Thursday, May 19, 2016

Google is Playing Musical Chairs with Ranking and it will Cost Us Billions

 

Courtesy of  www.flickr.com
 

Google has gone crazy — again. Every year Google, spins its secrete algorithm roulette wheel to see what it wants to emphasize. This year is no different. Now Google is changing the game in a big way. Google is making core changes to how it searches pages and lists SERPs (search engine results pages). It has changed how many paid ads are listed and, where they are listed. On top of that Google has also changed how many organic listings show up. Plus, there are many backend changes that are not visible to the naked eye that directly affect ranking. So, if you want to know what these Google algorithm changes have in store for you, read on and learn what Google’s game of Algorithm Musical Chairs means to you.

Google does not make these changes to its search engine just to make it better. Many of the changes are designed to increase the use of its paid search advertising product. This article will lay out evidence how these changes are costing US business (and the world) billions, as business owners attempt to chase Google’s musical chair strategy for webpage ranking.

Google has been releasing updates to its search engine algorithms on a regular basis since early 2000. This is not news, however, since Google’s search engine has grown to dominate (some would say monopolize). It has stepped up the process significantly. Most can remember several of the big updates. With cuddly animal names like Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird and Pigeon, or the more recent scarier one named called Mobilgeddon. Many of the updates have been named after cute animals, but their results have been anything but cute. In fact, they have been deadly to many websites ranking positions. Most webmasters work hard to optimize their websites to rank well. Most of them focus on making Google happy since it controls more than 70 percent of all search traffic. They provide the website updates needed to give Google what it’s looking for.

Google can do whatever it wants with its search engine, of course, but since it receives the vast majority of all traffic, any changes to its results algorithm can cause ranking changes. Any radical departure from its previous algorithms causes mayhem for most webmasters and owners alike. More importantly, this cost billions, if not hundreds of billions of dollars every time it happens.

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Over the years, many Google algorithm changes have been designed to thwart black hat techniques meant to trick Google, while at the same time improve the search experience for its users. I have read many reliable reports that Google makes hundreds of algorithms changes during each year. Some are tests, others are tweaks and others are major changes to its search listing. Google has admitted to making many changes annually at press conferences and on YouTube announcements.

Google has made dozens of major updates over the past five years, including Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, Pigeon, Knowledge Graph, Rank-Brain, in-depth Article ranking, Authorship Shake-up, Mobilgeddon, Https/SSL ranking, In The News ranking and dozens of other named and un-named major updates. On top of that, it has been actively tweaking many of the major changes over that same time period. Check out Google Algorithm Change History on Moz, for a timeline and more details.


Major changes to Paid Ad Listings
Another new twist to the search engine advertising game is Google’s latest decision to change the number of paid listings at the top and bottom of search pages. For highly competitive keywords (only Google determines what that means) only four ads will be shown at the top of the page and three more will be listed at the bottom. On top of that, these same criteria will lower the number of organic listings from around 11 to seven. And just to make this scheme even more complicated, Google has added, ‘Featured Snipped boxes’ and ‘Google MyBusinesses Map Boxes,’ both of which take up large parts of the top of page one, moving non paid links even further down below the fold. Every business wants to be on page one above the fold. However, these constant changes are making it nearly impossible to reach these goals.

These changes have shifted the ranking landscape, causing many businesses to become winners and losers over the years. Yet I can’t help but think about the hundreds of billions of dollars that businesses have had to spend chasing these massive changes.


Google decides what You’re Looking For
My partner, Carl, and I have written many articles discussing these changes over the last five years. We have always contended that businesses need to concentrate on giving Google what it says it wants. Primarily, Google has stated or leaked information, that indicates its primary desire is to provide the user the fasted and most appropriate answer to the questions they are asking, when entering a search term. In essence, Google wants to provide not only the best content (best meaning high quality, timely, relevant and authoritatively safe content) but also finding what the search participant was “actually/really” looking for.

This is not easy to accomplish. I know that many times, when I enter a search term, I’m not sure of what I am looking for, so how will Google know what you’re looking for? The fact is, Google’s Rank Brain is filtering the results for us. It is making the decisions of what we want or don’t want and that, my friends, are where the dangers lie.

Today, every business has to take into account hundreds of ranking factors if they want to be on page one of Google Search. Google’s Rank Brain is actively changing the game every day without exception. It learns from what traffic occurs on a daily basis and adjusts the results as it deems fit. Getting on page one organically is becoming an almost impossible task, because Google keeps changing the rules. Let’s look at some of the recent updates, for example:
  • Pigeon – Affected local business rankings. It rewarded those indirectory and penalizing those who were not!
  • Mobilgeddon – Rewards websites that are mobile-friendly by serving them up for mobile search and penalizing the ones that were designed for desktop usage.
  • Featured Snipped – Rewards websites with in-depth high quality, relevant, timely and authoritative content. These “Featured Snipped” (aka Answer Boxes) get major SERP real state. They take up a large portion at the top of the search listing.
  • Structured Data — This update further rewards websites with in-depth content along with ones that also have the content laid out to make it easier for the search spiders to understand it.
  • The Secure Website — This update favors websites that employ Https/SSL security because it is safer that those without it.
  • Penguin — The original and recent Penguin update hit sites with bad or irrelevant links, solely determine by Google.
  • Google My Business — Google has favored sites listed in Google Local, and now they have shifted that to the latest version of this ranking factor, Google My Business. This means if you haven’t gone in and set up your Google My Business you get penalized.

Now let’s talk about Rank Brain.
Rank Brain is Google’s Artificial Intelligence Search Ranking Factor program. According to Google’s Chief ExecutiveOfficer Sundar Pichai. “Machine learning is a core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are doing,” He further defines its use as – “Rank Brain is Google’s new machine-learning algorithm with artificial intelligence at its core, which better interprets search queries and learns from each action taken by searchers. Last year (2015), a very large fraction of the millions of queries a second that people type into the Google’s search engine were interpreted by Rank Brain.” According to Google, the results – “were better than expected.” Meaning that they like what they saw and are now utilizing it even more that before. Some say as much as 50 percent of Google search results are now controlled by Rank Brain.

Which brings me to the main point of the article. There have been many studies showing that many pay per click transaction are really Bot clicks, not people. I know Google is actively trying to thwart these bots, but the fact remains that bot clicks are not going away time soon, and these bots are stealing money from businesses running pay per click.

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  • In December of 2015, I wrote about the widespread emergence of AI programs on the web and on smart devices. I also discussed the widespread implications of Programmatic (another type of advertising, buying and selling AI). My story included the benefits and dangers that the widespread implementation has on the business community and society in general. My conclusion was that although these new AI applications bring many benefits to our society as a whole, they also bring a huge potential for fraud, abuse and in the worst case scenario, apocalyptic results.
  • We as a society cannot depend on a single business entity to control such a large aspect of the World Wide Web. It diminishes safety, reduces competition, increases cost to business and all consumers. We must not become over depended on the use of Artificial Intelligence. That will lead to a weak society as a whole and it increases the danger professor Stephen Hawking spoke about when he stated that, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
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  • It is imperative that people and businesses alike, make decisions, not just based on convenience, but on what is the most effective long term strategy for their benefit. We are currently at Google’s mercy as long as they are in charge of 70 percent of search! If you add up the minimal cost (say $500 time a million of the 500 million websites) to update a website for any one of Googles algorithm changes, you would quickly conclude that it cost the US many billions of dollars each year. I urge everyone to diversify their use of the search engines and pay per click platform. This increase in competition will lower the cost of these advertising elements for businesses and it will insure competition and more freedom for the World Wide Web.
  • I suggest that we ask our representatives to put in place, safeguards to protect us from the potential of fraud and abuse that can come from one company controlling a majority of the search traffic on the web. Google has been sued in the past for miss use of it search rankings. Just last year, its pigeon update corrected the fact that Google was serving up Google+ sites over more appropriate sites when someone asked for a specific restaurant.
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  • I further suggest that we demand that safeguards be put in place to include hard and fast controls for all Artificial Intelligence programs being developed today. We need safeguards that will keep AI applications from totally making decisions on their own. It not only possible, but likely that they will make decisions not in our favor. Either way, these safeguards are in our best interest. We need to be able to unplug them at will, no if ands or buts!