Webmasters fume as Google profiles signed-out searchers
'Welcome to the GORG'
Google is now "personalizing" results even when users have not logged into its web-dominating search site. And SEO types aren't too happy about it.
Personalization is a euphemism for a Google-controlled practice that involves tweaking your search results according to your past web history. Mountain View was already doing this with users who had signed in to a Google account so they could use non-search services like Gmail and Google Calendar. But now it's targeting results for all users - whether they're logged in or not.
The way Google tells it, this will make your life better. "Now when you search using Google, we will be able to better provide you with the most relevant results possible," reads a blog post from the company. "For example, since I always search for [recipes] and often click on results from epicurious.com, Google might rank epicurious.com higher on the results page the next time I look for recipes."
Of course, this is also a way for Google to build a better profile of your web activity - and target ads accordingly.
The Chocolate Factory has always hoarded the search history of everyone visiting the site - whether they were logged in or not. But this is the first time Google has massaged results for users who haven't signed in. This is just one of the many reasons Google likes cookies.
The company's new cookie-based personalization is based on 9 months of stored data. And it's completely separate from account-based personalization.
Google does let you turn off personalization off. But it's on by default - and we all know that most people will leave it on.
It's a particularly worrying prospect for search engine optimizers (SEOs) and other webmasters seeking to influence Google's results. With results changing from user to user, convincing Google algorithms to push a particular site to the top of page becomes all the more difficult.
"Does this pretty much make checking your place in the serps [search engine results pages] meaningless?" asks one poster in the ever popular forums at Webmaster World.
Another is confident that SEOs will still have their place in Google's world. But he questions whether the Chocolate Factory will end up preventing users from finding things they may not know they're looking for.
"There's something about always getting personalized search results that is socially troubling," he says. "I can see it creating a kind of ostrich phenomenon, where the average user is less and less exposed to anything new. I noticed this happening in my own online news consumption several years ago, and took intentional steps to make sure I got out of my own preferential areas."
But others phrase their concerns in a manner that's a bit less, shall we say, level headed. "GOOGLE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. THEY VIEW YOUR BUSINESS AS AN ENEMY and ONLY have their OWN interest at heart," says one SEO. "THIS ANNOUNCEMENT SHOULD BE THE FINAL WAKE UP CALL to what Goog's about."
"Welcome to the GORG," says another. ®
Anything that SEO types aren't happy with
gets my vote. It's a scummy, parasitical business.
SEO = Gaming?
Isn't 'Search Engine Optimization' really a polite way of saying 'Gaming Google' anyway. The SEOs aren't interested in YOU any more than Google is - they just want to be able to game the system to get their results above the next guy's. In other words... I have no sympathy!
Good to get rid of SEOs
In the beginning of the Internet, for those old enough to remember, there were a few indexing/search services. Basically, there were two kinds of services: Yahoo-like, who indexed things BY HAND (would you believe that today?) and AltaVista, who crawled the interwebs and collected some keywords for you to search later.
Nobody was quite pleased with the results, and then came Google. Their success was largely due to mouth-to-ear, not because they did any kind of huge marketing campaing. Quite simply, Google won because they were delivering the most useful search results. And they retain their leadership today because, let me repeat, they deliver the most useful search results.
But riding on Google success, or more exactly happening at the same time, came the massive monetization of the internet. All of a sudden, it became clear that one of the most direct ways of making money on the Internet was to have your sites appear in the first places of a Google search result. Note that this does not need to have any connection to wheter this is useful for the user that is searching, most of this revenue will be assumed to come from people that believe that Google is the internet and they cannot type an URL in the address bar. So out of the simplest and the stupidiest an entire industry was born catering for those who wanted to be at the top of the Google results page.
Link farms, blog farms, spam forum posts, duplicated but not exactly the same content all over the place, and everything in between, plus a lot of people getting paid for making sure this was constantly updated and tweaked to counter Google's constant efforts to avoid those results and give some useful information to the users.
In the meantime, sites with original content and/or useful services for the masses will continue to thrive, if only because their success is based on the same premises that made Google a success, not because some shady types are constantly polluting the Internet and Google's results to keep themselves on top.
And now Google announces something that makes the shady job of SEOs more difficult and they enrage. Personally, I'd glad if they finally made them completely unnecessary. Let the user decide what is interesting for them, thanks.
If you don't like Google's search results, you have Bing, and even Altavista is still around there. If you're making a living out of cheating Google so that searching with your keywords appear first in the results page, you're not improving Google's results or the usefulness of the search in any way. Get out of the place, and get your mistyped URLs, your false blogs, your link farms, your spam posts in forums and everything else out of the way.
Go away, SEOs. You have been making our lives much more difficult, and are parasites of Google success.