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Google Experimenting with Specific Answers Without Any Search Results

     
5:51 pm on Mar 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Google is showing an answer on a search page for certain queries, but there are no other search results being shown. ie, ten blue links gone. I know, ten blue links are long gone, as such, but you know what i mean.

For example [google.com...]

[searchengineland.com...]

It appears to be for a limited number of search queries, such as the time, calculator, unit converter.

Google's Danny Sullivan says,
For calculator, unit converter & local time, we’re experimenting with a condensed view to further speed up load time. People who search for these tools rarely use full search results, but the results will remain available for those who want them via the "Show all results" button.

[twitter.com...]
9:02 pm on Mar 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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This is not a good sign. It may start with time and calculator but who knows maybe it will move on to content supplied by others like sport scores, and definitions, it is a slippery slope. Then in a few years google will wonder why show search results for a widget when we Google sell a perfectly good widget.

>> People who search for these tools rarely use full search results
Of course not Google because you stick your big calculator right at the top of the search results.
9:31 pm on Mar 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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250 Kilobytes page, the "see all results" is a fresh page load. I would've thought 25KB would do the job.
2:15 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If Google could get away with it, this is how they would be for everything. It's obviously their ideal. All you have to do is observe all the changes and ask yourself (or not) if it's moving in the same direction. Mobile search results (if you can call it search) is the biggest indicator. It's why most searches (worth their salt) pretty much disregard the concept of links to websites (aside from the ads that is).

I have the new slogan: One answer, One ad. Simple.
2:35 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Yup, just think even a few years from now this will be the common result style for anything not technical. Google's been slowly boiling the water and we're the frog.
2:37 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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oh and btw, Bing is doing the same thing. They are looking more and more like a Google clone.
3:01 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Oh course Bing is doing the same thing. So long as Bing does it (preferably does it first) then they are like a human shield. "They did it first". "If they do it, why are you mad at us". "They do it much more than we do it". etc, etc. Bing is a friend that Google can lean on. And have. Bing video is disgusting really, but when you are essentially irrelevant (except for reasons stated above) it just doesn't matter to most people, including myself (except for reasons stated above). On a side note, I think it's comical/ironic that on this very forum, a move as significant as this (Google showing ZERO links to websites for the first time) is all but a dead topic/subject/discussion. Funny. Very funny. I guess you can't sell hope (or SEO services) on this one eh?
3:20 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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On a side note, I think it's comical/ironic that on this very forum, a move as significant as this (Google showing ZERO links to websites for the first time) is all but a dead topic/subject/discussion. Funny. Very funny. I guess you can't sell hope (or SEO services) on this one eh?


I think since the knowledge graph, these kinds of systematised facts would always be the first to be rid of organic results. The answer certainly solves the question of 'what time is it in Los Angeles' for the example engine gave. As a searcher, this is pragmatic and common sense to me, rather than being a philosophical debate about how a search engine can operate. A natural evolution. It's been observed, but what more can we do other than take note?

Even with a sceptical hat on, I'm not sure if I'd need 10 blue links to prove the veracity of what Google gave as an answer or indeed what kind of empirical evidence would prove that it is indeed, the time in Los Angeles :o)

timeanddate.com have been around a while, doubt they'll like it mind you.
4:08 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, sure, right. It stops here. Sure, yeah, right. It's not like progression exists within the Google philosophy. You speak like this is the dead stop. That's a purely ignorant perspective and you can take solace in the fact you are aren't alone in that. Dead stop at this juncture? My A. Of course Google needs the blue links to prop up the first 4 or 5 ads at the top of the page. That's not going anywhere for now. Rather than saying these are strictly "fact based" inquiries, I prefer to think of these as no monetization (ad) options for Google. This is v1.0. Based on your ignorant perspective, you believe it's v1.0 from now and forever. Again, I get it that some people are selling hope and SEO services and because of that, everything is bliss.
4:17 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Dead stop at this juncture?


I didn't say that anywhere in my post.

This is v1.0. Based on your ignorant perspective


I don't claim to be an expert, but I've kept a relatively close eye on the evolution of search engines since the mid-nineties, I think your grievance with Google outstrips your reading skills.
4:30 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I think one needs to a look at this objectively. What real value does a site like timeanddate really provide. As brotherhod_of_LAN points out there is no real knowledge in reporting the time in LA, where is the value. I don't see anyone complaining that I used my pocket calculator to determine the answer of 4 + 4 instead of going to a page website to do that, yet this amounts to pretty much the same thing.

I will concede that there is a kind of "ick" factor at play here. It is not strictly with these calculators and displaying of very basic facts, but there is no deterministic line where some facts go from being basic and indisputable (1+1) to facts being more reflections of opinion. Take the nationality of a celebrity, seems pretty clear, but change celebrity to president and the same construct is no longer the same. Google is slowly becoming a single source for facts, and that is very scary on many levels.

I can understand why Google is doing this, it makes sense from the users perspective but it leaves me feeling very uneasy. Where is the line? Is there a line? Can a line be enforced? Is it too late?
4:32 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Makes sense. Why show "ten blue links" that nobody's going to click on for simple queries that the search engines have been answering directly for a long time?
4:46 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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There is an ick factor to it for sure

For now it is just time, calculator, and unit converter.

Barely any sites are affected especially since Google has been answering these questions for a while. And to be honest with myself it is easier to use the tools google supplies for these type of queries.

But what is the next step? Google already supplies nice sport scores, weather and currency converters right at the top of their results. They work well. With this type of info other sites are getting squeezed out though. Google wins again.

If you look at it even further they offer up YouTube Videos of sports highlights. These highlights are made by the same websites that are getting squeezed out of sport scores above. These websites are forced to put the videos on youtube as they rank better than on their own site. Google wins again they get to host the content and share in the ad profits.

Eventually most industries will not be safe.
4:55 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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For now it is just time, calculator, and unit converter.

I'm not so sure. See this article from Moz that @Dethfire linked to in Google Serps Thread.
[moz.com...]

This is already happening to some degree and creeping ahead slowly. At some point it will reach its limit. Where is that limit? Does Google need to push past the limit to know that its has reached it? The limit is reached when too large a number of websites go under leaving Google with no ability to reliably gather data. Can Google roll back once the limit is breached?
6:47 pm on Mar 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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But what is the next step? Google already supplies nice sport scores, weather and currency converters right at the top of their results. They work well. With this type of info other sites are getting squeezed out though.

Maybe. But that's progress. It's no different from calculators, clocks, calendars, etc. being built into computer or smartphone operating systems. Expecting users jump through hoops just because you liked the way search engines worked in 1998 is pointless.
2:50 am on Mar 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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People who search for these tools rarely use full search results

Think about it for a second. We already know where it stops. It stops at any inquiry that has some type of monetization. It stops too at the PR border. As in, Google doesn't have the balls to give a sports score on one of these blank pages. Not for now anyways. PR how? ESPN, FOX Sports, etc, etc. All those leagues at some point would clue in. They are ignorant to what is going on, as are other people claiming to be search geniuses.

So it stops at inquiries that could drive profit (queries that are ad populated) or at queries that could create a PR nightmare. Outside of that, it's game on.

Danny is sounding like a real genius too. Look at, "rarely use full search results". That could be send of many, many, many searches these days. Under that criteria, they could kill off a lot of the web. If Google isn't displaying it, then for all intents and purposes it doesn't exist. It's not just the tools! It's the answers that result in people rarely using the full search results. The stacks of ads like contribute to people rarely using the full search results. The more question/answer boxes and the expandable boxes they add, most certainly they can justify showing no link because "people rarely use the full search results for those queries". Duh. They are making the web irrelevant in many ways. Simple principle of erosion. They keep adding above the fold, above the actual links, and thus they will seemingly justify to themselves just making the web hidden behind a drop down menu.

It's heartwarming to know that this is being done to help faster load time. I can see a day, maybe tomorrow when Google prompts you with a pop-up window when you click the "Show all results" button. The pop-up will say, "Do you really want to do this?". Right. Are you really sure that you need to venture out into the world wide web?

In a way I wish there were more neutral, honest perspective on all these Google changes. Instead it's self interest above all else. It's so rare to find an honest opinion. I always loved the idea of the world wide web and when I see something like this, it signals a troubling future. This is not about calculators for Christ's sake.
10:29 am on Mar 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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You’d think with the EU on their back about the shopping results, news results, and whatever else they’re looking at, google would ease off on moves like this, but they just charge ahead regardless. It’s almost like they’re inviting the criticism.
11:19 am on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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You’d think with the EU on their back about the shopping results, news results, and whatever else they’re looking at, google would ease off on moves like this, but they just charge ahead regardless. It’s almost like they’re inviting the criticism.


It's a type of negotiation for them: the more they push the boundaries, the less they will probably have to roll-back when the regulators finally come.
Also, users will be irritated by those regulators for taking away the features that they have become used to.

Google's travel destination guide content is complete rubbish, and yet it is often right at the top of the results abusing their monopoly in exactly the same way as their shopping results. Until we get to the end of the road with their appeal against the EU shopping results ruling, we won't see any change.

I was shot down years ago on this forum for suggesting that we (site owners) needed to organise boycotts and Google blackouts.
We could have done something back then, now I fear it is too late.
2:30 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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A heads-up about a followup SERoundtable article by Barry, which appeared Friday and which should be self-explanatory, as described by its title...

Google Promises To Review Feedback On Zero Results
Mar 16, 2018 - by Barry Schwartz
[seroundtable.com...]

Barry wrote...
Anyway, Danny Sullivan promised two things: (1) That he is compiling the feedback to bring back to the search team at Google and (2) this does not kill SEO.

I should mention here that I've seen Danny, in a keynote interview/discussion with Amit Singhal at SMX some years back, put Amit's feet to the fire a bit with a polite but persistent line of questioning regarding the answer cards and other extras that had begun appearing at the top of the serps... asking Amit very specifically about Google's implicit bargain with site owners and whether site owners might be beginning to get a shorter end of the bargain.

Danny was most definitely not working for Google at the time... and he was pressing Amit. Danny's got a unique talent of doing this with good humor, but Amit seemed to be on the defensive a bit, assuring Danny and the audience that Google was trying to maintain audience share for both Google and the sites it listed by satisfying the increasing (mobile) need for quick answers. It was one of those "to be continued" kinds of discussions, and I don't think it was a point of view that Danny would easily forget or willingly drop.

Barry in the article cited examples where just the "time" by itself, eg, would make "poor Time Magazine" pretty unhappy, and those looking for dates in London might also be disappointed.

So, this topic is going to get further hashed out... and I've seen Danny in action and I do think the topic going to get an extensive re-examination in Google.

Additionally, like Brotherhood of LAN, I'm a long-time user of timeanddate.com, and I'd guess that the value-add of sites like this in the ongoing infrastructure is going to get a thorough examination.

Even when I'm looking just for a basketball box score in Google, Google manages to fill the page out with additional results that suggest they perhaps could do the same thing with time and date and calculators and not waste bandwidth.

3:05 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I would like to bring to the front a point that is made in the Moz article, that I believe is very relevant here. The article claims that Google's motivation is not money per-se but its need to compete and stay ahead of Facebook, Apple, Twitter and others are walled sections of the internet. The internet is fractured into a few big "galaxies" the Google galaxies which includes all of the typical websites, Facebook, Apple, and the Darkweb (basically anything not reachable through those other galaxies. Google is trying very hard to remain relevant and keep users in its galaxy and it may be reaching a point of desperation. As it seems to be willing to throw smaller (but not necessarily small) websites off into the dark-web (where they ultimately die of starvation) in an attempt save its self. In my view, this strategy is bound to fail because Google isn't Google itself it is all the sites you find with it. The Google Galaxy is the sum of all the websites that is contains, of which Google itself really counts for little.

We are all complaining about Google, and rightfully so, but we are failing to see that the real threats come from the likes of Facebook and Apple. The pay to play platforms. I don't see any major complaints when Facebook changes its algo to further prevent commercial posts from appearing in peoples feeds "organically". Or that companies are constantly being encouraged to build "Facebook" pages instead of websites. Nobody seems to care that Apple is simply delaying its adoption of "service-workers", a technology that will change the face of the web. But we are very happy to rail against Google, when they change one minor thing that impacts almost non of us.

Don't mistake this for some love for Google because it isn't that. I am critical of their actions. See my posts above.
4:40 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Talk facts. Numbers. Danny says people don't click on the links anyways and that's the justification for rolling this out. Nobody knows their criteria. I would bet anything it's a moving target. As in, how many people click links below the sports score searches? Of course the PR boogie man would stop Google from not showing links. The backlash factor. I bet you anything that Google nor Danny would EVER disclose any indicator of the threshold. And it's for one reason. It's because they don't have the you-know-what to treat sports scores (as just one example) to say, the calculator. They know the click through rates of search pages when they blast the top with an answer box. They already know. Just as they know how much it has improved, meaning how fewer people are needing to use the other links. They are talking out their A on this one. They could very easily justify closing out the junk (blue links) below far far far many more searches beyond the calculator. There is no set criteria. It's just a jumbled bunch of double speak. If they had any credibility, then the criteria they set for calculator, etc, should apply to any search that is inputted. However, they don't dare get in a situation where they screw with certain segments or "partners" because again, see Exhibit A. (bad PR should be feared, just like death). So to me the whole justification and roll out is nothing more than a farce. Bye bye world wide web. People just don't know it yet or are in CLEAR DENIAL. If their criteria has credibility, it should be applied without prejudice. But of course it won't because hey, they don't want to kill off chunks of the so-called world wide web right?
5:09 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Where is it written that search has to involve ten blue links?

If you put your self-interest aside for a moment and think like a searcher, why would you want to have a search-result page cluttered with third-party listings when all you need is the answer to "current time" or "square root of 376"?

Search evolves, just like anything else. (See my earlier comment about operating systems: Is anyone here old enough to remember when we paid extra for expanded and extended memory managers, or file managers, or disk defragmenters?) If your business model depends on providing simple, public-domain answers that Google, Bing, etc. can easily provide, it's time to find a new business model. That's the reality, even if it's painful to accept.
5:45 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Just out of interest I looked at the semrush traffic for the site that comes up first for “online calculator”, and it seems to have been growing these last few years — to record levels. You wouldn’t have guessed that, with all the calculator apps on mobile phones and google’s own calculator in the serps. So maybe users are still stubbornly eschewing Google’s calculator and that’s what this change is really all about... it’s nothing about speed, they just want to grab some of that traffic back for themselves. Hide the website that their users obviously prefer, so they’ll have no choice but to use Google’s own

[edited by: londrum at 5:48 pm (utc) on Mar 17, 2018]

5:47 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If you put your self-interest aside for a moment and think like a searcher, why would you want to have a search-result page cluttered with third-party listings when all you need is the answer to "current time" or "square root of 376"?


Except we will all end up poorer if the web dies because it is no longer viable to pay the hosting bills.
The issue is Google is cleverly avoiding copyright laws (if not in this specific development), by just returning enough information in its snippets for fair use to apply.

And that is the bug elephant in the room lurking under the surface in all of these debates: Copyright.

People seem to think of copyright rules as something set in stone since the beginning of time. They are not, they were invented to protect creators, and really we need to have a new set of rules to support and protect creators in the digital age.
5:54 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@glitterball, there is no way to copyright 2 + 2 = 4. As @EG and others have stated, if all your site does is provide the answer to 2 + 2 you've got a serious problem with your business plan.
6:46 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS As I said in my post: "(if not in this specific development)"
7:43 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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To clear up this debate, and I am shooting myself in the foot, but if the snippet doesn't require a link to the extended article, then guess what? That sure doesn't seem to line up with what I would consider a "sinppet". If it provides an A to Z answer, then how is that fair use considering snippet isn't supposed to be a full anything? Fair use wouldn't be showing a whole TV show. Fair use wouldn't be showing all the goal from the sporting game you searched for. Agreed, copyright is actually a farce right now. You could argue that taking or scraping an answer out of my full article is like pulling goal highlights from a match, pist it, and then trying to call it fail use. Afterall I only used part of the game and not all of it! What a crock of S.
7:49 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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People seem to think of copyright rules as something set in stone since the beginning of time. They are not, they were invented to protect creators, and really we need to have a new set of rules to support and protect creators in the digital age.

It isn't quite that simple. Copyright laws are intended to balance the content creator's interest against the public interest. That's why the "Fair Use" doctrine exists in the U.S., for example, and it's why copyright has term limits. The same principle applies to patents.

But in any case, what we're talking about here doesn't involve copyright. As NickMNS points out, not everything is protected by copyright. You can't copyright recipes or formulas, for example (though you can copyright the "literary expression" of recipes or formulas.) It's also worth noting that very few facts are original. If a search on "capital of North Dakota" yields the answer "Bismarck," that's a fact, and a search engine is under no obligation to cite its source for that fact--just as you aren't required to give a citation, get permission from someone, or pay a royalty if you're writing an article on North Dakota and mention that the capital is Bismarck (which you learned from the WORLD ALMANAC or your third-grade geography textbook many years ago).

Things like "current time in Bangkok" and "2+2=4" aren't protected by copyright, and copyright is irrelevant to what Google is experimenting with.
8:35 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@EditorialGuy Yes, obviously, that's why I qualified the statement in the first place.

However, much of this discussion has been about how this is another encroachment that Google is making into the publisher space.
Google does take a copy of our work and then stores it on its server. It can then, at will, only give the user the exact snippet of that larger work that is relevant to the the search; a kind of "just in time" delivery of knowledge.
So, if we fast forward into the future, how many people will take the lazy way out, and never consult the larger body of work, and always get the "just in time" knowledge delivery from Google. In which case, how can we pay for new written content to be produced?

My point is that these concepts of fair use etc. were invented during another era, before anyone had conceived of Google or the internet.
9:22 pm on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If a user is satisfied with the snippet from Google, which is only a couple of sentences, then, one my wonder the added value of a web page with 1000 words (as I keep reading that one must write page with at least 1000 words 8-| ), and stuffed with ads all over. No wonder that people prefer to get the answer directly form Google...

Google does take a copy of our work

And this is not what most of you, publishers, here are doing? Taking information from other websites, compiling them, rewriting, or rehashing them, and barely never putting a link back to the sources?
This 95 message thread spans 4 pages: 95