Should Google Be Upfront About Search Quality Bugs?

Nov 10, 2008 • 7:55 am | comments (2) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

A Google Groups thread asks a wonderful question. Why is it that when there is an issue with Google, often Google won't write about it at one of the Google blogs or at the forums, but rather, respond to the issue at this blog, or a specific forum or another blog? Autocrat explains:

There are times when there are "problems". Things like the recent upset in teh SERPs - which was apparently caused by something like a bad batch of data or incorrectly added data... Things like Google not wanting to index files ending in 0 That - is treated differently to _ etc. etc. etc.

These problems are not dealt with Here, nor in the Blog.

Instead, it seems that places like Moz, RoundTable, SEWatch etc... get a visit and a chat/post/call about it. It's then down to those that "know" they have to look for issues to go around all those sites/communities and find that there is a problem.

Why?

For example, last weekend, we reported that the Google Search engine blew up due to a temporary quality lapse. Matt Cutts of Google replied directly in the thread, saying, "I think this was a short-term issue and things should be back to normal pretty soon (if not already)." But we did not see a follow up post at one of the Google blogs, specifically the Google Webmaster Central blog, nor did we see a correlated announcement thread at the Google webmaster help group.

Why not?

Googler, JohnMu, responded to the question. He said it is a valid point, but he looks at it as, why make webmasters worry if they don't know about the issue. John explained that he has "seen how many of these things are completely blown out of proportion by people who are not really affected." John is worried that these types of announcements "would confuse them (webmasters) and leave them wondering if they need to change anything."

Clearly Google cannot document every search algorithmic change they make, publicly. Why? Well, the main reason is trade secrets. But Autocrat has a point that maybe public bugs or concerns can be documented in a 'version history' like document, and placed in the Google Groups area for tracking. Things come up fairly frequently, that is either covered here (we uncover a ton of issues) or in other blogs or forums and it would be nice to keep track of what is still an issue, what is being worked on, who it is affecting, and when it will likely be resolved.

Search quality is not just about webmasters wondering when to make a change to improve their rankings that may have been impacted by a Google bug. It is also about searchers possibly knowing what to expect in the search results today or tomorrow.

Again, this is transparency beyond transparency and I can see why, for competitive reasons, Google would not want to do this. But let's consider it.

Forum discussion at Google Groups.

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Comments:

Mark Anderson

11/10/2008 02:38 pm

I've made the point before on my blog (http://blog.mmcsoftware.com/2008/11/04/googles-ivory-tower-the-problem-with-being-in-power/) that it's odd Google should tell us _anything_ about their internal workings. Why should they?

Matt Cutts

11/11/2008 05:26 pm

I think John Mueller makes a good point. The vast majority of people don't even notice when one data center has some suboptimal data for a day, so why stress people out about it? I think if we had one centralized place that highlighted every Google issue, that would probably generate more overall coverage of issues that typically affect only a tiny number of people. Personally, I'd rather go directly to the place on the web where a problem is reported and engage in a dialog there, because we'd want to engage in that dialog anyway in case people happened to land on that particular page.

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