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In Search [Episode 5]: Where Google Goes Wrong by Just Showing Popular Search Results




Don't forget, you can follow the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes or by following the podcast on SoundCloud



The In Search SEO Podcast Poll Question of the Week!




Does Google have an ethical duty to consider when displaying search results? 


Let us know if you think Google has an ethic beyond just showing the most popular search results. Share with us, to what extent Google does or does not have an "ethical search duty" so that we can feature you on the next episode of In Search! 





Summary of Episode 05 of The In Search SEO Podcast


The In Search SEO Podcast


In Episode 05 of the In Search SEO Podcast our hosts, Mordy Oberstein and Jacqueline Harkham, explore: 

  • What is Google's ethical duty towards its search results? 
  • Will SERP commenting for live sports events have an SEO impact? 
  • Data on video carousel and Image Box drop-offs 
  • How to properly frame the question surrounding Google's ability (or lack thereof) to use authorship as a ranking factor


Google's Ethical Duty When Showing Search Results [1:16 - 8:10]



When sports teams are named for animals (i.e, ram, bears, lions, etc.) or other similar entities (jets, rockets, kings, etc.) Google predominantly shows results related to the sports team rather than the entity per se. Meaning, a search for rams will yield results and SERP features that align to the Los Angeles football team, not actual rams. Mordy ran a slew of such queries only to find that Google predominantly aligns its results to sports clubs, not the entities they are named for. More, Mordy found that Google is doing as such not just in the US, where these teams are based, but even in the UK and Canada. 

The obvious problem with a query for bears producing a SERP dominated by the Chicago Bears football team is that despite their namesake, the team are not actual bears. This issue is only exaggerated by the lack of a disambiguation box for many of these queries. All of this brings up the question as to Google's ethical responsibility when showing search results. That is, should Google simply show whatever is more popular (in this case the Chicago Bears football team instead of actual bears) or should Google take a more objective or perhaps even "truth-based" approach to its search results. 

Our hosts compared Google's showing of sports teams instead of the actual entities to that of fake news. While not 100% comparable (as the bears are a real football team), no one would advocate that fake news be shown, even if it were the most popular result Google could offer. Perhaps the same is true here, as Google should show what our hosts called "real bears" instead of "fake ones." 


 

What Is the SEO Impact of Live Sports Commenting on the SERP?[10:35 - 13:46]



It seems that Google has spread its ability to comment on live sports events on the SERP. First noticed over the summer during the World Cup, Google seems to have expanded the feature that allows you to comment on live sports events via the Sports Answer Box. While this has been a hot topic within the SEO community our hosts took up the question as to the real SEO impact of "SERP commenting." That is, how likely are users to specifically, head over the SERP just to comment on a game? While other platforms, such as Twitter, offer sports fans the ability to interact with others who are a part of their "online community" commenting on the Google SERP is less communal and more commenting into the abyss. While this may work on YouTube, where users are already there to watch a live streaming event, our hosts were highly skeptical of users coming to the SERP specifically to comment. Perhaps Google would do well to offer some unique content on the game, or even bring sports live streaming to the SERP. Until then, our hosts see this as Google trying to regain a social media foothold post-Google+ and gave this an SEO impact of 0.   


Video Carousel and Image Boxes See Large Drop-Off [13:47 - 16:07]



Our SERP Features Tracker has caught two large drop-offs. Starting circa November 13th, we caught video carousels both on desktop and mobile undergoing a steep downturn in multiple markets. In the US (desktop) we've observed a roughly 30% decrease in SERPs that contain the video carousel. As more and more SEOs try to take advantage of Google's "Video Box" it would be a good idea to ensure that the keywords you are targeting still bring the feature up on the SERP. 


Just a few days after seeing fewer video carousels appear, we also tracked a 25% downturn in Image Boxes on the mobile and desktop SERP in the US. Here too, the decrease in Image Boxes was seen in numerous markets around the world. Mordy dived into some of the data but found no clear pattern behind the drop-off. He did note that Google was not simply migrating the images within the Image Box into other features like Knowledge Panels and Featured Snippets. 


SEO News and Analysis {16:08 - 18:42]



Another Google Update: On November 16th, our Rank Risk Index saw a dramatic increase in rank fluctuations that aligned to industry chatter indicating that Google had yet again run an update to its algorithm. We did a quick survey of some of the sites impacted and believe this update could very well be a reversal of the one Google rolled-out in the middle of October. 

Hotel Local Packs Get a Visual Update: Google has overhauled its Local Pack for hotel results by making them far more visual than before. Now, the Local Pack for such listings includes a "highlights carousel" as well as much larger thumbnail images. It's going to be hard for a  user to miss this, making ranking in the Local Pack (at least for hotel listings) far more important than before. Even if a user is not satisfied with the listings per se, there is a far more prominent button that leads them to the Local Finder displaying under the listings themselves. That certainly should increase the chances of a user bypassing the organic results altogether in favor of the Local Finder.  


Local Service Ads Showing Booking Data: This latest test to the Local Service Ads has Google showing the number of times users booked a service via the ads box that shows atop the organic results. This change, of course, would make it far more likely that a user would hire a service booked more frequently than the other businesses shown within the Local Service Ads. Our hosts wondered though if such data could be a bit "misleading" since there is no way for a user to know a service's bookings relative to the number of times they appeared within a Local Service Ad Box. It would be quite helpful to know the number of bookings relative to the number of Local Service Ad "impressions." 


Properly Framing the Question of Google's Propensity to Use Authorship as a Ranking Factor [18:43 - 22:31]



Our hosts reviewed a great piece of content from Stone Temple Consulting that took up the issue of Google using authorship as a ranking factor. The issue of Google perhaps looking at authorship algorithmically has become a bit of a hot button issue. Mordy and Jacqueline thought the way Mark Traphagen and Eric Enge approached the issue offered the perfect balance to this touchy topic. As Mark and Eric see it, we don't know with certainty that Google is utilizing authorship as a ranking factor. However, we do know that Google has a strong interest in authorship. That is, there is a certain degree of "momentum" or "inertia" to the idea. In either case, Mark and Eric recommend considering who is writing your content, as should authorship become an official ranking factor, you and your site will be in a good position. 


The In Search Podcast's Fun SEO Send-Off [21:32 - 25:34]



This week Mordy offered a bizarrely intriguing gem: 

Which Kid's Book Best Describes Google? 


After "extensive research," Jacqueline thought The Whale Who Ate Everything! was the perfect kid's book to describe the search giant... since Google has there hand in a bit of everything. For self-evident reasons, Mordy suggested Where's Waldo? was the perfect book... since it's all about 'search'! 

What kid's book do you think best describes Google? Let Mordy and Jacqueline know! 






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