Our Ranking Systems Have Room for Improvement

  • June 26, 2024
  • SEO
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Google’s SearchLiaison addressed a concern on X (formerly known as Twitter) regarding the subpar quality of search results. In response, he acknowledged that Google’s reviews algorithm could perform better and detailed the steps being taken to prevent rewarding sites that do not meet quality standards.

Scrutinizing Google’s Search Results

The conversation with Google started with a post concerning a high-ranking site that seemingly did not adhere to Google’s established guidelines.

@dannyashton tweeted:

“This review has been ranking #1 on Google for ‘Molekule Air Mini+ review’ for the past six months.

It is 50% anecdotal and 50% marketing messaging. It doesn’t share in-depth original research.

So, how did they make it to the top of Google?”

Followed by:

“Instead of a third-party review (which is likely what searchers are looking for), Google ranks an article backed by the brand:

Searchers land in an advertorial built off marketing materials:

So little care that they even left briefing notes in the published version 😞

And I think I found the reason why it ranks #1… Money.”

The tweets received sympathetic responses from others, such as this one:

“WILD.

And this is on page 1…

Is this what writing for readers is? Is this what people need/want?

I think of folks like my mom here who wouldn’t know better and to dig more.

It looks and seems nice, must be trustworthy.

I mean, that’s their goals, right? Dupe and dip.”

Shortcomings of Google’s Algorithms

SearchLiaison responded to these tweets with an explanation of the complexity and scale of Google’s ranking process. He emphasized that while feedback is thoroughly reviewed and discussed with the search team, the ranking is done on a monumental scale, indexing trillions of web pages which requires an automated approach.

SearchLiaison tweeted:

“Danny, I appreciate where you’re coming from — just as I appreciated the post that HouseFresh originally shared, as well as this type of feedback from others. I do. I also agree that our goal is to reward content that aligns with our guidelines. There was mention of improvement over time:

“In our experience, each rollout of the Products Review Update has shaken things up, generally benefitting sites and writers who invest time, effort, and money into testing products before recommending them.”

That said, there’s clearly more we need to do. Our ranking systems are not perfect. I see content that deserves better ranking, and conversely, content that should not be rewarded at all.

It’s not feasible for us to manually review and rank individual pieces of content given the scale of our operations. Automated and scalable systems are necessary, and we constantly work on improving these systems.

We are very much aware of these concerns and actively collecting feedback. I personally review all feedback to organize it for the team’s thorough analysis. This is in addition to ongoing efforts to improve based on prior feedback.”

Key points from SearchLiaison’s response include:

  1. Google’s commitment to rewarding content that aligns with their guidelines.
  2. Acknowledgement that the ranking system needs further refinement to better reward useful content and avoid promoting low-quality content.
  3. Recognition of the scale at which Google operates, indexing trillions of pages, which necessitates automated systems.
  4. The importance given to user feedback and the commitment to continually improve algorithms.
  5. SearchLiaison’s reassurance that feedback is meticulously organized for detailed examination to improve ranking mechanisms.

Why Is Fixing Google Taking So Long?

An additional query was raised about Google’s process for implementing updates, highlighting the disruptions these updates cause.

@mikefutia tweeted:

“Danny, aren’t all your ‘system improvements’ fully tested BEFORE rolling them out?

Surely your team was aware of the shakeup in the SERPs that these last few updates would cause.

Completely legitimate hobby sites written by passionate creators getting absolutely DECIMATED by these updates.

Search results favoring major platforms—Reddit, Pinterest, Quora, Forbes, Business Insider—at the cost of smaller creators.

Surely this wasn’t unforeseen.

You knew the impact of these updates. And now, NINE months later, no legitimate sites have recovered, worsened further by the March update.

It feels like Google is saying ‘we messed up, we’re working on it,’ but many creators are left asking—’What’s taking so long?’”

While we are aware that Google uses third-party quality raters to assess search results before rolling out updates, many creators, site owners, and search marketers feel disillusioned by the continuing decline in search result quality.

SearchLiaison’s response underscores Google’s awareness of the issues and their efforts to improve, but it falls short for thousands of site owners feeling the adverse effects of these updates.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/ivan_kislitsin

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