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|Face it. Google is at a crossroads.|
I'll keep this a succinct as possible.
I'm going to say here that Google is at a crossroads. At some point this idea that we are striving for rankings and organic traffic is going to fall flat on its face.
The crossroads right now is this ever growing "answer box" search result and where this leaves me (and perhaps you) in the overall scheme of things. But bigger than that, you have one arm of Google trying to fetch the best results (websites) possible (Cutts) vs. some new arm that doesn't want the best results, it simply wants the best answer. So one aspect of Google (Cutts) is seeking out the best possible and most authoritive site only to have that content in the box and listed as a source link. Sure, feed me an entree after I just ate an entree. Is this madness? If you don't think that's a dilemma, then you have little insight into the future.
So how does Google suddenly go from finding the best results to seeking out the best answer and producing the most robust and expansive answer/information seeker? Well we all know that they wanted to assemble the worlds information. One problem. Where does that leave you in the overall scheme of things?
We can debate what is a "safe" zone. We can like Cutts said recently, hope that we become the chosen one for the box and that somehow becomes the new Adsense for webmasters. People are silly. If this is a desired placement being in the box, then do tell how that is a win, especially considering that the technology to grab that content in a concise way is growing more superior. I've seen it. Haven't you?
I'm a bit baffled. There is a malaise. I'm not sure, but to me this has everything to do with Cutts not being around. There was no mention of the knowledge graph expanding at the Google I/O and how they really more than ever wanted to provide you the visitor the answer. Oh yes, if it's a video, apparently for now you get sent to YouTube. Wonder why?
The point is, my webmastering is at a crossroads also. If things stayed the same, then no worries. However it appears to me that a new algo has been released which is grabbing more answers/steps than I've ever seen. Perhaps nobody around here actually searches anything. No idea.
I'm curious though. What is your strategy moving forward or are you arrogant enough to believe that what you provide is beyond what this evolving algo can manage. Quite frankly I can't see this lasting long term. At some point people might wake up. However, if this is the litmus test here, then perhaps we are a long ways off from really thinking this is a threat.
Lastly, I have in another thread asked about why you want to be the one in that box. You content in that box, with the answer, and your link at the bottom of that box. How is your link not redundant? Has anyone actually assembled data to see the click through rate? What is the upside? Perhaps I need chase the goal of being the chosen content in the box. No idea.
What I can say is that Google and the head of search is going to have to spend a lot of double double talking. How to make your site better does what? Making your content useful means what? If you give the best answer to a search, why would you benefit if you or somebody else is put into the box? I just don't get it. This forum is about SEO but how do you SEO your way on this one?
|especially considering that the technology to grab that content in a concise way is growing more superior |
I think technology is already there - iframe / scrollable content boxes. That way it's possible to present the whole page within an expandable content box area.
Just because you're unhappy with "knowledge boxes" doesn't mean Google is at a crossroads. And why limit your diatribe to Google? Have you looked at Bing, DuckDuckGo, or Yandex lately?
Personally my take is that if you don't have a pretty good idea on how to proceed with whatever it is you want to do, and if you're that uncomfortable with the roller coaster nature and sudden monkey wrenches associated with life in the time of Google, then you probably are in the wrong career. Because it's only going to get worse, not better.
Sorry, I know that is not what you want to hear, but you are just plain not going to get the kind of existential conversation about organic search that you seem to so want. Most of us are too busy trying to exist to talk about existing.
Not everyone is cut out for doing this, and it's no slam against the people who aren't. But it's never never going back to 1999 or 2004 or even 2012.
I don't think it's Google who is at the crossroads so much as it's you. Google seems to be doing just fine.
I've been using DuckDuckGo almost exclusively now for months, and if you watch any interviews with the founder, you'll see other than the lack of tracking you personally, their big benefit according to him is the answer/knowledge box.
This is not really a GOOG issue, it's all search engines in general. As an avid DDG user I am also pretty much accustomed to that box now, I rarely even use G anymore.
All GOOG care$ about are the end user$ and $hareholder$. I see no crossroads.
With that said, I have one large site that is at risk of being sucked up and used in the answer box, big time. I'm doing my best to add value to each and every "answer", by hiring folks in the industry to write detailed, complete, unique articles written for users not search engines. It's costly but I hope it will beat out my competitors in the long run who put out more, shorter less-detailed articles. In other words, when the time comes, I want to ensure my answers are in the answer box by providing better answers.
I feel like the answers in the knowledge graph tend to be very short. I either click the link to find out more, and/or look below for a website that has more detailed information. Obviously there are going to be things that can be answered with a short paragraph, but there is a TON of stuff that can't be. Focus on that and there is plenty of room to grow your organic referrals through Google and other search engines.
When I started in this business 15 years ago things were constantly changing. They still are.
Those of us who adapted and wished to stay in the business are still here; those who wouldn't or couldn't are not. The same will happen in the future.
This is the same in nearly every business under the sun. if it wasn't everybody else would want their share and there'd be nothing left for us. Competition, unfair practices, new technology, monopolies - they've been around as long as humans have, so best get used to it I'm afraid.
I certainly respect other opinions on this. Part of me thinks that some people aren't reading what I've asked or suggested and or simply do see what I'm seeing.
What I mean is this. We strive for organic traffic and that's what SEO is. The core issue is whether having you content in that box helps acquire organic traffic. I'm asking how that can possibly help your organic traffic and click through rate. So if the search phrase or term results in that answer box, please explain to me how being #2 or #3 or #4 in the SERPS is somehow even remotely close to what it is prior to the answer box invasion.
To boil it down, it's obvious to me that if you're not the site in the box, your page 1 position just became a whole lot, and I mean a whole lot more sparse. If that isn't the definition of an organic traffic killer then what is?
As is typical with life, people tend not to worry about trends or their fellow webmasters UNTIL is somehow encroaches on their personal interests. For me, this isn't affecting me today, but certainly it's affecting the outlook on organic traffic and the relevance of SEO.
Lastly, I suppose a lot of people must be skimming over the recent comments from Cutts who is out loud questioning or pondering paying people for their answers. Obviously Cutts is an example of a person who thinks like me. I think about everyone, not just about myself and if it's affecting me or not. There is right, and there is wrong. There is ethical and there is unethical.
My point is this movement is not right and I know for me that at some point it will come crashing down. The reason it will crash is because people will eventually wake up to the idea that there is very little that benefits them at all by being "the chosen one". If you question my thoughts, then see what Cutts said about it recently. He was certainly not towing the company line on his thoughts about it. He exists to find the best results (tune the algo) and now it appears more than ever that Google is about finding website that they can use to give the best answer. I would think it's an oil in water environment.
I'm all ears on this. Can anyone complete this sentence? I gain organic traffic from the answer box because ... (insert answer here). I'm curious about stats supporting how this trend is NOT an organic traffic killer. Perhaps we can all agree that it's an organic traffic killer?
|The core issue is whether having you content in that box helps acquire organic traffic. I'm asking how that can possibly help your organic traffic and click through rate. |
The question is academic, because Google and the other search engines aren't going to roll back the clock if you aren't happy with the answer.
|I'm all ears on this. Can anyone complete this sentence? I gain organic traffic from the answer box because ... (insert answer here) |
Because I want to learn more than just the fluff that is provided in the box. So I click on the source (link) and go to your site. If I'm number two I hope that the site (answer) the machine chose isn't as good as mine. So I strive to create better titles, meta descriptions and site content so people click on my #2, 3, or 4 ranking and stay on my site. Until I am eventually in the box because it's clear your site is better than #1 is.
@SnowMan68, that's great and makes sense. However two considerations to your point.
First, it's an algo right? AI as it were? I think you would agree that it's going to improve. I'm sure you don't doubt the intelligence of the people behind the "answer machine" do you?
Second, how many people do you think you represent? As in, if you and me are going to focus in on organic traffic benefits, what percentage of people are going to actually need to double check or cross reference the answer that's in the box?
This goes back to point one. If this algo improves (no question that it will), then the answer gets better. As it does, people trust it more and therefore your so called "benefits" start eroding pretty quickly don't they?
If there is "fluff" in the box, are you banking on this box to remain as it is now? You don't see the desire of it to evolve into something even more inclusive? If Bing and Google start to compete for who can give the best answer, won't that add more reason to put more "stuff" in there?
As I've been seeing this trend roll out, I'm starting to conclude that SEO is quickly becoming like the music industry. I still can't see the benefits and I still haven't heard a serious argument that makes sense about how this trend doesn't erode organic traffic hopes. We could bicker about what subjects or topics might remain "answer box" free, and perhaps that's where the conversation could go also.
Prepare yourself for the day when the landing page for your query looks more like a portal than an ordered (or completely random-take your choice) list of links (it's already happening). Saw two KG's across the top of the page in BING recently (so the top 300 pixels or so contained nothing but these two graphs - one which featured a video if I recall correctly). The rest of the page had several media widgets embedded directly in the SERPS. Some day you'll have to click a link at the bottom of the page that says something like "show more results" to actually see any listings. Perhaps someone will figure out how to get into the KG's with consistency in the future but I'm pretty much on a mission to master survival without any traffic from the major engines because that source could get really scarce for everyone in the future.
I'll take what I can get but I'm actually more focused on fostering repeat visitors than I am trying to coax new ones out of the SERPS or even understanding how one might approach that mystical task anymore.
As netmeg pointed out. Some of us are evolving (or at least trying to) to say viable in this rapidly changing landscape. It'll definitely keep you busy if that's what you're up to. ;)
|As netmeg pointed out. Some of us are evolving (or at least trying to) to say viable in this rapidly changing landscape. |
It's worth remembering that not everyone will need to evolve. If you aren't serving Knowledge McNuggets (to borrow a term from netmeg), answer boxes aren't your competitors and just may be your friends.
If there is a silver lining for you MrSavage, the knowledge graph is not always accurate and does lead to some very upset users. See [webmasterworld.com...]
There are those who will evolve and be satisfied with receiving fewer benefits (traffic, income, etc.) because of the knowledge graph, while Google gains more benefits. Others may see Google as an 800 lb. gorilla competitor and drop out entirely. It's impact on webmasters thus far is negligible, but could start pinching more webmasters if/as knowledge graph expands. However, Google will have to overcome the accuracy hurdle first before consumers rely entirely on what is displayed within Google itself.
It'll never be perfect, but I expect it will improve over time.
|answer boxes aren't your competitors and just may be your friends. |
If there was such a great upside, then why would Cutts struggle with the consideration of paying for that content? Google paying the source, not the other way around.
I find a couple things puzzling.
First, many of us and many threads over the years complained about organic search results getting pushed down. How does this big square box do anything but make your page 1 ranking much more meaningless? Beyond just that, how about the fact that I've seen results from the top showing AD, then ANSWER BOX, then results. And nobody seems to be worried about it? Wow how times have changed. What a malaise.
As an SEO and organic traffic seeker, that goal of page 1 just became much smaller. It became less attainable for a great number of subject/topics. All the while the scope of the "box" is obviously expanding into lists/processes/instructions. To me it doesn't really have a limited scope and that pretty much all things will be under consideration ESPECIALLY if Bing and Google get hot and heavy into a competition. Add Apple into that and boy won't that be bad news for SEO hopes.
Lastly, perhaps the issue around news items being shown with enough completeness that Google (and Bing?) were taken to court over it. I'm no lawyer or expert on that situation, but how is providing content from a site that provides an "A to Z" answer in a box not the same thing the newspaper industry was up in arms about? How is that different?
Snippets vs. A to Z. That tis the question. This would have to be the era of the scrape.
Strategy wise, obviously closing out sites is on my agenda. A brand appears to be the ONLY true solution or antidote (oddly enough I watch Shark Tank and I know how long and how much money they say it takes to create a brand). Also I am working at accepting the death of organic traffic. However, since Ad placements will in fact show up above the box at this point, there is actually a way to receive "internet" traffic in the future. It will just cost money. But hey, rock bands in Hollywood once had to "pay to play". (Look where that model ended up today. Lasted a few years and then what?) There will in fact be more options for advertising on other platforms and may be priced in an affordable way. That said, paying for advertising (to get traffic) means a virtual death of my Adsense adventure of the past few years.
|then why would Cutts struggle with the consideration of paying for that content? |
I think you're making a bit too much of that. That struck me as an offhand comment tossed out, not something that is likely to ever happen. Just the administration of such a thing - even if Google wanted to do it, which they probably don't - would take a looong time to put together. And it doesn't really scale. Matt knows that.
|And nobody seems to be worried about it? Wow how times have changed. What a malaise. |
You can be worried about it without melting down or freaking out about it. You seem upset that there's not enough of the melting down and freaking out. But the bottom line is - what good would it do? It is what it is. You adapt or you move on or you die.
LIKE PRETTY MUCH EVERY OTHER MARKETPLACE.
|newspaper industry was up in arms about? How is that different? |
The newspaper industry lost that argument pretty much everywhere except for Germany. They complained about Google publishing snippets, so Google said okay, we won't publish your snippets just block us in robots.txt. And then the newspapers went ballistic because all that nice free traffic went away. They wanted free traffic PLUS Google to pay for publishing the snippets. Of course Google said balls to that. So would I.
Thanks netmeg. There is no freaking out here. Might seem that way, but I'm analyzing the trend.
You're right I'm making a lot about the Cutts quote. I bring it up because of the reasoning behind why he would say it or even be thinking about it. I would not expect that to become reality, but to me it's a measuring stick of the ethics of the practice itself. It more than anything, affirms for me that Cutts is a good person and knows right from wrong. If this era of A-Z answers is upon us, then perhaps the "right" will eventually win out. Maybe not in my lifetime of course.
Ah, I see regarding the newspapers. Well even more to my point. It was them complaining about snippets? Whelp, imagine how they would feel about the box! Forget the snippet, here's the entire A-Z of the story. If the newspaper response was 7 out of 10 on snippets, then what if they started seeing the boiled down version of their story in an answer box. The doors would blow off wouldn't they?
I stand by the malaise comment. For this impact (at least from my perspective) there is little discussion. If I didn't feel so passionately about the internet and webmasters then perhaps I would have malaise too. No idea. Heck, if that's the case then it's better for me. I will have seen what's coming, strategized and then sit back and listen to the crying in a years time.
|I am working at accepting the death of organic traffic. |
And some people will celebrate an increase in organic traffic. Some go down, some go up, and the cycle of life goes on.
|Some go down, some go up, and the cycle of life goes on. |
Not when they keep increasing the ad space and decreasing the organic results on a page -- It's not the "Google of Old" we're talking about as you've pointed out yourself on a number of occasions.
|Not when they keep increasing the ad space and decreasing the organic results on a page |
That happens for some search queries but not for others. In any case, YMMV.
One thing to keep in mind: If you're convinced that you're going to fail, you probably will.
|That happens for some search queries but not for others. |
The organics decreasing didn't used to happen for any -- Writing's on the wall, but unfortunately, some people have no idea what it says.
|If you're convinced that you're going to fail, you probably will. |
Thinking/telling people traffic will always keep being sent to one site or another by Google in the face of decreasing organic results on the page and those organic results being pushed lower for more queries is a great way to get a number of people into the situation we've all talked about as bad business for a long time around here.
I don't think I'm going to fail -- I think Google's going to succeed in keeping/diverting traffic to it's properties at an increasing rate relative to what they already have done/are doing. Hopefully I'm wrong, but at least I don't make contradictory statements and take opposing positions simply for the sake of argument and being contrary, because they aren't helpful to anyone, in fact, they could easily be harmful to real people and their family/loved-ones in the long-run.
|brotherhood of LAN|
I can't see the "web experience" in 5-10 years time simply punching things into Google and it returning answers.
If that's true there's definitely a point where Google properties can't satisfy a query.
I doubt they'll get that far in that amount of time too, but...
The more results are "previous query" based [Hummingbird], the more segmented things will become and the less a given site is likely to show [or at least prominently] for all queries -- EG A page that did show #1 for all 1,000 queries may only show #1 for 100, be #3 for 300, be #6 for 200 and not show in the top 7 for the other 400... The end result is a loss in traffic for many sites due to that traffic being spread more thinly among them.
The more the organics are pushed down the page by the knowledge graph and ads, the less overall number of clicks they will get... The end result is a loss in traffic for organics -- Cool for someone if they're the one in the box, but the other sites all still lose significantly and if the "site in the box" should get bumped across a number of queries, it could well be time for them to close shop or significantly cut back in size unless they can hop back in the box rapidly.
The more Google dives into other areas, the more traffic they keep and the less they send to the competition -- EG Shopping, YouTube, Travel etc.
The less organics on the page, the less traffic is sent to sites off Google without an ad click.
They don't have to "answer all the questions asked" on the results pages to keep more traffic and/or seriously impact the traffic other sites get negatively -- All they have to do is keep going the direction they have been.
|brotherhood of LAN|
That's all fairly elementary though, surely?
From the SEO's POV, there's either a return on investment to be had investing time and money trying to improve rankings or there isn't. The day there isn't, there isn't any point in being concerned with how Google works.
Maybe part of the problem is that not so many people are sure how to positively improve ranks for a site and they aren't sure whether anyone else does.
Organic traffic (or whatever we want to call referrals from unpaid search engine results, knowledge graph or old-school organic) could drop to 1% of what it is now, but if there's a profit to be made trying to improve a rank, then surely there is a market for trying.
It seems a little condescending to be typing that, it just seems like we're saying the sky is falling here.
|Also I am working at accepting the death of organic traffic. |
MrSavage, whether people will mock you for your thoughts or agree with you, operating with a belief that Google organic traffic will die will help you be more prepared for the future. This is not an easy task as Google is so intertwined in the global economy.
I see the same downward trend in organic traffic across a variety of small business websites that sell physical goods. For some, USA traffic is turned on and off by Google like a light switch. I ultimately came to the conclusion that Google is trying to bait these companies into big Adwords buys to keep the traffic consistent throughout the day/evening.
Google has shareholders and shareholders want growth. At this point in time it is hard for Google to grow without taking from the mouths of ordinary webmasters. Granted, Google and Facebook have grandiose ideas about bringing the internet to regions where there is no internet, but many of these locations are filled with poor people that will be difficult for them to monetize as Google has done with webmasters.
Good luck my friend!
I'm new to Webmaster world and I'm impressed I must say.
I figure getting free traffic organically from Google is near impossible no matter how hard I try, because I can't compete with all of the authority websites out there. The search engines and authority websites are gradually taking over all meaningful search volume for most all valuable keywords as I see it. There was a time when search engines were trying to improve user experience and rightly so. Now, there are too many high quality sites on the web competing in almost every niche so competition is fierce, thus the search engines are taking as much of the search volume for themselves as they can, because that's where the money is to be made.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I see the buyer box as another way to keep webmasters busy with something to do, while the search engines bring in all of the money for themselves. I have much respect for the authority websites, most of them have paid their dues long before I ever came along. The part, that makes me mad is how "they" entice people to come online to start a business, although they don't send them any meaningful traffic. New webmasters pay an arm and a leg, and then have to give up because they can't compete with the search engines and authority websites.
The way I see it is, we must join forces in creating an authority website / search engine that can compete, or we must get out of the way or hang on as long as possible. The new "web of things" and web 4.0 and higher is going to create alliances, where there was none before or so I believe.
Webmasters spend a good amount of time building web 2.0 properties for owners with little gained in return. It would be nice to belong to an authority website that benefits all of its members. It would be nice to belong to a search engine that could compete with Google, and or an authority website that can compete with the search engines to gain meaningful traffic.
I'm sorry if I sound ignorant about the subject matter, its because I am.
Welcome TapFam! Great to have a fresh set of eyes and fresh vibrant opinions/observations! Welcome to the mayhem! (I don't mean mayhem other than in a joking way. We're here to discuss and observe and somehow keep attracting organic traffic)
Thank you MrSavage, and I appreciate the warm welcome!
Welcome TapFarm, and yes, it can be mayhem around here but it's a healthy mayhem for the most part.
I think this particular thread and the board in general demonstrates that many are unsure of what to make of the evolution of search and few agree on much of anything. But the conversation is leading more and more toward the fact that we'd all better be on our toes and have our thinking hats on if we want to survive in this industry.
This thread and the larger discussion are certainly evolving but I share MrSavage's frustration with the pace of it's evolution. I think these important points are fairly self-evident.
1. Free organic traffic is getting harder and harder to come by and just because you have it now, that doesn't guarantee you'll have it tomorrow. Think yourself immune at your own peril!
2. Diversify your inbound traffic sources, now (if you haven't already) and don't stop developing that diversity!
3. We can complain about what the SE's are doing but there is little, if anything, we can do about it. See points one and two.
4. We need to have a new discussion that drifts away from the shores
of Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. and starts talking about comprehensive approaches to traffic acquisition. Keep beating this dying SEO horse (again) at your own peril.
This conversation needs to be elevated to a whole new level and, except for the fact that we came to it from a Google SEO perspective, I speculate that the needed conversation will have so little to do with Google that it will need a different board to live on or we'll all run the risk of being off topic.
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