Suspicions about Google and Rankings (Human Manipulation going on?)

30 replies
  • SEO
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Yesterday i spent the whole day making a page for a super keyword.

A keyword which lets even "lose weight" look pale in comparison. It is a keyword which has almost 1.500.000 local searches in the US alone.

Today, after a long night's sleep i wake up and to my surprise this page is already indexed. (More in regards to this further below).

On my sites, i have the very great "statcounter" plugin running which shows wonderful stats about visitors, keywords. It also shows me the Google rankings for keywords when visitors come to my site(s).

Around 7am this morning, i got ONE (and up to now the ONLY ONE) hit for that super keyword, coming from Google.com

According to statcounter, the keyword was at position #9 the moment the visitor came at my page.

I dont need to mention that it would be *incredible* to rank for this super keyword on first page, basically immediately after it got indexed in Google.

Right now, i dont see my page yet on Google, let alone anywhere on page #1 for this super keyword. But that hit made me suspicious.

Can it be that i was in fact at #9 for a short moment and that a human evaluator has "downranked" my site?

I am saying this after i heard rumors (actually i KNOW that they exist!) that Google hires so called human "quality raters" which come then into affect for a site which is ranking for a keyword which has more than a search volume of 6000/month. (This is what i heard).

Means: For each such new keyword, depending on search volume and popularity of the keyword...there is human rater checking a site and then evaluating whether the site actually "deserves" that ranking.

There is another, weird thing going on that i am trying to get one particular page of mine getting indexed for a keyword which, one could say, has a "spammy" vibe to it since it is used quite often and popular.

I am using the same methods on THAT page with that keyword as on my other pages, but that darn page just wont and wont get indexed! This is odd since the page i made yesterday with the "super keyword" took only hours...and that other page is waiting since Nov 25 and STILL not in the index.

I have suspicions that there is a lot of preferencing and manual ranking "manipulation" going on since i cannot explain the #9 position of the keyword earlier..then disappearance...and the fact that the other page just wont get indexed. it doesn't make any sense!
#google #human #manipulation #rankings #suspicions
  • Profile picture of the author bitriot
    Well I can tell you for a fact many companies like office max pay for google top spots for specific products.

    So, while I can't speak to your case specifically, people should know that in some cases your ranking is paid and not based on the algorithm.
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  • Profile picture of the author IM Ash
    I guess some will call this the "honeymoon period" and others may say its QDF. But if it was QDF then the site would have held rank for a longer period of time and as for the honeymoon thing - I have never experienced it... I always had to work my way up from the back of the queue.

    One thing I can tell you for sure is that the SERPs are wildly dynamic for high volume keywords. I am targeting a number of high volume keywords and my SERP positions are never constant throughout the day. There are times when a site from the 3-4 page holds the 1st position and then a site at the bottom of the 1st page or somewhere else is given a boost to the top position...

    It's as though G is giving as many sites as possible a piece of the pie for high volume search terms.

    I highly doubt this has anything to do with manual intervention, but who knows?
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  • Profile picture of the author David Judge
    If you keep an eye out on the you tube channel - GoogleWebmasterHelp you'll see in one of the videos where they admit they use a combination of automated and manual methods.

    I think it's this video - http://www.youtube.com/user/GoogleWe.../0/R7Yv6DzHBvE
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  • Profile picture of the author TwinDragon
    Wow, got to love Google.
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    Seeking my teeth into all this great information.

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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    Hi,

    ok..i was thinking about this a lot yesterday..and here is my (speculative) scenario. The implications are interesting, to say the least...

    I have no reason to doubt that i was indeed #9 for this "super keyword", reason being that otherwise statcounter is always correct if it shows me the rankings for other pages and keywords.

    Here is the scenario:

    I am indeed pretty good when it comes to on-site SEO and the page was indeed perfectly optimized for this "super keyword".

    On my site, i usually get good rankings immediately after indexing without having to do any off-site link building. (The advantages of a somewhat established site!)

    Google has a mechanism implemented which alerts them immediately if a new site (or page) is hitting a high google position for a VERY high search volume keyword right after indexing. (I am talking about million+ searches per month!!). (What the threshold here is i don't know tho).

    The irony here is that from a technological view, Google (the ranking algorithm) did everything as intended. It found a page with "perfect" on-site SEO for a keyword on a rather established site....and its algorithm and evaluation put the site/page to Google page #1 immediately after it got indexed.

    (This happened to me many times already for less competitive keywords and a position #8 or #9 before any links are build is often seen, so the #9 position for this keyword makes sense based on my previous experience).

    Now..here is the problem:

    For Google...it cannot be that a brand new page or site reaches page #1 position for such a ultra competitive keyword which gets millions of monthly searches.

    Basically, what i did i somehow "exposed" a weakness in Google hitting it right with my on-site SEO gaining this ranking (for a very short time).

    Now..we all know how Google got criticized in the past in regards to its search results and the quality of the sites which sometimes appear very high in the SERPs.

    (Remember why Panda went into place to begin with!? There was a HUGE media circus going on with lots of criticism towards Google, this is why they implemented Panda).

    Now, for Google a single "SEO Nerd" or random webmaster with some SEO knowledge simply CAN not have the ability to rank for such a keyword very high right away...otherwise the SERPs would bounce like crazy all day with newcomer SEOs and webmasters ranking for all kinds of "ultra keywords"...in a sense "tricking" Google by using perfect on-site SEO.

    The SERPs would be full with new sites covering all niches, from insurance, weight loss, to whatever...with rather low quality sites which do INDEED satisfy the algorithmic requirements of Google - but lacking quality and substance.

    So..the alarm clocks are going off depending on their triggers....and triggering either of two things:

    1) An immediate automatic correction of such a SERP result
    or
    2) Triggering a manual, human evaluation.

    (I actual think it's automated).

    This happens SIMPLY because Google needs to maintain high search quality and cannot allow any random, daily new site obtain top position for such keywords.

    In a sense, this is interesting and "frightening" since it shows very clear a weakness in the CURRENT Google algorithm...how it can be fooled by on-site SEO and some other factors..but ultimately produces an undesired result (for Google!) and likely also for the users who search on Google. (I need to admit this EVEN if i of course wished that *my* site would have kept that position ...)

    This automatic trigger of a downranking or human evaluation is just proof that Google still has ways to go and how the algorithm is not perfect in terms of producing results and evaluating "the right" SERP position.

    In other words: Google's algorithm is not smart enough to know YET whether a site "deserves" such a ranking.... and...this issue wont come into effect when we talk about keywords which only have a few thousand searches/month...but it CERTAINLY does once we hit such "super keywords" and "manage" it to beat Google by applying SEO...
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
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    A keyword which lets even "lose weight" look pale in comparison.
    So your trying to rank a keyword that has a lot more competition than "lose weight", with zero external links, just 100% on-page seo?

    I'm all for optimizing on-page seo to the max & it will get you good results, still you need off-page seo to back up that tough competition keyword.

    Also, is it a wordpress blog & how do you know the 1 traffic was referred by Google text search? Is it possible it came from Google blog search?
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    • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
      Originally Posted by yukon View Post

      So your trying to rank a keyword that has a lot more competition than "lose weight", with zero external links, just 100% on-page seo?

      I'm all for optimizing on-page seo to the max & it will get you good results, still you need off-page seo to back up that tough competition keyword.

      Also, is it a wordpress blog & how do you know the 1 traffic was referred by Google text search? Is it possible it came from Google blog search?
      "Lose Weight" i already did to #1 in Google, took me MANY months. By the way..it's a #### keyword. You can show off your SEO knowledge with it, but in terms of conversions it's bad. It' PROBABLY the most overrated keyword which exists.

      The "super keyword" has almost 1.5 Million searches (exact/month) while "lose weight" has 33.000.

      In statcounter, i saw the URL and it showed a Google search URL, showing me i was on position #9 when the hit occurred. I have never seen a flaw in statcounter reporting.

      So your trying to rank a keyword that has a lot more competition than "lose weight", with zero external links, just 100% on-page seo?
      I am not caring about "competition" anymore, it's a meaningless number. Unless page 1 and 2 is dominated by super-authorities ("insurance" etc..) i go for it. You can forget "competition"...once you ranked "lose weight" and "lose weight fast" more or less effortlessly you will understand.

      Yes, on THIS site i "often" hit page #2 or low page #1 for certain keywords (not super keywords of course) just by posting and a tweet and facebook entry. Off-site SEO comes for the hard keywords and then pushing keywords up...i do of course not saying you dont need off-site SEO.

      But..example...product names or similar and not extremely popular keywords rank without doing a lot really.
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  • Profile picture of the author Fraggler
    Originally Posted by GeorgR. View Post

    Can it be that i was in fact at #9 for a short moment and that a human evaluator has "downranked" my site?
    They'd have to be a bloody quick reviewer to let your site only get 1 visitor when the keyword gets searched 50,000/day or 34/minute (your numbers, not mine).

    You're basing a lot of assumptions on a sample data of 1.
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    • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
      Originally Posted by Fraggler View Post

      They'd have to be a bloody quick reviewer to let your site only get 1 visitor when the keyword gets searched 50,000/day or 34/minute (your numbers, not mine).

      You're basing a lot of assumptions on a sample data of 1.
      You are of course right, but i would have to imply an error in statcounter reporting which i have not yet encountered, YET.

      If i get a hit reported by statcounter and it shows me the ranking position, i usually can verify this. I dont know why it should be different that one time.

      The question here (and i am aware i am speculating!!) is how fast those triggers get into effect..and what exactly happens.

      It could be a bot or similar going to the site the second the page gets into the index and doing a quick evaluation on whatever factors. This *could* happen before the data propagates throughout Google datacenters - before actual humans see the search results. You know it takes time until a ranking appears on all the datacenters. This is VERY likely IMO that it might work like that.
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      • Profile picture of the author rob1123
        Sorry to somewhat derail this disscusion but would you mind sharing the name of the plugin which told you the incoming search term? I've heard that SEO SearchTerms Tagging 2 can be buggy some times.
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        derp.

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      • Profile picture of the author Fraggler
        Originally Posted by GeorgR. View Post

        If i get a hit reported by statcounter and it shows me the ranking position, i usually can verify this. I dont know why it should be different that one time.
        I'm sure you did get the hit from Google but I think you are putting too much faith into a once off event. Have you tried visiting your site through the blogs, news, or discussions search to see if statspress is recording those as normal hits? Yukon might be onto something there.

        There might be a timelapse before a new result is correctly positioned but that surely is automated. It has to be.

        What does the competition of the front page look like? If it is tough then I doubt a fresh result would land (and stick) on there without better backlinks. On-page SEO isn't that strong. I bet they are established sites as well.

        What I'm getting at is that your page wouldn't need a manual knockdown as it wouldn't stay up there in the first place.

        The highly searched term might have uncovered how fast Caffeine really is (but with some delay in completing the process) but you would need a bucket load more data to verify (or even assume) either way.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mantasmo
      Originally Posted by Fraggler View Post

      You're basing a lot of assumptions on a sample data of 1.
      But, but... but #9.

      GeorgR., your threads are always a good laugh. I read through maybe 5-6 of your old threads and each and every one is equally awesome. Thank you!

      And I don't mean any of this in a bad way - it's great that you are asking questions and trying to learn stuff. That's the only way forward.
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  • Profile picture of the author bboretsky
    I am not sure what happened with your site, but I am sure that Google plays with Adwords. Whenever I start a campaign I can always get most of my keywords for about one third of what they start costing in a couple of days. Then they just keep raising the bar until my 40 cent keywords cost 1.20. What a racket. You start off thinking you have a hit on your hands only to find out several days later the margins are gone and then some. It has happened to me the last three campaigns I have run so that I either have to give up or raise the price of what I am selling and then the conversion rates go haywire.
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    • Profile picture of the author dburk
      Originally Posted by bboretsky View Post

      I am not sure what happened with your site, but I am sure that Google plays with Adwords. Whenever I start a campaign I can always get most of my keywords for about one third of what they start costing in a couple of days. Then they just keep raising the bar until my 40 cent keywords cost 1.20. What a racket. You start off thinking you have a hit on your hands only to find out several days later the margins are gone and then some. It has happened to me the last three campaigns I have run so that I either have to give up or raise the price of what I am selling and then the conversion rates go haywire.
      Hi bboretsky,

      It sounds like your Quality score is effecting your CPC. QS is based primarily on CTR. So if your CTR is low, as compared to your competitors, then your QS will drop, which drives up the average CPC. If you write better ads it go the other direction.
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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    statcounter plugin
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  • Profile picture of the author seoed
    another topic but worth mentioning:

    you say that you reached #9 for this mega keyword with 1,5 mil. searches.

    well, being #9 even for only some minutes should have brought you much
    more than just one visitor.

    what I want to say is that Google's adwords tool (still) shows wrong numbers.

    I know that very well because I too have seoed a site which adwords tool shows
    1,5 mil searches per month. I am currently #4. guess how many people come
    to my site:

    Around 25/day!!!
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    • Profile picture of the author Monkey Jones
      Originally Posted by seoed View Post

      another topic but worth mentioning:

      you say that you reached #9 for this mega keyword with 1,5 mil. searches.

      well, being #9 even for only some minutes should have brought you much
      more than just one visitor.

      what I want to say is that Google's adwords tool (still) shows wrong numbers.

      I know that very well because I too have seoed a site which adwords tool shows
      1,5 mil searches per month. I am currently #4. guess how many people come
      to my site:

      Around 25/day!!!
      I can confirm this is true, especially for highly competitive terms. I don't know if G intentionally gives false data, or if the search volumes are highly inflated due to automated inquiries by IMers (snowball effect). But I too have ranked sites up to #1 and held that position for months only to find out the "local" search traffic wasn't even close (received 4 - 5% of the keyword tools [Exact] local search volume).
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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    seoed,

    can't comment on that without knowing the exact numbers and double checking.

    Did you do "exact" match evaluation and only used one country (not global?). If yes, then you should def. get more than 25 even "only" on position #4. By the way finding the "real" Google position for a specific country CAN be tricky.

    If you target "global" it gets ultimately more complicated of course because you will need to be on this Google position in ALL datacenters/countries around the globe. And this is hardly ever consistent.
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  • Profile picture of the author seoed
    yes, I used "exact" match when I checked the search volume.

    and there is no chance to look at global because the keyword is a foreign one.

    I can only confirm this: Google's keyword tool is still lying for some countries!
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  • Profile picture of the author nicnac03
    You might've been part of a limited amount of traffic being diverted from the actual search engines into what google calls a "sand box" where they test out new algorithm changes. Those new changes might've brought your site to the front page briefly and a user clicked on your site.

    Google diverts a small amount of traffic to their "sandbox" to test out algorithms which is why you sometimes on rare occasions get vastly different search results if you perform the same keyword search back to back.
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    • Profile picture of the author IM Ash
      Originally Posted by nicnac03 View Post

      You might've been part of a limited amount of traffic being diverted from the actual search engines into what google calls a "sand box" where they test out new algorithm changes. Those new changes might've brought your site to the front page briefly and a user clicked on your site.

      Google diverts a small amount of traffic to their "sandbox" to test out algorithms which is why you sometimes on rare occasions get vastly different search results if you perform the same keyword search back to back.
      Reference Link Please!

      Edit: okay I found something about an "internal sandbox" that is used for testing here:

      http://searchengineland.com/13000-pr...-changes-93740

      ...but that has nothing to do with this, or maybe does, it's all conjecture!
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  • Profile picture of the author JudeS
    This phenomena is too consistent and widespread to be humanly automated. Have noticed this in several sites myself. It appears to be more statistical and simulational in nature.
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  • Profile picture of the author thebitbotdotcom
    I don't think its human reviewers. I have several article directories and according to my recent keyword activities page, pages jump in and out of number 1,2 and 3 spots constantly.

    Search results are much more volatile these days, I think. This makes SEO much, much harder.

    My guess is that Google is counting on the volatility to negate SEO for the most part...at least simple SEO.
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  • Profile picture of the author learnrope
    could it have just been a Google robot ?
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  • Profile picture of the author neil_patmore
    I have suspicions that there is a lot of preferencing and manual ranking "manipulation" going on since i cannot explain the #9 position of the keyword earlier..then disappearance...and the fact that the other page just wont get indexed. it doesn't make any sense!
    I've seen some similar symptoms George. I suppose It's logical really, where there's human intervention involved (raters, manual reviews etc) there's the possibility of corruption / biased influence.

    Actually, I bet there's sub/micro groups of raters who are making a nice tidy living out of playing Google. If Pakistan Cricketers and Premiership Goal Keepers can make a nice profit from their respective arenas, I'm pretty damn sure a few single Mums and retired teachers can do the same with big G.
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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    possibility of corruption / biased influence.
    By the way, i did not imply "corruption or biased influence" on Google's side (i simply don't know about that ) - but rather that they could have other/additional measures in place to compensate for weaknesses and/or known problems in their current ranking algorithms.

    Because it's unlikely to assume that Google is "perfect"..and there is certainly a reason WHY they have those "quality raters".

    We all know the rumors of manual site reviews which are said to take place in certain circumstances. And assuming the KWT numbers were right (which i don't know also)...then we can also speculate that a 1Mil+ keyword will have a very high priority...
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  • Profile picture of the author mosthost
    Google has a lot more money and employees than they used to have. They could easily have teams check 'important' keywords all the time.
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    • Profile picture of the author freddylan
      Hey George

      Very interesting thread
      i confirm as well that the accuracy of google tool is not really good !
      i ve one keywoord with over 100 000 exact local search in position 4 or 5 and i ve only around 150 unique visitor a day !

      when you say " I am indeed pretty good when it comes to on-site SEO and the page was indeed perfectly optimized for this "super keyword". Can you share a little bit of your knowledge ?

      thanks in advance
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  • Profile picture of the author stephenwaldo
    Hey George, I thought I'd chime in here. I have a guess/possible explanation about what happened. I think it can be explained by the complexity of Google's algorithm.

    SERPs aren't nearly as consistent as they used to be, and rankings can vary widely person to person depending on what Google interprets their interests to be, their location, their previous searches, and many other factors that many people don't think about. Furthermore, as someone had already hit on earlier in the thread, sometimes Google will rank a page only temporarily to test it's click through rate or something like that.

    I have a site in the relationships niche and the content strategy I've been using on it is very focused around long tail kws, and yet I will still occasionally see something similar to what you described...A page gets a random hit or two or three from a really competitive kw, but it's not consistent, it's just that for some reason on that particular search Google felt my page was among the most relevant for that user.

    Google's algorithm is extremely complex, and the days of static rankings are quickly fading away to more personal search results. I think if there had been some sort of manual interaction with your site you would be able to see it more clearly then that.

    Of course, this is just my 2 cents...You're free to take it or leave it.

    Kindly,
    - Stephen
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  • Profile picture of the author marksmith21
    I personally believe that there is human manipulation going on at Google. Although they probably just focus on major keywords with this.
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