Our Ranking Systems Aren’t Perfect

Google’s SearchLiaison responded to a plea on X (formerly Twitter) about ridiculously poor search results in which he acknowledged that Google’s reviews algorithm could be doing a better job and outlined what’s being done to stop rewarding sites that shouldn’t be ranking in the first place.

Questioning Google’s Search Results

The exchange with Google began with a post about a high ranking sites that was alleged to fall short of Google’s 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 general responses to the tweets were sympathetic, 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.”

Google’s Algorithms Aren’t Perfect

SearchLiaison responded to those tweets to explain that he personally goes through the feedback submitted to Google and discusses them with the search team. He also shared about the monumental scale of ranking websites, saying that Google is indexing trillions of web pages, and because of that the ranking process is itself scaled and automated.

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 totally agree that the goal is for us to reward content that’s aligned with our guidance. From the HouseFresh post itself, there seemed to be some sense that we had actually improved over time:

“In our experience, each rollout of the Products Review Update has shaken things up, generally benefitting sites and writers who actually dedicated time, effort, and money to test products before they would recommend them to the world.”

That said, there’s clearly more we should be doing. I don’t think this is particularly new, as I’ve shared before that our ranking systems aren’t perfect and that I see content that we ought to do better by, as well as content we’re rewarding when we shouldn’t.

But it’s also not a system where any individual reviews content and says “OK, that’s great — rank it better” or “OK that’s not great, downrank it.” It simply wouldn’t work for a search engine that indexes trillions of pages of content from across the web to operate that way. You need scalable systems. And you need to keep working on improving those systems.

That’s what we’ll keep doing. We’re definitely aware of these concerns. We’ve seen the feedback, including the feedback from our recent form. I’ve personally been through every bit of that feedback and have been organizing it so our teams can look further at different aspects. This is in addition to the work they’re already doing, based on feedback we’ve already seen.”

Some of the takeaways from SearchLiaison’s statement is that:

1. Google agrees that their algorithms should reward content that is aligned with their guidance (presumably guidance about good reviews, helpfulness, and spam).

2. He acknowledged that the current ranking systems can still use improvement in rewarding the useful content and not rewarding inappropriate content.

3. Google’s systems are scaled.

4. Google is committed to listening to feedback and working toward improving their algorithms.

5. SearchLiaison confirmed that they are reviewing the feedback and organizing it for further analysis to identify what needs attention for improvement to rankings.

What Is Taking So Long To Fix Google?

Someone else questioned Google’s process for rolling out updates that subsequently shakes things up. It’s a good question because it makes sense to test an update to rankings to make sure that the changes improve the quality of sites being ranked and not do the opposite.

@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.

All in favor of Reddit, Pinterest, Quora, Forbes, Business Insider, and other nonsense gaining at their expense.

I guess what I’m saying is — surely this was not a surprise.

You guys knew this carnage was coming as a direct result of the updates.

And now — here we are, NINE months later — and there have been ZERO cases of these legitimate sites recovering. In fact, the March update just made it 100x worse.

And so Google is saying ‘yeah we f-d up, we’re working on it.’

But the question is—and I think I speak on behalf of thousands of creators when I ask—’What the hell is taking so long?’”

We know that Google’s third party quality raters review search results before an update is rolled out. But clearly there are many creators, site owners and search marketers who feel that Google’s search results are going the wrong way with every update.

SearchLiaison’s response is a good one because it acknowledges that Google is not perfect and that they are actively trying to improve the search results. But that does nothing to help the thousands of site owners who are disappointed in the direction that Google’s algorithm is headed.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/ivan_kislitsin

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