If you are involved in any shape or form with website design or SEO you cannot possibly have missed all the publicity surrounding Google’s latest innovation designed to impact search results. Core Web Vitals!
This new criterion is currently being released over the course of the coming months and follows revised changes to Google’s algorithm that happened in early June affecting a wide range of websites with many reporting their ranking dropping substantially for totally unexplained reasons. In all probability, other sites gained ranking, also for reasons unknown to anyone except Google.
So why am I asking if Google has “lost the plot”?
I am old enough to remember the days when Google was one of a number of companies seeking prominence in search. A competition that Google won convincingly then and has retained dominance in ever since. Why did Google succeed where others failed? Quite simply because when you searched in Google you received the answer you were looking for or were directed to a website that contained the information you sought. Generally on Page 1 of the results. I don’t believe that happens anymore, or at least not in my experience!
In other words, Google’s success was based on one criterion. The ability to produce the desired search result quickly and accurately with the searcher being satisfied at the outcome of his search.
All of which was before AI, before Google had accumulated a mountain of personal data, before the inclusion of “backlinks” as a ranking signal and I suspect before the use of the 200 plus indicators now used to determine ranking.
So where, in my opinion, is Google going wrong?
- Personalized Search Results.
Long gone are the days when if everyone input the same search term all would get the same results! Results are now personalized based on a number of criteria, once again only known in detail to Google. We do know they will depend on what data Google has on you, your past search results, and if it is a trending topic, what others have searched for.The results you now get are at least partially determined by Google’s AI. So you get what Google thinks you are really looking for rather than what you specifically requested. Again this is influenced by what data Google holds about you.I have to admit my poor search results may well have something to do with the fact that I opted out of as much of Google’s data gathering as I could a long while ago. I accepted their “dire” warning that I would probably be shown unrelated or irrelevant adverts as a result. I also rarely use the Chrome browser limiting what Google can discover about my web presence. I suspect the irrelevant ads threat may also apply to search results!
- Other Peoples Searches.I have little doubt that other searches for similar topics or related information affect the results Google chooses to serve up. I am pretty sure that the results I often see are weighted as a result of similar but not necessarily the same query I have made. It is not unusual to see the “did you mean” question appearing basically telling me I really don’t know what I am looking for.
- BacklinksThis is one of the most inappropriate ranking factors that can distort where a website appears in search. There is a whole industry created to influence this ranking factor and it is still in existence today. From link farms, to link sales to an army of copywriters whose sole existence is not to write decent copy but get backlinks either via a payment for publishing an article or persuading a site to publish one for free. One website I work for gets a constant stream of requests for “guest posts” in order to get a backlink and most offer a payment, saying Google will never know.
- Page SpeedThis has been one of Google’s pet ranking factors for a while. It started with Mobile First and is currently being extended with Core Web Vitals! Yes, we understand that more and more people are using mobile and it is important that websites appear well and reasonably quickly. BUT, and it is a big but, what is more important, speed or accuracy. I personally don’t care two hoots how fast a page loads, within reason, as long as it provides the information I am looking for. Suggesting that if a page does not load in less than 2.3 seconds, or whatever Google has set as its criteria, or people will click away I think is nonsense and I would really like to know where they got that data from.
Let’s be honest for a minute. Google gained its position originally by providing good search results FOR FREE. Yes, it still is a free service for searchers but search is all about profit for Google. The more difficult it can make it for the average website to achieve ranking organically the more likely that site will pay to achieve a position on page one using Adwords. That means Google earns more money, and that is what search now is all about now. Profit first quality last!
So back to my original question. Has Google lost the plot? As far as being a search engine that provides free accurate search results based on searcher’s inquiries, yes they have. They are far too busy tweaking results for devious means saying it is all about customer experience when really it is all about profit. Google really has no business making decisions on behalf of their “client” searchers, who are perfectly capable of avoiding sites that are really too slow, or are overloaded with annoying adverts, or do not provide the information they purport to offer.
I suggest Google spends far more time concentrating on providing the accurate search results it was able to achieve without all the data, AI, or ranking signals which now seem to distort rather than improve the outcome. After all, DuckDuckGo seems to be able to do so without using personal data to skew results so Google should be able to do the same!