Google: We Do Not Delete Queries & Replace Them With Better Monetized Ones

Oct 5, 2023 - 7:31 am 9 by
Filed Under Google

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Wired had a piece named How Google Alters Search Queries to Get at Your Wallet. That piece wrote, "Google just flat out deletes queries and replaces them with ones that monetize better." Danny Sullivan, the Google Search Liaison, responded to that on X, saying, "we don't."

Let me quote the allegations from the article, since you may not be able to read the full article due to a paywall:

Google likely alters queries billions of times a day in trillions of different variations. Here’s how it works. Say you search for “children’s clothing.” Google converts it, without your knowledge, to a search for “NIKOLAI-brand kidswear,” making a behind-the-scenes substitution of your actual query with a different query that just happens to generate more money for the company, and will generate results you weren’t searching for at all. It’s not possible for you to opt out of the substitution. If you don’t get the results you want, and you try to refine your query, you are wasting your time. This is a twisted shopping mall you can’t escape.

It’s unclear how often, or for how long, Google has been doing this, but the machination is clever and ambitious. I have spent decades looking for examples of Google putting its enormous thumb on the scale to censor or amplify certain results, and it hadn’t even occurred to me that Google just flat out deletes queries and replaces them with ones that monetize better. Most scams follow an elementary bait-and-switch technique, where the scoundrel lures you in with attractive bait and then, at the right time, switches to a different option. But Google “innovated” by reversing the scam, first switching your query, then letting you believe you were getting the best search engine results. This is a magic trick that Google could only pull off after monopolizing the search engine market, giving consumers the false impression that it is incomparably great, only because you’ve grown so accustomed to it.

Here is how Danny Sullivan from Google responded on X:

An opinion piece recently appeared stating that Google “just flat out deletes queries and replaces them with ones that monetize better.” We don’t. The piece contains serious inaccuracies about how Google Search works. The organic (IE: non-sponsored) results you see in Search are not affected by our ads systems.

In particular, the piece seems to misunderstand how keyword matching is related to showing relevant ads on Google Search.

Ad keyword matching is a long-standing and well-known process that is designed to connect people to relevant ads. Learn more here.

A separate process, which has nothing to do with ads, is used to match organic results to a query, as explained here.

It’s no secret that Google Search looks beyond the specific words in a query to better understand their meaning, in order to show relevant organic results. This is a helpful process that we’ve written about many times:

This ensures that Google Search can better show people organic results and connect them to helpful resources. If you make a spelling mistake, or search for a term that’s not on a page but where the page has a close synonym, or if you aren’t even sure exactly how to search for something, our meaning matching systems help.

Then Google's Ads Liaison, Ginny Marvin, quoted Danny's post and added:

In Google Ads, advertisers use keyword match types to broaden or narrow the searches their ads may be eligible to show on. Our ads systems do not affect organic results in Search.

Here are those posts:

Here are some responses to those Google responses on X:

Those are just some of the responses, I recommend clicking through to those posts to see other comments, many are entertaining.

Forum discussion at X.

Update: This is interesting:

Update 2: A while later, Moz did a study on this claim.


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