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Where has it all gone wrong? Are big brands over-represented on the SERPs?

     
8:34 pm on Feb 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What is wrong with Google?

A personal search, brings up just the same big brand names or the same reviews companies. I just want to be able to buy a product from a small company at a great price, like you used to be able to and they give good service.

I don't want a big brand that don't care after they have sold you it, at a sky high price. Also I don't want a million words to read about the product, I know what I want.

The same rubbish written in a slightly different way over and over again, in the top million pages.

This is not a search engine, it is so difficult to find something nowadays.

Yet Bing, nice and easy does it, type it in and a huge amount of sites, guess what? They are exactly what I want! Yipppppeeeeeeeee. 2 mins and that's it, ordered done and dusted, next day received it.

Why is Google making it so difficult to find anything?

Crazy Crazy World!
2:35 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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austtr hit the nail on the head with just about every one of those points.
The glory days are over for many. It's not just Google though, it's also those useless mobile devices. Google loves 'em though, image just how much they make on accidental clicks! That's why ROI stinks with Adwords.
2:48 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@samwest and @austtr - And that is bad because?

Can`t see the argument realy? The people complaining about the SERPS are the one that have the heaviest bias about how the SERPs should look like, while 99% of the people don`t mind. Ergo Google is still staying true to their motto - that they want to show the most relevant information for their general users. And if Big brands satisfy the general user - so be it.

The question of the OP is what is wrong with Google? The short answer - nothing. Everything is working as intended.
3:16 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google is still staying true to their motto - that they want to show the most relevant information for their general users.


No, actually, what they are saying is that they are taking the easy path of showing "least likely to be objectionable". Relevant doesn't come into play. In fact, less relevance means more ad clicks.

It feels like a stall tactic to deal with declining CTR due to mobile, and the fact that they can't easily grab more page 1 real estate for ads now.

That's, of course, their prerogative. It's a short term win that may have a long term price.
4:26 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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No, actually, what they are saying is that they are taking the easy path of showing "least likely to be objectionable"


Or maybe they're taking the responsible path.

I think a lot of the frustration here stems from the fact that old-time SEOs (and sellers, affiliates, etc. who have built their businesses around old-time SEO) haven't adapted to Google's new--and publicly stated--emphasis on "things, not strings."
5:14 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Or maybe they're taking the responsible path.


You've never run an ecom site, right?
6:06 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have, and consulted on dozens, for more than twenty years. And I don't see how that's a relevant question.
6:29 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Or maybe they're taking the responsible path.


yeah, the responsible path of showing me generic, remotely relevant stackoverflow pages for my specific, exact match sql query search.

its not a 'responsible' path. its the 'irrelevant' path.
7:22 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The algo not working as well as it used to.

When I search for a programming related solution I actually have to put site:stackoverflow.com into the query sometimes.

Maybe coz I live not in USA. Or maybe the info Google holds on me says I'm not techie enough.

If a couple of stackoverflow results come up they are often not the most relevant. Maybe done so I might click on some of the Youtube vids and other garbage that comes up straight after.
7:23 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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And I don't see how that's a relevant question.


I was responding to the assertion that a lot of the frustration is "old-time SEOS", "affiliates" that apparently don't understand "things, not strings".

The idea that someone venting about Google's actions is probably "old" or an "affiliate" or otherwise doesn't get the idea of value-add is painting with a very broad brush. The average intelligence level around here seems just fine to me.

I happen to have a couple of ecom sites. We've always been about "things not strings" well before Google cared about it.

We produce open source code to work with our widgets. We have expertise that someone selling a widget on Amazon doesn't. We publish help guides, buyer's guides, etc. We developed interactive widgets that help buyers visualize how the widget will fit into their existing cogs, etc. In short, we add value that the "brands" don't.

I asked if he'd run an ecom site, because there seems to be a default assumption that anyone selling stuff (versus running a purely informational site) must be stodgy, ignorant, etc. If you've actually done it, perhaps you wouldn't make the same assumptions.

There's also a default assumption that our businesses can't survive without organic traffic from Google, and perhaps that's the basis of the frustration. Not the case. Do we sell less without it..sure. Is that frustrating? Yes.

In short, people in a niche that Google hasn't yet raided for revenue may have a certain bias. They'll come for the informational sites soon enough though.

[edited by: rish3 at 7:38 pm (utc) on Feb 19, 2015]

7:29 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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They've come for plenty of informational sites. Can't even believe you'd think otherwise.
7:37 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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They've come for plenty of informational sites. Can't even believe you'd think otherwise.


There have been "winners" and "losers" with informational sites.

E-com sites have seen more of the organic real estate just disappear, in favor of ads, widgets, etc. And then, what's left is now mostly given to the likes of Amazon, Ebay (ugh those /bhp/ pages), etc.

What I'm saying is that similar treatment is coming for informational sites.
8:02 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What I'm saying is that similar treatment is coming for informational sites.

Google has already biased its results to favor big organizations and big news sites. Probably not as much as for big commercial brands, but still to some degree. But the consequencies could be even worse for society as a whole, because it effectively supports the status quo and makes it harder for new ideas and new views to get a hearing.
8:17 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Mods Note: Thanks everyone for the lively discussion but we need to stay on topic. If your comment is not directly relevant to big brands in Google serps, don't be surprised when it is removed.

If you want to explore a tangent or anything not directly connected to big brands please start a fresh thread.

Sincrely,
Your Overworked Volunteer Moderators :)
8:19 pm on Feb 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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And there have been winners and losers with e-commerce sites. That would be true if Google had never existed.


Informational sites have moved up and down, but haven't taken the same type of hits, across the board, that ecom has.

With ecom, they've had an easier time of it because they can:
  • More easily identify brands, including a few "universal players" that have some product page (even if it's not really relevant) that could be moved to the top. The brand pages get the "expanded" organic, that takes more vertical pixels. So it's not just moving down 1 spot for each brand that moves up, it's 1 spot plus some bonus vertical pixels.
  • Inject pay-to-play widgets, froogle/google product search, etc that move ALL of the organic listings down. Oh, and of course, make froogle viable by offering it for free first, then switching later :)

    They are headed that way with informational sites, but it's slower going, because...
  • Brands have to be identified niche by niche. Seems they've picked the winning brands for health searches just now, for example
  • The widgets that do exist (knowledge graph, blog search, news, etc) are currently still friendly, forwarding free traffic. Like Froogle did...at first.
  • Many informational queries have much less revenue potential, thus the priority to raid them is low, at least for now.
  • System

    4:41 pm on Feb 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    The following message about Google Mobile Search Adds A New Carousel of Recent Articles was cut out to new thread here : google/4738050.htm [webmasterworld.com]

    [edited by: goodroi at 11:04 am (utc) on Feb 21, 2015]

    7:50 pm on Feb 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    I've reported this last year ago already, nothing changed since then: Colorful Stone in Metal Widgets

    1-8 Amazon
    9 OverStock
    10 Some site I've never heard before
    11 Pinterest(Image scraped from Ebay. Page clearly states so in comments)
    12 Same page as 10 different URL but same content(I swear)
    13 - 15 Ebay
    ......


    But this is something new:

    And at #16 is Walmart, OK.

    When I click on the URL from Google I arrive to their site.

    1. I see a widget that other competitors used to sell over a decade ago. It is a stock image that the wholesale company used to distribute as soon as you have ask for it. They sent you a 4 CDs. The actual image itself is a SCAN from their printed catalog. Original Catalog was printed in 2001. I have 2 of them as a relic.

    2. At this point I have JS disabled, as always. I see a price of 60-USD, and discounted down to 51-USD. THe actual price from 2001 catalog, is $4 wholesale. If I enable 3 JS files(NO Script), the price disappears and is replaced with the message "Add to Cart to see the Price".

    3. Here is the Kicker: The Item is not sold by Walmart, but by some third party liquidators.
    10:46 pm on Feb 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    My point is that it is the same with Amazon being listed 1-8(none of the products are sold by Amazon), nor OverStock, nor Etsy, nor Wallmart.

    Most of the above "liquidation shops" use stock images and some kakamimia wording to describe the product. I mean I have seen piece of wood described as precious metal at #2 for Amazon. Yes, that Bad.

    All of those get ranked above e-com shops that have been in Biz for the past decade, actual people that I know.

    That is what went wrong. Goog is Lazy, they just don't know better(a game they play). Yes they have the resources, but why? CPC is CPC in my opinion.
    8:35 am on Feb 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    Have you guys considered that the US online market is just too saturated, hence why Google chooses the big brands over small brands to satisfy their "general user" ?

    I deal with European and Middle East /South East Asia queries mainly and even for some very competitive keywords, I have no problems ranking on First page, between 5th and 8th spot. Can't say the same for US SERPs though, where I am lucky if I can position myself on Page 2.
    7:22 pm on Feb 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    I've reported this last year ago already, nothing changed since then: Colorful Stone in Metal Widgets

    1-8 Amazon
    9 OverStock
    10 Some site I've never heard before
    11 Pinterest(Image scraped from Ebay. Page clearly states so in comments)
    12 Same page as 10 different URL but same content(I swear)
    13 - 15 Ebay

    That much big brand dominance shows the lengths that Google will go to in their efforts to try to keep spam off the first page of their search results. Evidently they can't find any other reliable way to stop spam, so they just stick a bunch of pages from big brands at the top, even when they aren't relevant to the search query.
    7:43 pm on Feb 25, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    Evidently they can't find any other reliable way to stop spam, so they just stick a bunch of pages from big brands at the top, even when they aren't relevant to the search query.


    The fun part is that big brand sites that allow user generated content are often returning the same exact type of spam. For example, on long tail widget type queries...I'm seeing a big jump in highly ranked facebook and sites.google.com pages that contain scraped content with shortened urls that lead to affiliate links.

    I'm also seeing that sites that allow user created product listings (Amazon, eBay, etc) are being abused. The sellers seemed to have noticed the new ranking power, so they are putting in deliberately incorrect titles to get the traffic. Like listing a wooden widget as a metal widget, for example. I can't imagine that drives sales, but it certainly gets ranked well.
    9:35 am on Mar 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    Looking at the FTC documents [graphics.wsj.com] being discussed in this thread [webmasterworld.com]

    Google have been under pressure to show competitors such as comparison shopping sites and review sites more prominently in the SERPS. That may explain some things complained of (such as Tripadvisor and the like dominating searches) and may have some effect on others. Just speculating, but it would tend to favour big sites.
    12:21 pm on Mar 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    Google have been under pressure to show competitors such as comparison shopping sites and review sites more prominently in the SERPS.

    Google is also under pressure to produce growth for their shareholders. Without any unified voice for small businesses, they have been, are and will continue to be squeezed into adwords.

    One thing that is for certain, Google's search results are manipulated for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with quality but instead money.
    2:41 pm on Mar 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    Google have been under pressure to show competitors such as comparison shopping sites and review sites more prominently in the SERPS. That may explain some things complained of (such as Tripadvisor and the like dominating searches) and may have some effect on others. Just speculating, but it would tend to favour big sites.


    Let's not forget that megasites like Tripadvisor, Wikipedia, Cnet, etc. have millions of pages and vast numbers of inbound and internal links.

    They've also slipped in the rankings over the past year or so, possibly because of the "little guy authority algorithm" (my term, not Google's) that Matt Cutts talked about in April, 2014 and which may have played a part in last year's Panda 4.0 update.
    3:20 pm on Mar 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    Let's not forget that megasites like Tripadvisor, Wikipedia, Cnet, etc. have millions of pages and vast numbers of inbound and internal links.

    They've also slipped in the rankings over the past year or so, possibly because of the "little guy authority algorithm"

    Another theory is that these companies are in niches where Google has a competing interest, widget, etc. :) Certainly true for Tripadvisor, Wikipedia.

    Edit: Illustrative example. Do you suppose this #1 organic listing (see lower left hand corner) is working as well as it did last year for Tripadvisor? [i.imgur.com...]
    12:37 am on Mar 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    Another theory is that these companies are in niches where Google has a competing interest, widget, etc. :)

    No theories according to the staff at the FTC.

    You are precisely right about competing interests. When Google invests in a company, they tend to greatly improve in the organic and paid results. It's so blatantly obvious what Google is doing it makes me laugh. Keeping track of Google's financial interests has gotten a little tougher though. They mostly invested under Ventures ( [gv.com...] ) but the sites that do really well in Google's search results are backed by Google Capital ( [googlecapital.com...] ).

    If Google is actively invested in a niche, seo won't do you much good because Google has the serps listed in such a way that guarantees them a return on their investments.
    4:47 am on Mar 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    If Google is actively invested in a niche, seo won't do you much good because Google has the serps listed in such a way that guarantees them a return on their investments.


    Bingo.
    5:32 am on Mar 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    Ah, a testable assertion at last.

    I did some sample searches related to sites that Google Capital has invested in and they did not do very well:

    Only one appeared on the first page of the organic SERPS, below the fold, and below less relevant but older sites. It did get an ad - obviously there is no way of knowing the terms of the ad.

    Another two did not appear on the first page of the organic SERPS, although one did get an ad.

    It does not look to me like the result of manipulated SERPS.
    10:29 am on Mar 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    I did some sample searches related to sites that Google Capital has invested in and they did not do very well:

    "survey for website" - Survey Monkey #1 in both paid and organic listings.
    "business loans" - Lending Club #1.
    "credit report" - Credit Kharma #4.
    "Dallas Real Estate Auctions" - Auction.com #1 in paid and #2 in organic.

    I don't know what you consider not doing very well, but I'd say ranking in the top five is pretty good for very competitive and profitable keywords. Surely ranking number one is good as there can be no better free placement in Google.
    10:53 am on Mar 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    The ones I tried were randomly taken from the list. I did not post the searches because I thought it was push WW rules too far.

    Survey monkey is the biggest brand in their field, so at the top seems reasonable. They do not come top of the organic results for a search of Google.com from a non-US IP - in fact they are at #5.

    I deliberately avoided UK ones: the ones I tried were CommonFloor, Renaissance Learning and Freshdesk. I tried again with "property in India", "online learning platform" and "online helpdesk". CommonFloor and Renaissance Learning did even worse, Freshdesk did better in the organic results for "online helpdesk",
    11:02 am on Mar 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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    The ones I tried were randomly taken from the list. I did not post the searches because I thought it was push WW rules too far.

    The recently released FTC document underscores potential corruption at Google. If we are unable to discuss specifics of their investments, as it relates to how they organize the search results, such discussions would be shallow and void of the same testable assertions you made note of.

    According to my tests, from a USA based cable modem IP address, companies invested in by Google are doing extremely well in Google search. Though personalization and other factors may be in play for those performing their own analysis, seeing is believing for me. As small businesses we must not only compete against big brands, but Google's ever growing portfolio of investments. The FTC paper that was made public would indicate we don't have a fair chance at ranking well, no matter how good our content, bounce rate, etc. are if Google has an interest in our niche.
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