Tuesday 28 June 2022

Google under fire for search

Google came in for criticism in the Sunday Times this week - rightly or wrongly - that it is returning irrelevant sites for given searches as well as too many ads. 

Our feeling is - having seen some of the examples given in the article - that some critics are expecting Google's algorithm to perform some impossible mind-reading. How's this search string - 'poop coming from shower drain bad what to do' - from The Atlantic contributor Charlie Warzel of Galaxy Brain. Not quite in the same league, English-wise, of past Atlantic contributors Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath? When we performed this search we got no ads and these organic results...

Not bad, considering. And we looked through the sites and blogs returned and, to be honest, we found the quality - in terms of helpfulness - to be pretty good.

Others are criticising Google for too many ads. Here's Diasuke Wakbayashi, who covers Google for the New York Times, searching for a hearing aids for his father: 'I was stunned by the number of ads'.  Here we go again...3 ads at the top, 3 at the foot of page one, bracketing the usual - and expected - 10 organic/natural searches, map search and dictionary definition. The same as for any other 'commercial' search.

There is an issue here, for businesses - and we're mildly surprised it wasn't addressed by the Sunday Times (although they did report Google's ad revenue fro 2020 at £147 billion) and that is 'how to appear in search without spending money on Google ads?'

And this is where HelpHound comes in. Our core role is to enable businesses to safely invite, moderate and display reviews on their own websites and then get as many of those reviews as possible copied across to Google by the reviewer. But what does that have to do with visibility in search? Our answer is twofold.

First - the simple part. Google displays reviews in search in two ways. The first we all know about - Google reviews...


The second all HelpHound clients know about: their own review scores appearing, along with their own reviews' star rating, in searches.

Including in the vital local search...

There is one key aspect of this where Google could be vulnerable to criticism: the fact that local (or generic) search results are ranked by SEO - in plain English: how well the business's website is designed and constructed, not on how good the business is at what it does. 

While we are astonished at just how many times we still encounter businesses that complain that 'we are the best in the area but so-and-so [competitor] always ranks higher in organic search' (and when we look at the business's website? It's not optimised for search) we are also mildly surprised that the business doesn't realise that Google gives it credit for hosting its own reviews. Here's a simple Google search...

The web is awash with articles on the subject...

...but your business can simplify Google's job no end - and increase your ranking in local search - by making sure your website is fully up-to-date and optimised and hosting and displaying reviews.

Just look at the example we've used above: Winkworth in Blackheath. They have accumulated nearly 250 reviews on their own site and have got nearly 150 of them across to Google. Guess where they appear in local search?

  • TOP - of the Google Maps search (what we used to call the 3-pack)
  • TOP - of Google's organic search - with 5 glowing gold stars
And do they need to pay for Google ads?

  • No they don't!
And finally - Google's share of the UK search market?

So: get Google right and you've got search cracked.

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