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For example, take "<some-place> web design". My company used to be number 1 in my own damn home town before the Google changes in Sept. Now, some results simply have nothing to do with "web design" as a service. All someone has to do now, for example a <widget> web site, is to put the words..."Come take a look at our <widgets> on our WEB SITE and see our wonderful <widget> DESIGNS, stop by our shop in <some-place>" and boom, they get listed in Google under web design search and they don't even do web site design.
The search results simply are now just looking at any random word and no longer looking at the actual content of the pages.
It took me two years to finally get good positioning in the search engines and Google had to go and mess it up.
I think MSN is a much more accurate search engine. At least there they show you real content with accurate results.
[edited by: ciml at 2:12 pm (utc) on Jan. 17, 2003]
[edit reason] Widget-ised. [/edit]
Welcome to Webmaster World!
In the web design arena I have also noticed this problem. I have a major ISP with a high PR home page now in number one slot for my "<widget> web design" term, even though they obviously have nothing to do with web design and just happen to have the words scattered around their home page for other purposes.
It would be nice to see google put more weight on the proximity of words before it slaps these high PR sites at the top of SERP's.
The fact the ISP is now ranked number one isn't affecting sales at all, just burning searchers time while they figure out that Google has suggested something totally irrelevant. So from that point of view I'm not losing any sleep over it;) Google is going to be losing users though if it doesn't do something about issues like this.
Some may argue that the user should put the search string in quotes, but we all know the majority of people have never read the instructions page on how to use a search engine.
I would argue Google should assume people want the entire search term seen as relevant, not anyone old high PR page that happens to have the 3 or 4 words somewhere scattered around the page.
In circumstances like this we can't even do battle based upon PR, unless Google would like to give me a link from it's home page;)
My advice is to remember as long as your real competitors don't get above you then there isn't too much for you to worry about. It is the search engine that is going to suffer when folks find that other engines don't suffer from this problem.
They have invisible Text (keywords) at the top and bottom of the page.
And they have Keywords visible at top and bottom of the page.
The Sites are abusing Googles quality
guidelines - Specific Recommendations:
Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.
Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
So, it is not a mystery why the SERPS report bad results.
Perhaps a massive spam reporting campaign might get Googles
I'm actually seeing
<title> Untitled </title>
<descr> Oops... the page is here </descr>
appear as # 1 ranking in a search showing 273,000 results. Been there for months and while it is basically on topic, it is a hell of a long way short of being what the viewer was hoping for.... but hey, it surely does have a lot of links.
I agree with the comments about spam (as in contravention of the guidelines) and it seems wherever I look there is lines of 1px gif links, hidden text, hidden links, off page divs, stuffed comment tags, abuse of meta tags and so it goes on and on.
Whether Google's results are influenced by it or not I cannot say, but there are an awful lot of webmasters who obviously think they are and apparently see Google as fair game for whatever it takes. And then others follow suit and so it mutates.
The sooner Google start getting serious about enforcing their guidelines, the sooner this nonsense will stop. Google Guy... you listening?
And yet Google remains my SE of choice because the results are usually good... now if only that on-page relevance improved!
I have no problem with them tweaking their algorythm. However as far as the results being irrelivant its quite possible they changed something that happened to effect you also because someone exploited it in a certain manner. Report the error and the relivency of the results using the link at the bottom saying 'didnt find what you were looking for?' or whatever it may be and they can change the algarythm more so it can still filter out peoplpe they intended to filter in the first place but exclude your site and other peoples sites from the filtered/tweaked results.
Your gambling with doing SEO, your taking something and asking for something more which your not gaurenteed. You win some you lose some. Im not #1 for many of my terms, and I have a 'widget web design' site also which im not top for anymore. But with enough look you can see how those sites which are there right now made it there. :)
I rarely see this. Then again, I don't do many searches looking to buy things on the Internet. Which is true for the vast majority of searches done. Why would you think Google would consider commercial searches are a priority? Google makes money selling Adwords.
THIS is something too many webmasters seem to forget. The webmaster satisfaction with Google SERPs is a constant, no matter how Google tweaks the algo. When was the last time you saw a webmaster complain a Google SERP was bad because his site was in the #1 spot? ;)
I have not noticed that at all. It's true that a few commercial sites top me on my chosen keywords, but when i look at how long they've been around and how many back links they have, i can see why they're beating me . . . EVEN though my site has far more and better content.
My guess is yes. The fact Google linked to a salon.com article about an SEO firm that hired people only who answered they'd push a button that would kill a peasant on the other side of the world for a million dollars makes it very clear Google thinks SEOs are the scum of the earth.
Google wants to give relevant results to their users. They do this. I search google and almost NEVER have problems finding what I want.
There has been - in my opinion - a decrease in the accuracy for multiple word phrases. However, this decrease in accuracy is easy to counter by simply reading the snippets. That is why they are there. That is what users use. If I can find something on the first page - I am happy. It is not very often I have to hit the next button on google.
The two word thing is much better than it was in september. Back then a certain two word adult phrase would lead to dozens of pages like this:
The white house [the .gov silly] and others were beating out adult sites for this term.
This page still ranks #55 for this term, but that is the first not on target page for that term in the searches.
Google seems to have its biggest problem when searching for multiple words (in my opinion). I use multiple words when searching for things I don't know the name of and other esoteric things.
Very rarely do I have a one or two word phrase (unless a synonym) that creates any real problem.
I was referring to those cases where the commercial SERPs were dominated by spammers. In the case of your chosen keywords, apparently nobody is trying to get to #1 by cheating. The question is, would Google care if someone did cheat and get to #1?
No NFFC, not webmasters - normal people. Surfers. If a company is looking for web site design in their local city, they'd hardly expect to find the local basketball team at #1. Or the Academy Awards a little further down. That isn't even link text or keyword-stuffed-domain-names.
Ordinary searchers who want the Lakers or the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys, the NBA or the Oscars will look for them, but not under irrelevant search terms.
I think that is pretty rare.
The persons city that started this thread (according to whois) along with the words webdesign give 10 relevant pages on the first page of google.
The person is listed as #2 and is unhappy they are no longer number 1. Granted the first page looks spammy, but it is a pr1 - won't be there for long - and looks like a work in progress to me - as even though it looks spammy - I don't see how he is making money off of it.
Notice - in MSN - the same search - which leads to three of the webmasters pages being listed - is somehow more accurate. Despite the fact that the first listing (while not spammy) is just as useless as the google one in finding a local web design service - so are the last three as well.
NO USER that saw these two SERPS would consider the MSN "more accurate" only the WEBMASTER who likes the MSN better.
Not to mention it isn't that competitive of a phrase. I have no idea what town appeared in the original, but the one I used to test (in the whois) has a whopping 11 (ELEVEN) results when placed in quotes.
The two word thing is much better than it was in september
I have noticed this as well. Since September there has been a steady improvement in this area (in my opinion anyway). I was #2 before the September fiasco and then dropped to around #400 after the update (high PageRank, less on-topic sites were beating me out). Since then I have progressed back up through the updates from #80 to #25 and now I am at #3. I think it is because Google has been steadily giving more weight back to proximity.
I think you are right - they have been doing something - and it used to be high pr pages would rank well with two words in their title - even if they weren't close together or had anything to do with it.
A title [made up] from CNN such as:
"Washington belives that George Bush will attack in January"
Would rank pretty well for [George Washington]
These were the things I noticed. Plenty of words can have two meanings - imagine all britney spears fans finding articles from the smithsonian written by britney smith about medieval spears. What would we do...
Some of them were pretty funny - especially in the adult arena.
Now, sites that mention your key words once or twice in natural usage come ahead of sites built entirely on your key words because the non-relevant site has a higher PR.
Others may not be seeing that, but this is exactly what I am seeing.
Without any quantitative measurement and relying on memory only, I recall an over-abundance of messages on WebmasterWorld the last 3-4 months that have reflected this general opinion.
To counteract this, I have voraciously gone after high quality, theme relevant link exchanges in order to boost my PR. This has paid off with the highest ranking I've ever had. The content or relevancy of my sites have not changed, so I can only conclude that backlinks are a major factor in the 100 or so that make up the current algorthym.
There must be thousands of web site design firms from those in nice offices to thoursands of little johnnies working out of their parents basement with a copy of dreamweaver, frontpage and maybe even WPG.
I would not expect at all to find relevant "accurate" results for that query at all. Google or any popular search engine will never be able to supply 100% accurate and relevant
SERPS for such categories. That's what Adwords, sponsored links, word of mouth, off line promotion, direct selling and the hard slog of finding clients by other means in your local area is all about.
Its both highly competitive, and full of spam. What do you expect? Forget free listings in these categories, its time expired a year or two ago.
I'll break a rule because no one is from there presumably and there are probably about 10 million people there, but since we're discussing web design, let's assume that the kid in the basement isn't an issue and take a look at
web site design new york city [google.com]
web design new york city [google.com]
It's completely neutral and unbiased. What have we there in the top 20 (besides Jakob Nielson)? He used to rank for Los Angeles - looks like he moved lately.
[edited by: Marcia at 5:44 am (utc) on Jan. 18, 2003]
Even more interesting was the very poor relevance for the Adwords listings. There is a bad weakness in the relevance of the Adwords algo which shows up there where local web design companies are not given prominance.
I seem to vaguely remember months ago people posting that they'd seen some strange things for local listings. It may be that web design gets particularly skewed because some stuff sites with cities they're not even near to get more listings. But it seems that wouldn't take it off that far from the actual topic like we're seeing.
The point is, what's happening that could affect the overall picture? There's something that'll have to be watched out for. And pity the poor local shopkeeper looking for a little site for a couple hundred bucks - he needs the kid in the basement.
"web site design" new york city
Doesn't look bad to me. What you did wrong in your original search was not use the quotations. "web" and "site" appear on so many damn pages on the Internet using those in a search is basically worthless. The problem here is that SEs can't read minds. You need to refine your search for the SE to give relevant results.
There are so many sites out there with "web design" by ... and rightly so. But are we seeing something with density and phrasing related to these local searches?
Maybe one problem with that search too, is that it uses two words ¦new¦ and ¦york¦ that i agree can have totally different meanings. York is a relatively big town in the UK and a small town in australia, and possibly many other places too. Not too much of a problem with our sites which target place names such as "Kuala Lumpur" "Bangkok" "Singapore" etc. We get great results for those but the terms cant be mistaken for other meanings. Thank God im not in "New England"!
Quotes would help im sure, but google must look at the common denominator, alternatively providing the "..." as a "tip" right on their front page.
web site design new york city
HOW is Google supposed to know the best result is to parse that:
"web site design" new york city
Rather than, say:
web site "design new york city"
web site "design new york" city
web "site design new" york city
etc.? You expect a SE to read the mind of the searcher and figure this out? If Joe Surfer doesn't bother to read the instructions on how to format searches, sometimes he'll get lousy results.