers. Google's not a shop or a destination. They're more like a real estate broker - they have to match buyers and sellers so everyone's happy with the deal.

Ad buyers here are telling us, they buy ads even when they rank #1 organically, because "dominating the page" results in more conversions. It sounds to me like wherever the brand sites are, they're still going to spend about the same on Adwords so there is no advantage to Google to push them up OR down.

Whitey




msg:4566763
 12:57 am on Apr 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's not completely analogous to Google's situation, though. If the mall doesn't have what I want, it doesn't get any money from me.

@diberry - an interesting analogy, indeed.

Do you think a mall with, say multiple stores of the same brand is a healthier place than a mall that has different brands in it?

Where I live the localised coffee shops have chased the big brands out of the streets across the country. The evidence is in the people that come in community to sip coffee and chat in a pleasant environment, often with the owners and staff being part of the blend.

The big brands couldn't make a consistently compelling superior experience to overcome that.

In the malls, where the coffee shop brands still survive - small operators are able to function on an equal footing. I'm not sure how it is in the US/Canada/UK and Europe or across other regions - but I'd imagine it's similar. The difference with the US/Canada is the huge scale of the market which acts against a lot of small/medium business'. But big business often delivers a "plastic" experience, with "plastic" ingredients as in supermarkets with rows of poor quality processed foods. It could be that this mindset is spilling over into the arrangement of SERP's by Google.

It doesn't matter what you put there, so long as the people pay to eat it.

In the analogy of the above, perhaps it also reinforces the need to get niche, personal and local if you're a small business trying to enable search results.

[Having said that I do see situations where the opposite has occurred, like mega DYI/Trade/hardware stores with expert assistants].

It also says to me that social has a very strong presence in the greater scheme of things, and Google is not good at enabling this.

Google's brand is in enabling search requests. And because of this sites that appear in the results probably have a low repeat retention rate amongst pure visitors. This probably demonstrates the NEED<>NEED loop.

Does anyone see a different perspective on this?

Str82u




msg:4566771
 2:13 am on Apr 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Whitey
Google's brand is in enabling search requests.
That was a polite way to put it. I like the Mall analogy too (I've been busy but reading everyone's posts). Those go well together if I keep in mind the mall is bottomless.
diberry




msg:4566807
 3:30 pm on Apr 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Whitey, I've been mulling this over, and I'm not sure I understand precisely what you're trying to get at so my answer may not be quite to the point.

The people who deliver a "plastic" experience are generally able to deliver it much cheaper than the "real thing." Sometimes people don't really have a choice with their budget. So they may prefer personal, niche stuff, but only when the prices are the same or they're treating themselves. I.E., local coffee shops tend to charge the same or less than Starbucks and may taste better, but WalMart's almost always going to beat your locally owned retail shop on prices for the exact same goods.

IMO, the healthiest SERP would be one which presented me with several options (and maybe even guided me with a few questions - I've wondered for years why Google doesn't ask filtering questions to help determine search intent). I don't think anyone disagrees with that.

The question in this thread is whether GOOGLE intentionally spews out brands, and sometimes the same ones repeatedly on a page, or if this is a sort of glitch in the algo for now and they wish they could provide a more varied SERP. This is where it boils down to speculation and opinion. I've been reading a lot about how the sheer volume of information human beings are producing is increasing exponentially all the time. That means in a year from now, the algo will need to be able to cope with even MORE info than it's coping with now, and I personally doubt it's coping very well with what it's got, and hence all these measures *I* see as "shortcuts" but others see as intentional things Google is doing to achieve a particular goal.

tedster




msg:4566895
 11:49 pm on Apr 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I've wondered for years why Google doesn't ask filtering questions to help determine search intent

From my experience trying to serve the general public, I think it would be seen as too complicated. As much as I don't like it personally, I think has the pulse of the public by trying to provide "the answer" and setting their machine learning process loose on determining user intent.

diberry




msg:4566944
 4:38 am on Apr 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Tedster, you mean the public would see it as too complicated? Yeah, I can see that. People might see it as playing 20 questions to get to their answer.

Whitey




msg:4566989
 7:07 am on Apr 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

@randle/netmeg - On multiple results paid / organic, - brand folks I speak with that have very large accounts, used to hold the view that multiple results paid/organic were a cannibalization concern, which prompted my question. Search layout has changed since I last spoke, with more Google assets splitting up the landing pages. The previous metrics/ROI's didn't justify it, they even had issues with affiliates duplicating their slots. [I'm not saying they were right, just asking ]. Have you seen a change in more recent years?

I'd be interested in any other perspectives out there on the paid/organic mix and if one discourages the other or not.

And..

On multiple organic results, which seems to favour brands, surely users only need one result. Here's a bit of history on the subject :

Feb 2011

Matt Cutts: "One nice change that Google introduced in February 2000 was “host crowding,” which only showed two results from each hostname (here’s what a hostname is). Suddenly, Google’s search results were much cleaner and more diverse! It was a really nice win–we even got email fan letters. Unfortunately, just a few months later people were creating multiple subdomains to get around host crowding, as the results above show. Google later added more robust code to prevent that sort of subdomain abuse and to ensure better diversity."

Danny Sullivan: "But Matt, last year you effectively dropped host crowding by putting up more results from a web site for some searches, rather than fewer. You know this is an issue that drives me insane. One result per site, subdomain, you name it — that’s all I need. Especially with the use of sitelinks, I simply don’t understand why Google can’t give me more variety in my results."

Matt Cutts : "Danny Sullivan, we keep tuning things trying to find the right balance. For a navigational query like [ibm] or [hp] for example, it makes sense to surface more results from that site."
[mattcutts.com...]


June 2012

Many results from one site - Host Crowding vs Brand Authority June 2012 : [webmasterworld.com...]

How does Google decide when to display multiple results from the same website.

Matt Cutts "when it's useful and doesn't hurt diversity" : [youtube.com...]

Many results where I see this are attributed fully to brands. I'm not sure if this is more or less than before, or perhaps about the same.

What's happening - surely this isn't good diversification and favours brands.

diberry




msg:4567079
 5:03 pm on Apr 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

I've been thinking about all this, and I have kind of a new theory, or a new take on an existing theory.

For a navigational query like [ibm] or [hp] for example, it makes sense to surface more results from that site.


I agree with that statement, but the host crowding is way more intense than this makes it sound. You can look up a book title and get 7 Amazon links to the book in various formats and editions - no author's website, no Wiki entry, etc. Just Amazon over and over. To me as a searcher, that does NOT serve my needs or the query.

But remember that Google has announced they're no longer "committed to being a search engine" [webmasterworld.com ] - they want to be a "knowledge engine", a statement the meaning of which is still unclear to me.

Possibility:

Maybe algorithmic - or any form of automated - search isn't even the future. In the past year, multiple non-techy friends have advised me to search for things on Pinterest, Yelp, Amazon or "just ask on Facebook", rather than Google. They may still default to Google for some queries, but it's clear to me that average searchers are realizing they'll find quality results on certain queries a lot faster by relying on *other human beings" pinning, reviewing or answering questions rather than on an algo. If I'm seeing this, Google must realize it too.

We may be witnessing the beginning of people rejecting an algo (the automated solution) for crowdsourced human-curated results, and this is why Google is pushing Google+ so hard. I have a feeling Google's biggest fear is Facebook implementing a search engine that uses the social data they collect as part of an algorithm - the best of both worlds, and automated way to find human curated data. Voila - the new "links as votes."

So my point with this long-winded missive? Search's original business model may be reaching the end of its life. Search isn't just competing with Bing, they're competing with social media and established sites that have internal search. They're competing with some of the very brands that are coming up top in their searches, ironically. So if you're not sure whether your current business model is even viable anymore, what do you do? Diversify - put some eggs into some other baskets.

Maybe Google just isn't investing a lot in Search these days, except in terms of technological advancements that translate into other fields. Machine learning, for example, could take Google into all sorts of new directions. But tweaking the algo to fix this brand boost/jamming thing? Probably smarter to spend that money on pushing Google+ or just continuing refining the machine learning part of the algo.

TOI is correct that if Google as a *company* succumbs to "just doing slightly better than the competition" thinking, they'll die. But what about Google Search, specifically? Does Google even know precisely what it needs to be, to be the best in 5 years? I think there are multiple possibilities, and the least likely is that Search's current business model - being the algorithmic gateway to the entire web - will continue to dominate. Search NEEDS to evolve into something entirely new, so why concentrate on fixing the old algo, if it's working "well enough" and Google's resources are better spent on other things? (And don't forget the driverless cars and so on.)

netmeg




msg:4567116
 8:35 pm on Apr 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

@randle/netmeg - On multiple results paid / organic, - brand folks I speak with that have very large accounts, used to hold the view that multiple results paid/organic were a cannibalization concern, which prompted my question. Search layout has changed since I last spoke, with more Google assets splitting up the landing pages. The previous metrics/ROI's didn't justify it, they even had issues with affiliates duplicating their slots.


I've never held those views on cannibalization, nor been convinced by our numbers that it was a problem. And we don't have affiliates.

As it happens, the main site I'm working with is an EMD for the entire niche. About ten years ago, I convinced them to change the name of the company to be the same as the EMD (mostly for alphabetical reasons at the time - directories tended to list things alphabetically back then) and since that was also the name of the niche, good times abounded. (It was an accident, but it worked)

The bottom line is, however they find us, we're happy to get them, and we're not worried about cannibalizing organic results. If the organics completely went away tomorrow, it would be a blow, but we have enough other channels going (including PPC, email, an 84 page print catalog, other stuff), and we probably focus more on retention than acquisition anyway. So we would be pissed, but we wouldn't be out of business.

randle




msg:4567126
 9:49 pm on Apr 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

The bottom line is, however they find us, we're happy to get them, and we're not worried about cannibalizing organic results. If the organics completely went away tomorrow, it would be a blow, but we have enough other channels going (including PPC, email, an 84 page print catalog, other stuff), and we probably focus more on retention than acquisition anyway. So we would be pissed, but we wouldn't be out of business.


Man, print this quote off and wall paper your office with it - well said.

You have to get beyond organic search being the only way people are going to find your online properties.

Str82u




msg:4567135
 10:06 pm on Apr 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Man, print this quote off and wall paper your office with it - well said.
Indeed - not all brands think outside of the internet box though; Amazon is cool and all but does anyone have their toll-free phone number to order products over the phone if the internet stops working?
Whitey




msg:4567215
 7:40 am on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Search's original business model may be reaching the end of its life

@diberry - it may not be the end of Google's life we need to be concerned about. There's a lot of small/medium sites being ingested while Google seeks to mature it's product and adjust it's strategy to meet external challenges.

Given the nearly 12 years of this problem, in and out, do you think it's simply a low priority fix for Google and the issue just happens to have hit brands because they are the top results anyway?

Whitey




msg:4567224
 9:03 am on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

@randle/netmeg - Did you ever do any measurements on those relationships?

Clearly Google agree's with you [ and many others ] per their study:

Studies Show Search Ads Drive 89% Incremental Traffic

Posted by David Chan and Lizzy Van Alstine, Quantitative Management Team 2011

Advertisers often wonder whether search ads cannibalize their organic traffic. In other words, if search ads were paused, would clicks on organic results increase, and make up for the loss in paid traffic? Google statisticians recently ran over 400 studies on paused accounts to answer this question.

In what we call “Search Ads Pause Studies”, our group of researchers observed organic click volume in the absence of search ads. Then they built a statistical model to predict the click volume for given levels of ad spend using spend and organic impression volume as predictors. These models generated estimates for the incremental clicks attributable to search ads (IAC), or in other words, the percentage of paid clicks that are not made up for by organic clicks when search ads are paused.

The results were surprising. On average, the incremental ad clicks percentage across verticals is 89%. This means that a full 89% of the traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused. This number was consistently high across verticals. The full study can be found on [googleresearch.blogspot.com.au...] .


I looked around for some reaction to this release by Google, and it was pretty much a dead silence out there in the SEO/SEM community. One thing I noticed was the potential behaviour of brands in the mix:

Our analysis does not include an estimate for incremental conversions. Other factors such as the ranking of the organic search result or the strength of brand awareness of the search term could influence the IAC estimate.

@Walkman - They way I read it, they figured out that if you stop advertising you will lose (total) traffic, and lots of it as other people's paid ads will take it. [webmasterworld.com...]


There was an update to this study:
Posted by David Chan, Statistician and Lizzy Van Alstine, Research Evangelist March 2012

While these findings provide guidance on overall trends, results for individual advertisers may vary. It’s also important to note that the study focuses on clicks rather than conversions. We recommend that advertisers employ randomized experiments
[googleresearch.blogspot.com.au...]

But it's in Google's interest to provide an expert study that market's it's own product I guess. I did see some other quality studies that were inconclusive, either way.

Those are very good points you raised about doing all possible to not be reliant on the SERP's, so maybe it's academic to question it.

Whitey




msg:4567227
 10:20 am on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

For me, I've always been wary of complex stats with the potential for uncalculable permutations beyond my comprehension [ Lies, damned lies, and statistics [en.wikipedia.org...]

Robert Charlton




msg:4567236
 10:50 am on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Whitey - Fascinating study. It's very late at night and I haven't read it as carefully as I'd like, but I note that it doesn't seem to address one aspect of paid ads and organic results showing simultaneously, which is that a symbiotic effect between the two has been observed in previous studies. See this discussion, from 2007....

Organic traffic increases inline with increase in PPC traffic
Oct 4, 2007
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3469034.htm [webmasterworld.com]

I posted...
There have been several studies which have found that there's a symbiotic relationship between organic and PPC in Google. One study claimed that, when you have top placement in both organic and PPC, there was up to a 3x increase in clickthroughs for each.

I've noted that clients who decrease their PPC spends when they achieve top rankings also lose some organic traffic.

On the other hand, maintaining top AdWords positions for some market areas is not always cost effective.

Well known marketer Greg Jarboe reported extensively on the 3x number. To some degree, I'd always felt that Jarboe's numbers might have been high, but, quoting from the Google study above, I note another number that resonates with a number that Jarboe reported....

Google report, my emphasis added...
The results were surprising. On average, the incremental ad clicks percentage across verticals is 89%. This means that a full 89% of the traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused.

I'm going to take an unusual step here, of quoting a "Search Engine Watch" article written by Jarboe about a commercial study, run by iCrossing, way back in 2007. I do so because, even though it's a marketing piece, it's an analogous study which may explain part of the drop. Additionally, a number jumped out at me, a number which could well be coincidental, but it's too close (in order of magnitude) to 89% to ignore. This is the article...

Yes, Virginia, there is a natural and paid search synergy
Greg Jarboe, April 29, 2007
[searchenginewatch.com...]

Jarboe article, my emphasis added...
...iCrossing recently published a Search Synergy Report, which found a "symbiosis" between natural and paid search. The report "conclusively demonstrates that running an integrated natural and paid search campaign leads to improved online performance over running either a natural search or paid search campaign alone."

...So, what did they find?
iCrossing found "online performance is dramatically improved if keywords purchased for a paid search campaign are also ranked in natural search." For example, when the digital marketing agency incorporated natural search into an existing paid search campaign and compared its performance to the performance of the sole paid search campaign:
-- Clicks increased 91.80%
...

It's late at night; I'm quoting selectively; some similarities are likely to be coincidental; I'm comparing slightly different factors (pause of ads vs presence of organics); and I'm quoting from a commercial study... but, with all those cautions, I nevertheless feel that this worth citing and the similarities worth noting.

I feel that there's symbiosis in all types of marketing... that marketers are looking for "eyeball moments"... and that unquestionably big brands have more exposure, but I've seen the symbiosis work for small brands too. Unfortunately, small brands can't afford to buy AdWords at a per-click loss simply for the branding effect. Small brands need to be more clever, and like Avis, which was #2, to work harder.

The persistence of well-known entities at the top of a hierarchy, it's worth mentioning, is something that's been observed in many different facets of society... it's not just about search engines. In the past, we relied on the algorithm to reflect human perception in machine terms, and when that meant keyword repetition and weighted headings containing search terms at the top of the page, we were content with that, because it was easy to do and we had figured it out first.

Now that search positioning may also reflect reputations built over time with resources perhaps not available to an individual webmaster, some of us are less happy about it... but the truth is that there's no distortion of reality. It's actually the intrusion of a new aspect of reality into SEO that many of us don't like.

Whitey




msg:4567237
 11:04 am on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Very interesting. It could lead to some statistical modeling that small/medium business' resource could only dream of also involving probability influences in the SERPs.

TheRealSaxman




msg:4567291
 2:42 pm on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Lots to read here, but commenting on...

...symbiotic relationship between organic and PPC in Google. One study claimed that, when you have top placement in both organic and PPC, there was up to a 3x increase in clickthroughs for each.


I have always found this to be true, but have always attributed it to overall credibility. Only "symbiotic" in the way that because of the high ranking of each they offer increased credibility which has the effect of increased CTR and conversions, but not that the high ranking on organics offers a biased playing field in Adwords...

Thoughts?...

Robert Charlton




msg:4567358
 7:49 pm on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have always found this to be true, but have always attributed it to overall credibility. Only "symbiotic" in the way that because of the high ranking of each they offer increased credibility which has the effect of increased CTR and conversions, but not that the high ranking on organics offers a biased playing field in Adwords...

Precisely my interpretation. It's the increased credibility which increases the click-throughs.

Also, there is a credibility that exists beyond the search page... and favorable mentions from outside the search page also have a symbiotic effect. They even affect what you search for, whom you will trust 'with your credit card information', what food you eat, what movies you see, what sites you link to, what links you click, and what you recommend to friends or business associates.

instand1




msg:4567391
 10:20 pm on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Credibility: It is interesting to talk to normal people about their search behaviour. Many don't notice that the top positions are ads. Some say: "I never click on ads", means: They only click on the left, never (better: seldom) on the right.

As an advertiser I like about adwords: Visits from paid search convert better: Bounce rate is lower, time spent is higher, number of pages visited is higher. One reason for this: Full control over the ad text compared to the random snippet in the SERPS - besides the obvious factor "higher position".

SEO and AdWords Optimization: With the emphasis on quality of the ad and landing pages the same effort has to be put into creating landing pages that are relevant to the keyword used. We found that a good langing page for ads will be ranking high in the SERPS. For each keyword phrase there should be a different landing page and the landing page should look "organic".

Some sites focussed on making money by Adsense, are highly concentrated on one group of keywords for one industry. We place our AdWords on their pages, when the content of the page is relevant to our keywords. The best placements in content adwords have an as good CTR and conversion rate as the search adwords.

Google claims that their main focus is to make searchers happy. If the searchers find what they are looking for, the ad buyers are happy and can afford to finance google. So the effort of google to improve the quality of the search experience (from the perspective of the searcher) is not altruism but a good strategy. If the searchers find good content and good ads, they will make more use of google. If this is manipulation: Let's have more of it!

Whitey




msg:4567408
 12:46 am on Apr 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

@instand1 - I like your positive attitude. More of it too.

[Good involvement all round with some great inputs coming in]

For those small/medium business' that have been hit hard by "branding" related demotion, exclusion bias , and/or Penguin/Panda updates, but are questioning the sustainability surrounding this symbiosis, what word's of encouragement can you share about establishing viability and scale in Adwords and other mediums? Are they in for a long and large investment before they see returns?

Thoughts?

Whitey




msg:4567413
 1:23 am on Apr 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

btw - on penalty brand bias inputs, more granular advise to a big brand site [ Mozilla ] that just got manually penalized:

John [Mueller] added that in these cases, Google tries to go as "granular as possible with our manual actions." So in this case, Mozilla is not fully penalized, just the sections or pages that have this spam on it. [seroundtable.com...]

... back to paid / organic brand symbiosis

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