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Almost at a breaking point with caring about Google search results.

     
6:04 am on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I shake my head at this, but perhaps your results are different. I wonder at this point how attainable or achievable viable traffic is from Google. Obviously this pertains to one small aspect and isn't going to affect everything I do, but it has me scratching me head in a serious way.

Is anyone else finding that when you type a query into Google these days, that if it's something relatively new for example, that you will see everything in the top of the results EXCEPT for the specific item or thing that you were looking for? So if you're writing about something and Google is showing results that don't include you because they are "assuming" that the searcher typed in an incorrect detail.

It's where Google is almost auto correcting your query. It's not a question of asking if you meant something, it's assuming 100% that you made a mistake somehow. It's like if your query isn't being searched a lot by other people, Google is saying correcting you and saying everyone else is looking for this, so that must be what you're looking for.

So as someone who might write an article about something less popular or more niche, how the F do you combat this? I did one query and the top 7 results were not my article. I was shown at 8th spot, yet I was the article which WAS about the query.

It's so incredibly frustrating not only from an end user perspective, but as someone who thinks they can get some traffic? No, Google doesn't think people meant what they typed in. Unfortunately, what they typed in was what my article was about. Thus, people might dig, might figure it out, or just click on an ad or something that actually has the query subject as they wrote it.

This isn't what has been in the past. It's been around for a while, to an extent. Sure from time to time you could search and the page you get in the search results could be void of that keyword all together, but I see this more than ever.

Now just think when the word or query gets popular enough that Google "gets it". Who do you think will be at the top of the search results? Google news and the giant brand sites. So for now, if it's not popular, they will show you what you must have meant because it's trending more than what you typed into the search. Then when it's trendy, the niche site gets buried into nothingness.

Just a very frustrating and futile feeling right now. There almost appears no point in writing certain articles or covering certain content. As a user, I might just tell the Google to F off, but at least I can use verbatim of quotes (less useful each day). It's AI at work? If they don't understand what you're inquiring about, they spit out the crap the neighbor and the neighbors brother searched because that must have been what I really meant. Afterall, they searched for that so I must also want to search for that. Even as a user I'm getting a bit fed up.
11:12 am on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Unfortunately, with the web being a 'mass market' technology, every search engine has moved away from strict relevance to "show people what they want". This caters for the average searcher who has no idea how to search. Bing is even worse and doesn't even honour phrase matching most of the time.

Google is actually very good at this, if you're the average user. You can search for vague nonsense like "film with a guy and a rug with ten pin bowling in it" and Google matches correctly. To typical users this is 'magic' and ideal behaviour. The downside is that accuracy is no longer an aim, and if you're a power user there's really no search engine left for you. Google is still better than the competition for power searching, which is a bit of an indictment of the fact that we're no long the target audience of search engines. The Google "I'm sorry" captcha has been an old friend of mine for years ;)

The side-effect for site owners is that multiple queries get 'funnelled' to fewer results that probably match searcher intent.

It's all workable in an SEO sense, but is certainly frustrating from an "old school SEO" standpoint. But times have changed - the "average" searcher is now someone with a smartphone tapping auto-complete suggestions, not a techie with boolean queries.

Mod note: this thread is about relevance/accuracy in Google results - off topic complaints will be removed
12:12 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google had to reduce the weighting that their algorithm gives to relevance because for many search terms the most relevant results were being created by spammers.

Another reason why google reduced the weighting of relevance was because it was an obstacle to their goal of boosting the rankings of big brands and big organizations. This is why you often see less relevant pages from big brands ranking higher than more relevant and more informative pages from smaller sites.
2:06 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Another reason why google reduced the weighting of relevance was because it was an obstacle to their goal of boosting the rankings of big brands and big organizations. This is why you often see less relevant pages from big brands ranking higher than more relevant and more informative pages from smaller sites.

This is one of the more insightful posts I have read in these parts in a long time. A lot of people have a hard time accepting the concept of large brands getting a rankings boost because they don't understand why, and how, its done.
2:08 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I guess I'm curious about anyone who is covering content that is more cutting edge or niche. That isn't in the mainstream. So from the responses, it sounds like you're saying if few people know about it, then ultimately it doesn't exist because there is a big fence stopping people from finding your content easily. I suppose user behavior could have them scrolling down page one or going to page two. I can't imagine what else a searcher would do.

I would agree that Bing is getting equally as painful, although they do usually provide an option/link where you can really search what you typed in.

I disagree with the notion of me or people being "power users". If I ask for traffic in Seattle, I didn't mean traffic in San Francisco.

I get the sense that if it's too new, then with the barrier in organics, it's going to be a dead venture in the near future if not already. Again, this is only understandable if you are trying to cover content that isn't in the mainstream already. You know, the kind of content that you likely can know better than the big brand sites so that you might get in on some rankings early on.

Is this growing phenomenon the AI effect? You know, Dave from that movie. He was thick. If he didn't understand, then he would point you in another direction.

The notion that I'm a power user because I typed in a query into a box and expected to see content on those words? LOL. Power user. Yes, just like power speakers who communicate clearly what they want. That's not normal I guess.
3:06 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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google reduced the weighting of relevance


I think this is a drastic over-simplification. Google hasn't reduced the weight of relevance - they've changed relevance criteria. And even that is an over-simplification.

The search query users enter is heavily analysed before processing. It's no longer user search >> match keywords >> show results. It's not even user search >> match keywords + variations >> show results. It's user search >> query analysis >> extract entities etc. etc.

If Google has, say, detected that a query is about "books", it will favour results from those sites that are "known good" sites about "books" - big sites, usually, even if the direct matching of keywords on the best page is not strong. Those sites will rank as a preference over small sites with better direct matching of the keywords, but are not a good match for the entity type searched for. This approach works for most people who like seeing popular safe/sites in results. Add in the fact that Google knows a crazy amount of variations on words searched for can result it what appears to be mystifying ranking of big sites for specific queries.

The notion that I'm a power user because I typed in a query into a box and expected to see content on those words? LOL. Power user


I didn't accuse you of being a power user. I shared my own experience/frustration with Google's inability to serve more advanced users. I believe it is relevant to your own comments because Google is interested in serving the majority of internet users, who are clueless about searching. Thus query analysis is a required solution for them, whereas in the past bad results meant bad searching, which meant changing searcher behaviour - not search engine behaviour.

The AI is involved in query processing, but not in an especially relevant way. Google have been going in this direction for years, and the AI is a way to improve efficiency/accuracy over human input. "RankBrain" might be more relevant if you're trying to rank entirely new keywords that Google hasn't seen before, which was the primary stated goal of the project when it was released.
3:37 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Okay, thank you. I'm going to look more into RankBrain. This rings true on what I'm seeing. If it's not popular enough, then it must not exist (even though it does). This is where I'm at on the giving up aspect. If the supplier of traffic diverts traffic from their typed in query, then I need to make some decisions about what I'm going to be working on. I may have to strike new products or "things" from my list of things to write about. The steering away from my particular article in this instance is very dramatic. Not the first time I've noticed this, but the dial hasn't been turned to this extent imo.
5:38 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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On the whole, Google Search is working well for me. When I search for things, I usually find decent results on the first attempt.

My biggest complaint is that, when doing a general Google search on news topics, I sometimes see outdated results near the top of the SERP. In most cases, the solution is to do a news search, which I should have done in the first place.

As far as relevance goes, relevance to a keyword or keyphrase is often only half the battle. If I'm searching for unbiased information on this or that, I don't want "content marketing" fluff or outright promotional pages cluttering my search results. Basing search results purely on relevance to keywords and keyphrases might have made sense before the Web was commercialized, but today, it isn't enough.
5:47 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I guess I'm curious about anyone who is covering content that is more cutting edge or niche.


A few years ago I changed from Google to using Bing however these days I am finding that I have to use them both since, for some queries, they definitely rank them completely differently.

Bing likes the keyword1keyword2keyword3 approach whereas in my niche area Google seems to really love keyword stuffed sites, sometimes ok but more often than not too spammy for any use.

And both of them are delivering way below acceptable on image results these days.

I don't know why however my best results seem to be from Bing on my smartphone, that always works wonders in the pub! Maybe I'm a bit more relaxed:-)
10:26 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So Redbar : pub quiz ?

Google have been going in this direction for years
In our niche this has been going on for years. A keyword1Keyword2keyworld3 query actually brings results for keyword1Keyword2keyworld3keyword4 , adding an extra keyword. I got this checked in a number of countries, using contacts, and they confirmed it.

My guess is that the 4 keywords is a more common query so even though keyword1Keyword2keyworld3 Should bring up a different result it defaults to the 4 keywords. Although I have noticed in the last few weeks this effect has been somewhat diminished.
10:45 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm not convinced that Google has set out to boost the rankings of big brands per se. IMO it's a question of trust. Google trusts big brands and that trust is the dominant factor, not the size of the brand. OK the result is still the same but the message isn't.

Show that your site is trustworthy and you'll likely get a boost. If you run a properly constituted company, and let Google know all about it by opening an adwords account and spending some money, your site will be more likely to be favoured than the otherwise excellent site on a six months old domain name run by a guy hiding behind a privacy protection service. No it's not fair on mom n' pops but then life never was anyway.

And exact match searches? I suspect it's a matter of efficiency. It's easier and quicker for G to present a near equivalent rather than a precise answer. If that's acceptable to most users, which it seems to be, then that's what they'll do.
11:19 pm on May 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If you run a properly constituted company, and let Google know all about it by opening an adwords account and spending some money, your site will be more likely to be favoured than the otherwise excellent site on a six months old domain name run by a guy hiding behind a privacy protection service.


There is no connection whatsoever between Adwords and 'trust' or with rankings in general. Ditto WHOIS privacy. Demonstrating that you're a genuine company I can agree with.

I'm not convinced that Google has set out to boost the rankings of big brands per se. IMO it's a question of trust.


I can also agree with that ;) Trust + relevance is a solid equation for rankings, and it's always been that way. What's changed is how Google determines which sites meet the criteria - it's not as simple as links + keyword matches. My belief is that new criteria happen to favour larger brands more than used to be the case. As a side effect, the criteria strongly disfavours smaller sites with aggressive approaches that might have worked a few years back.

Regarding Bing, I've really tried, but as far as the "get what you search for" criteria goes, Bing is not good and significantly worse than Google. For instance, if you search Bing for [webmasterworld google] the majority of matches don't contain those words. They're failing at query rewriting. While I dislike Google's approach, at least it seems to do the job they're intending.

On a different note, and perhaps related to RankBrain, I have seen a number of obvious failures from Google in terms of understanding queries in recent months. I suspect that some of the worst examples are from handing it over to an AI where the outliers risk being more egregious than might be the case with an engineer's algorithm.
3:49 am on May 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Unfortunately I can't exactly spell out the type of query that I'm speaking of. I suppose if you were wanting to know about a new 2017 car model that might be a suitable example. So you can type in that year of car, but Google will just give you everything about the 2016. It's along those lines. So if I'm writing articles about the 2017 or even 2018 model, you might see my sense of futility in that. If the search engine won't sent people to the year of car they were seeking and that I'm writing about, then how is this worth my while? Like I've said, Google (and Bing) want to say, oh, everyone else is looking for 2016 model so therefore you must not have meant 2017 even though that's what you typed.

It's a bigger issue because this closes out a gap of opportunity. So to me, now you won't rank high because the search engine disregards the actual detail you typed in. They just lump you in with what everyone else was looking for. Therefore my article sits in limbo to the point where it's a popular search, and that's when the news section, ads, brand sites, all the big sites squash any little guy that had a chance at least for a little while. So essentially I feel boxed out more than ever. I realize this is a small section of the web and would only really speak to a small segment of the forums. But I hope you can at least appreciate what I'm saying.

The topic of Google not listening to what you typed into the box is nothing new. It's been a trend for a while. However it's much more absurd on many instances right now. The issue is that Bing is stuck with the same issue, although less severe. If I was involved in testing the algo, I would write up a report and say it's F'ed up. How can I ask this detail and be told about everything else. If I want to know about that new car model how the F do I get there? Go to page 2? Stupid, stupid, stupid.
6:29 am on May 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Time and time again I'm finding the ability to discover is lost in search right now. I hope this improves. Discover means? Finding something that not everyone knows about. I would almost prefer a popup and to answer the question, "Did you really mean to search XXXXX?". I just wonder if a guy like Cutts would enjoy looking on page 2 for his query. Functions as designed?
12:37 pm on May 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There is no connection whatsoever between Adwords and 'trust' or with rankings in general.


My experiences suggest otherwise.

To gain trust you need to let Google know that you are trustworthy. Running an adwords campaign means that you let Google know that the site is owned (hopefully) by a properly constituted and regulated company and not some fly-by-night pump and dump merchant. If that company is recorded at Companies House (I'm speaking of a UK company here) and registered with any professional bodies Google will soon know about it.

Then again, if the site is indeed owned by a one-man-band or a shady outfit then, again, Google will find out and the effect could be the opposite of beneficial.

All AFAIK of course. I do know that sites belonging to my company have improved their positions in the SERPs after adwords and without any other changes, although correlation is not necessarily causation.
 

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