Google Responds To Specific Search Leak, Navboost, Clicks & User Interactions

Jun 10, 2024 - 8:01 am 242 by
Filed Under Google

Google Leeks Leak

The Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, gave a more specific comment to specific signals and elements mentioned in the search leak, well above and beyond what is mentioned in the original and very vague comment gave us a couple days after the Google search leak. Sullivan responded to questions on Navboost, clicks and user interactions as it related to the Helpful content update and the search leak.

Sullivan said on X, "The reality is we use a variety of different ranking signals including, but not solely, "aggregated and anonymized interaction data" as covered here."

Yes, that document does read:

Beyond looking at keywords, our systems also analyze if content is relevant to a query in other ways. We also use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries. We transform that data into signals that help our machine-learned systems better estimate relevance. Just think: when you search for “dogs”, you likely don’t want a page with the word “dogs” on it hundreds of times. With that in mind, algorithms assess if a page contains other relevant content beyond the keyword “dogs” — such as pictures of dogs, videos, or even a list of breeds.

Here is a screenshot - that is what the document said since 2019 or so (I am told but the Wayback machine only has it from August 2021):

Google Interaction Data

This is something Sullivan commented on back with the DOJ documents and when Navboost came out, that we covered here in November. Then Sullivan wrote, "It was along the lines of of course we use user interaction signals, and it says this on the How Search Works site, plus it says this in your 2019 article when you asked us."

Sullivan added, "Which leads to not the "do you use them" but "how do you use them" which I said we won't go into the specific because what would you do? And that like anything, it would then cause people to focus on specific things rather than the board goals." He said that "the longer part of what I talked about, and which I'll likely share more about, on how we at Google need to do a better job to ensure that when we explain about broad things people should consider, that we help them not get lost in the specifics."

Now back to the question posted this morning, Katie Caf Travel posted "If the HCU (Navboost, whatever you want to call it) is clicks/user reaction based - how could sites hit by the HCU ever hope to recover if we're no longer being served to Google readers? @sundarpichai "Users vote with their feet", Okay I've changed my whole site - let them vote!"

Sullivan replied, "If you think further about this type of belief, no one would ever rank in the first place if that were supposedly all that matters -- because how would a new site (including your site, which would have been new at one point) ever been seen? The reality is we use a variety of different ranking signals including, but not solely, "aggregated and anonymized interaction data" as covered here."

She then asked, "Can you please tell me if I'm doing right by focusing on my site and content - writing new articles to be found through search - or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It's frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in."

He went longer on the next reply:

As I've said before, I think everyone should focus on doing whatever they think is best for their readers. I know it can be confusing when people get lots of advice from different places, and then they also hear about all these things Google is supposedly doing, or not doing, and really they just want to focus on content. If you're lost, again, focus on that. That is your touchstone.

If you look at what @iPullRank wrote recently, after reviewing all the stuff that we're supposedly doing (or not doing) I though one of his concluding points was excellent advice.

"Make Great Content and Promote it Well – I’m joking, but I’m also serious. Google has continued to give that advice and we balk at it as not actionable. For some SEOs it’s just beyond their control. After reviewing these features that give Google its advantages, it is quite obvious that making better content and promoting it to audiences that it resonates with will yield the best impact on those measures. Measures of link and content features will certainly get you quite far, but if you really want to win in Google long term, you’re going to have to make things that continue to deserve to rank."

As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.

Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.

This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things). It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that's what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people. I

It also means you've built a site that's not dependent on any single source of traffic, which in my nearly 30 years of being involved in some way with online marketing, is a healthy good thing.

As to the inevitable "but I've done all these things when will I recover!" questions, I'd go back to what we've said before. It might be the next core update will help, as covered here.

It might also be that, as I said here, it's us in some of these cases, not the sites, and that part of us releasing future updates is doing a better job in some of these cases.

It's similar to what John has said, as well.

Here are those posts:

Forum discussion at X.


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