|Big brands do not have the upper hand - Matt Cutts|
|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.
|And I would be surprised if I'm not, because that's where their sustainability comes from as a "whatever engine" people try to find stuff with. |
You get sustainability from keeping your customers happy and being the best in your class by a long way....not necessarily the longest way.
|Everything you're saying right there is Design/Layout. |
I think this comment sums up our differences. I am see things a lot more holistically here. Yes, of course Google are made up of different departments. But to say "this is design", "this is Adwords", "this is organic" doesn't negate the fact that Google will have directions and decisions that over-arch all of these areas. It would be chaotic if all of these departments were 100% autonomous regardless of their impact on Google as a whole. Google would probably give them as much autonomy as possible, but overall direction will be from above.
|I have said I think they maximize that (meaning design/layout) for ad clicks and keeping searchers on their properties without becoming "overly annoying" or "frustrating". |
That was my point actually - just highlighting just how important ad clicks are to Google in the SERPs - I admit it's rather an obvious point I was making though.
|What you're not showing with your example, and no one else has a better one than you (that I've seen), is them changing/manipulating the order of or changing/manipulating what shows in the organic results. |
Well, strictly speaking, Google already "manipulate" the organic SERPs by deciding the rules and signals of the algorithm. That's just inevitable. It doesn't mean there's anything nefarious they are up to - just that they are deciding what rules and signals to plug into the algo to give both the searcher and Google the most optimal results. That is the way to maximise profits and keep your customers happy and keep you no.1. I don't actually see anything wrong with that.
|There's a big difference between changing the design of a page to influence someone to click on something and removing the objectivity of what's shown in the section of a page you claim to be objective. |
There is no such thing as objectivity when humans build and maintain an algorithm. The algorithm is objective in the sense that it will mechanically judge all sites the same according to the rules it follows and signals it looks for, but the rules themselves are literally subject to the decisions humans at Google make (literally subjective).
Speaking of holistic views:
Do you think in a discussion something like taking a "more holistic view" about what's being said can lead to more new insights or understandings, or do you think more is gained by splitting hairs over the exact wording used say something?
I've been thinking about the feeling some people have that buying Adwords gets them higher organic rankings for those phrases, and I have a question: do we know if the search algo considers user behavior on sites reached through ads? Example:
Let's say your website is about purple widgets, and "purple widgets" is a competitive, lucrative search phrase. Your site has an awesome page about "building purple widgets" and you rank #1 for that less lucrative phrase, but you're not even on the top three pages for "purple widgets." So you buy Adwords to get some "purple widgets" traffic, and searchers using that term come visit you. They love your site, and trigger every good user behavior metric the algo tracks.
Does the algo track this? Because if so, then it would "learn" that people love your site as a result for "purple widgets", and should rank you higher in the organic rankings. If so, your higher rankings would not be a reward for giving Google money, but rather for using Adwords to show the algo that people like your site for that query.
Or does the algo ignore user responses to Adwords results completely?
|I think it's important for us to process the "biggest picture presented by Google Search as a whole - including organic results, the SERP layout, and their Adwords business -- and start by accepting the [oints made above by TOI - that they are each the province of separate teams. |
Why important? We people think for ourselve and can disagree. I no like TOI thinking, I do no accept that organic is separate because Google money only on ads, and always go up. When webmaster complain more, Google make more money. Why we believe Google? You always believe when big corporate say something?
|When Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal speak, they are talking about the organic slice of the pie and not the overall constitution of the SERP. |
We not know what they speak. Amit is Vice President on search and he know what adwords make. No doubt, because most Google money on adwords.
|And those companies often complain that with all the money they spend, Google should give them some special treatment in organic search too... but they don't. |
Yep, we're a pretty big adwords site, but it doesn't afford us all page one rankings. We do very good, in the grand scheme of things, but there are other sites that do better. Much better.
@Dymero / Tedster - Why? Is their competitors brand playing into it better, or do you/they see other factors?
[edited by: Whitey at 11:55 pm (utc) on Apr 16, 2013]
|I do no accept that organic is separate because Google money only on ads |
But Google cannot make good money on ads unless users continue to prefer their search results altogether. That's the marketing plan and has been since Adwords was first introduced.
The teams most definitely are separate. Although you may think that these teams influence each other (that's a different issue) each team is definitely made up of at least hundreds of employees. And from speaking with these folks at conferences, I'm pretty convinced that ads do not affect organic rankings, and they never have.
As I said, if you don't work for a big brand you may think they've got it easy. If you do work for a big brand, it's a different story by far.
Whitey, the site doing the best is "The Brand" in our industry. You'd know them for sure. Because of that they are very well linked. So they get the top of the front page almost every time. Also, our industry is quite competitive in the SERPs, so it isn't always easy to rank well. But it's gotten better for us over time.
|I'm pretty convinced that ads do not affect organic rankings, and they never have. |
@Tedster - although I'm 100% behind this statement [ experience, commentary, conversations etc ], I do think some folks are confused as they see overlap with indirect signals involving the beneficial consequences of paid search. Sorry to be repeating , but can we somehow differentiate direct, from indirect. The latter influence would appear to be huge, with Adwords a large part of the brand marketing mix in some key verticals.
Maybe : "I'm pretty convinced that ads do not directly affect organic rankings, and they never have."
That said, the design layout team, hardly get a mention here or anywhere. They are likely to be one of the most influential commercial operatives towards where the results appear, slotting in content to an ever competitive layout with ever decreasing organic slots versus Google assets. btw - I didn't say they directed which results.
I don't believe (unless I've misread) anyone's arguing the teams are collaborating or conspiring. We are, however, saying that the most basic quality control requires that someone at Google look at the final result - a SERP page with organic and paid results - to make sure it's working the way Google feels it should.
The debate is over how "Google feels it should", and whether they would manipulate the algo (as opposed to blending the ads in better and so on) to encourage clicks. And you have to admit, they have a big margin for error so they could certainly experiment with such a thing without much risk.
But on the other hand, everything we're seeing in terms of "brand bias" could be explained as a shortcut for an algorithm that can't handle the monumental data being thrown at it, which is increasing exponentially all the time. Letting trust whittle down the sites to something manageable, if not perfectly relevant in every case. Again, that big margin of error (and the fact that no one can do it better) makes it plausible that they could do this without much risk.
I wonder if the majority of brands are concerned about the cannibalize of their organic slots by paid search. Most folks I speak with don't want to compete with their own success, unless the incremental ROI is there.
If that's the case, then Google must have a way of ensuring that their revenue is preserved and growing, although I think I read somewhere that they were coping with a short term adjustment as they got the model right.
It leads into the next question as to whether brands will remain favoured into the future and why.
|Do you think in a discussion something like taking a "more holistic view" about what's being said can lead to more new insights or understandings, or do you think more is gained by splitting hairs over the exact wording used say something? |
Yes I do think a holistic view leads to more insight. I honestly don't know what you're referring to in the second question about splitting hairs, but if it's about me "splitting hairs" about the use of the word objective, I don't think I was splitting hairs. The Google algorithm is not truly objective so long as it's guided by humans. It can follow their rules objectively, but the rules themselves are subject to the decisions of humans.
Anyway, I got thinking a bit more about this - if Google truly wanted the best search experience possible for their searchers, then why did they introduce more ads over the years to the SERPs and push organics even below the fold for many commercial searches? And why then disguise those ads even more with ever-lighter backgrounds to give more of an impression they are organic? As you say, it's the organic listings that give them their no.1 spot in search (and I agree with this, of course). A very quick search for "car parts" on google.co.uk gave me 5 ads and 1 organic result above the fold (1366 x 768 resolution, standard laptop). Either Google think that this DOES give the searcher a better experience because ads on commercial searches tend to give the searcher a better result than organic, or Google are simply compromising between the searcher's needs and their own and not giving the best possible search experience because of this compromise, and yet they are still giving a much better search experience than their competition. I know it's the latter, and I see nothing wrong with a private company making this compromise. Google can make such compromises, and STILL be the best in their class by a long way.
|The teams most definitely are separate. Although you may think that these teams influence each other (that's a different issue) each team is definitely made up of at least hundreds of employees. And from speaking with these folks at conferences, I'm pretty convinced that ads do not affect organic rankings, and they never have. |
tedster, yes they are different teams. I don't think anyone said they are the same or even work together or influence each other directly. It doesn't mean they are 100% autonomous to a higher level of management though.
|I don't believe (unless I've misread) anyone's arguing the teams are collaborating or conspiring. We are, however, saying that the most basic quality control requires that someone at Google look at the final result - a SERP page with organic and paid results - to make sure it's working the way Google feels it should. |
100% agree diberry. Google have to make decisions based on what they see in the overall SERP - Adwords and organic and Google properties (maps, news etc) - the sum of the parts. The overall SERP is Google's flagship "product". Any product maker has to make decisions based on how it works in totality, not just its individual parts.
I don't think teams need to conspire when they are directed from above. I also don't believe your ranking depends on how much you spend (or don't spend) on Adwords. I also don't believe Google simply think - "let's make organic as good as it can possibly be regardless of how it impacts Adwords". I do strongly suspect that Google will tweak the algorithm to give a "win win" for searcher and Google however. It's a balancing act no matter what their public announcements say.
|The Google algorithm is not truly objective so long as it's guided by humans. |
We'll have to agree to disagree on the definition of objective. There are many.
|if Google truly wanted the best search experience possible for their searchers, then why did they introduce more ads over the years to the SERPs and push organics even below the fold for many commercial searches? |
You're once again putting words in my mouth.
I didn't ever say search experience. I said organic results.
|And why then disguise those ads even more with ever-lighter backgrounds to give more of an impression they are organic? |
And, you still cannot (or refuse to) draw a distinction between design/layout and the order the organic results are displayed in (meaning the way the page looks, ads, where, and even how many organics are on the page is one thing -- the order of the organic results displayed (1 thru N) is another.)
It's cool you think you have a holistic view, unfortunately, it seems to be leading you to misunderstanding not only what I say, but how Google does things and whether or not they change the order (1 thru N) the organic results are displayed in based on how much a given entity spends on AdWords or how many AdWords clicks there are.
I quit reading at the previous quote in this message, because you refuse to stop putting word in my mouth and cannot or will not draw a simple distinction between how/where something is displayed on a page and the order (1 thru N) "that something" is displayed in. It's really a simple distinction in my opinion, but you either cannot or refuse to make it.
Besides, it's getting very frustrating to have to constantly correct you on what I've actually said rather than letting you state something I didn't say as if I said it, so there's no point in us discussing further.
[edited by: TheOptimizationIdiot at 8:21 am (utc) on Apr 17, 2013]
And why then disguise those ads even more with ever-lighter backgrounds to give more of an impression they are organic?
To deliberately encourage visitors into thinking they are not ads, without breaking disclosure rules. Visitors used to be more inclined to click on organic listings since they were better perceived as editorially clean.
The landing pages are getting close to being one big advertorial.
Like the SEC filing says, Googles prime concern is relevance from which they earn income.
|We'll have to agree to disagree on the definition of objective. There are many. |
Many definitions of objectivity? Anyway, here's a definition that applies to the context of deciding the rules of an algorithm: undistorted by emotion or personal bias. As I mentioned before, Google's algorithm can never match that definition simply because its rules are determined by the biases and motives of Google themselves. Maybe there's another definition, but I don't see how that "other" definition applies when we're talking about human bias here. Human (or "corporate entity") bias most definitely shapes the algorithm.
|And, you still cannot (or refuse to) draw a distinction between design/layout and the order the organic results are displayed in (meaning the way the page looks, ads, where, and even how many organics are on the page is one thing -- the order of the organic results displayed (1 thru N) is another.) |
I was illustrating just how important ad clicks are to Google, and that one team alone do not decide the general direction Google move in. Design is an obvious one to highlight because it's visible and undeniable. The algo is not "visible" in that you cannot ever prove one way or another that the algo at any given time gives the best results possible regardless of clicks it may deny the ads around organic. What we can deduce though is that the design changes show just how determined Google are to keep those ad clicks as high as possible without eroding their stranglehold over search. If we can deduce that, then it's perfectly feasible that Google are also tweaking the algo to help maximise ad clicks - again without eroding their position. It's called a "balancing act".
TOI, as I mentioned, reality is somewhere between Google's official view of itself (that you fervently believe) and the wild conspiracy theories out there. And if they balance their needs with searcher's needs - even when determining the very subjective algorithm they shape - then they're just like every other company out there - trying to keep their customers happy and maximise profits.
Pagespeed helped us a lot, not just the rules but where it led us. We compete with sites in one niche where I believe "brands" DO get a boost from Google, they aren't what you call normal "brands" and it's completely legitimate if they are promoting those sites. Even if they aren't getting a bump, the "brand" sites are irrefutable and should be considered over us except in cases of poor quality or content.
|Pagespeed helped us a lot, not just the rules but where it led us. |
Where it led you? May I ask what you mean there? :)
This is a really interesting insight, because I've always felt optimizing for speed and all that was important, long before Google said it counted at all. A lot of people still don't think it counts for much. But I know if it takes too long to load a page, I back out - why wouldn't other visitors?
@diberry - hope this isn't a double post y'all have been out posting me, that last one was an edit for the one before it.....
Anyhow, "Were it led" was like that last post, find out what we can do to reduce our size but still have the function... and without stripping the thing to it's chassis.
|ColourOfSpring, TOI is not fervently believing Google's press, he is just not seeing how their best interests would be served by engaging in tweaking the algo to manipulate ads. |
Maybe fervent's the wrong word....unquestioning then. His points mimic much of what Google tell the public. I'm just saying - don't take a company's view of itself at face value, nobody really can know what happens behind the scenes, keep an open mind, and reality is probably not matching the exact view Google has of itself.
Str82u, I totally agree. That's where I wish my programming skills were better, or that I knew how to find and hire a competent programmer who could be trusted. I think it's really key.
ColourOfSpring, I don't have the impression that TOI simply believes Google is run by angels who are incapable of telling lies or doing anything nasty. He's offered solid logic for why, in this case, he just can't see a benefit to manipulating the algo to keep the brands up top. Whitey makes a compelling argument for the other side, but it's vague (by necessity because we don't have the data we'd need to prove or disprove it).
I definitely believe Google is capable of playing dirty. Based on what I read and observed, I totally believe they screwed Yelp as Yelp claimed before Congress. I also believe they probably would manipulate the algo to boost Adwords if they feel the return is worth the risk to them. But in this case, I'm just not seeing it because the profitable manipulation wrt brands to make would be to push brands DOWN and make them pay. It makes far more sense, to me, to believe the brand boost has happened because putting trust ahead of relevancy is a shortcut to keep the algo from collapsing under the sheer volume of webpages today. I think Panda was about that... all signs point to this being an issue for Google ever since Caffeine.
I hope you don't think this means I drink Google Kool-Aid. ;)
not sure this makes sense to me; they target ads directly to begin with (like AFS). Reducing the number of useful sites above the fold doesn't really change user behaviour (if they're gonna click ads they're gonna click ads). It might be a more plausible conspiracy to say that sites with a good title tag would be demoted to prevent users from seeing them and not clicking ads... What would affect the ad CTR on a SERP most? TITLEs that stand out? For that matter, if they were trying to get more clicks they'd stop using the rich-snippets because rating stars can draw the eye pretty good I think; the ads themselves don't look as "dressed up" as the organics can be.
|tweaking the algo to manipulate ads |
@diberry - Google is probably as guilty as the average, ad placements target certain people's behaviour and are by nature deceptive to a degree depending on who's ad it is.
@ColourOfSpring - way up there it sounds like you're reinforcing a belief I have that Google dot com is a website too with webmasters who are trying to compete, maybe maximize their on-page CTR without losing all the visitors.
To elaborate: Someone else mentioned the different "divisions" at G and that someone has to be overseeing them who is "the one" who engineers the final SERP. If "little joe" webmaster has a few people doing website stuff and they only have a general idea of the other person's area of responsibility, then "joe" puts their parts together with his and each feels they created something. Is that any different than G, as a really basic analogy?
YES, they have a ton of workers at G but in the end, it's a website with a webmaster(s). They don't compete the same but haven't you (any you will do) ever thought "why'd they do that?" or "What are they using for...?" and looked at their source code? Or look for signs where they treat visitors differently than they say you should? How much keyword stuffing are they doing naturally? etc.
EDIT: Had to add a word "plausible"
|Martin Ice Web|
@dibbery, to push brands up the serps naturally helps clicking ads because big brands are known by poeple. Nobody search for them , what poeple are looking for is the unknown, new sources, targeted sites. But this sites are now burried > page 4-5 and will problably not be found. This sites have to use adwords now. Why else has google earned more money since panda and penguin? Why else has the search volumn grown? Before that one/two searches brought you to a good source. Now 5-6 queries will not bring you near a good targeted source but the ads do.
brands are not the last conclusion for good serps but for adsense.
Unfortunately google forget who made them so big, its the small sites not the big ones.
|ColourOfSpring, I don't have the impression that TOI simply believes Google is run by angels who are incapable of telling lies or doing anything nasty. He's offered solid logic for why, in this case, he just can't see a benefit to manipulating the algo to keep the brands up top. |
diberry - as soon as Google introduced the very first rule for the algorithm right at the beginning, they were manipulating it. Manipulate, shape, influence, direct - all of these words. The more rules and signals and tweaks, the more complex the algorithm, the "fuzzier" things get. Nobody can say for certain either way that Google are or aren't balancing things in their favour when it comes to the algorithm, but for certain they are the only ones shaping and influencing and manipulating it (for whatever reasons). Certainly the end orangic results can't tell you one way or the other. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
As Str82u points out :-
|They don't compete the same but haven't you (any you will do) ever thought "why'd they do that?" or "What are they using for...?" |
If the SERPs look weighted in one direction, there's any number of plausible reasons to explain it. Google are always going to say their motives are wholesome when it comes to algo changes - we know that. It doesn't mean it's 100% true. It might be though - you choose your faith on that one.
However, the SERP layout is something nobody can deny. It's like boiling frogs the way they've slowly expanded the ads. Now I get 5 ads and 1 organic result above the fold on typical commercial searches. The ads are becoming ever more disguised as organic results. And yet we are to believe that something that can never be truly scrutinised by outsiders (the algorithm) would not be used by Google to maximise their profits even if it gave searchers no further harm. Remember, it's the users (the searchers) that matter, not webmasters (see latest Image search updates).
COS, you're not engaging with what I actually said. Which was, I don't think they are manipulating the algo *to put brands up top*. Not that I don't think they manipulate it at all - as you said, just making the most innocent change to it with the best of intentions IS manipulation of a sort. But I'm talking about changing the algo so that the results are crappier but the money from AdWords is better. In this case, I don't think that's what's going on.
@diberry - I meant to tell you in that last post, that's part of that competing with the brand websites "philosophy", we want to do something with the visitors who don't click away on ads once they have their search satisfied; brand sites might have users going in circles but our sites are all too small to run users around for long, we have to really try and do something with them.
|COS, you're not engaging with what I actually said. |
COS does that constantly diberry, which makes it pointless and frustrating to point things out the them or even bother to post much, if anything, in threads they're involved in.
I appreciate you trying to explain what I've been saying and I'm fairly certain rational readers will come to the same or similar conclusions you did, so I'm really not worried, because the more COS does those type of things the worse they will make themselves look to those who can "get" a point being made in a post and actually want to have an open-minded discussion of a topic(s).
I think brand signals and user metric is really hard for Google to figure out. Maybe they uptick or turn the knobs on user metrics which mess up the SERP of relatively smaller sites vs brands. Which causes the "manipulation" that we see. What if it's a byproduct of some perfectly neutral signals (if we take the idea of brand out of equation).
If the average joe search for something, they might browse the "brand" sites for additional pages simply because they "hope" the "brands" have the things that they need. Even if their initial hits do not match.
In contrary, if an average joe hits a mismatched page with a unknown brand, they may browse less or go back to the SERP's faster.
Like if I search for widget.
I get two results
Widigets.com vs Target.
I visit widgets.com and don't find what I am looking for, I would immediately jump.
But if I get into target, I may use Target's site search box to search for widget again (in the case that Google landed in a bad mismatched page)
What is Google is grading "Target" more highly than widgets.com simply of my average Joe user behavior who simply "trusts" Target more? Then "Brands" will inevitable gain more visibility.
Big brands do have the upper hand in keeping some sort of user's benefit of the doubt. But it's simply in design of our natural human mind, but because Google turns the knob for the Brand's "trust" factor.
Could the "manipulation" simply be the result of unfortunate alignment or user behavior vs brand behaviors?
What I mean is, a turning up in a perfect logical ranking signal that "benefit" brands in essence. But if you argue it, it's simply a ranking signal that "good sites" supposed to have, brands simply obtain those signal because...they are brands - not because they offer a good product or website.
|that's part of that competing with the brand websites "philosophy", we want to do something with the visitors who don't click away on ads once they have their search satisfied; brand sites might have users going in circles but our sites are all too small to run users around for long, we have to really try and do something with them. |
That makes a lot of sense, and it's in line with general marketing practices - if you don't have the resources the big companies have, you have to do something better than they do. More personalized service, for example.
|Could the "manipulation" simply be the result of unfortunate alignment or user behavior vs brand behaviors? |
I'd guess this is almost surely at least part of it. Trying to discern user intent is a big struggle in any company. Hence focus groups, polls, etc., and people still get it wrong all the time. It's just not an easy thing to do.
I'd say you've summed this up nicely.
Google favours 'Sites People Like Most'. Those are the sites that have the advantage and can rank for anything. Just so happens brands fit into that category.
Sounds quite reasonable to me. Be crazy to favour sites people like least.
|They look at value add, etc. Faster, better, better UI, content, etc. |
There are 100's, if not 1000,s of viewers coming to these forums and nobody has categorically claimed that they have applied the above on their sites and outranked a brand consistently across a majority of terms. Either we have a lack of participation, it hasn't happened and/or Google set the bar too high.
Not one of the "so called" 200+ ranking signals, which get's applied after relevance would seem to favour small/medium sites over the "brand signals".
I've heard commentary that typically small/medium sites have used aggressive SEO tactics and tricks over too many years, have not faced up to the required changes brought about by Penguin/Panda, and have not had the resources to compete following the downward shift in traffic. And that's why small/medium sites are where they are. In Google's defence, is that last statement a fair reflection of the situation?