A Proprietary Web Graph: Is Google Paying You to Edit Their Search Results?

Feb 27th

Google works so well because they are scalable, but they are not adverse to paying people to review content quality, because they love human computation, just see their Google Image Labeler game. What if Google came up with ways to determine which users were real and trustworthy, and could give those users incentive to edit the search results for Google? And what if Google could give a similar incentive to advertisers and legitimate publishers?

What if just by reading this you are helping Google trust this site more?

Attention Data:

Google already is the market leader in tracking attention data on the active portions of the web. What if Google integrated attention data into their algorithm and to offset that decide to lower the quantity of links they would count in any time period or the weight they would put on them? What would that do to the value of link baiting? How can Google move away from links?

WebmasterWorld and Threadwatch both recently had great posts about a recent Google patent application about removing documents based on the actions of trusted users.

Google's Own Web Graph:

Google is setting up an alternate proprietary web graph outside of linkage data. Sure any single point of attention data may be gamed, but they are likely far more reliable when you triangulate them. And if a few data points fall outside of expected ranges for the associated site profile pay to have the data reviewed. Based on that review demote spam or further refine the relevancy algorithms.

A Complete Feedback Cycle:

Google is the perfect shopping mall. Google...

  • verifies the legitimacy of user accounts by looking at their history, comparing them to other users, and challenging them with captchas.

  • tracks click-through rates and user activity, associated with user accounts and IP addresses.
  • hosts a bunch of web content, which is syndicated on many channels, and can further be used to understand the topical interests of the account holders and reach of publishers.
  • asks for searcher feedback on advertisements
  • allows people to note URLs using Google notebooks
  • tracks feedback after conversions
  • puts themselves in the middle of transactions with Google Checkout

Why wouldn't they be open to using those and other forms of feedback to help shape relevancy?

Opening up AdWords to display content partner URLs is probably a pretty good example of them adding an advertiser feature for improvement of organic relevancy scores. If advertisers think a site is garbage and Google knows that most of that site's traffic only comes from search engines it would pretty easy to demote that site. AdSense publishers also have created blacklists.

Popularity vs Personal Relevance:

Google can triangulate all these data points to see beyond just how much hype any idea creates. They can understand user satisfaction and brand loyalty, which are far more important than just how much short term hype an idea can generate.

If 100 searchers with somewhat similar profiles to mine are loyal to brands x, y, and z then I am going to see them more often, even if those sites are not well integrated into the web as a whole.

Digital Identities:

Bill Slawski recently posted about Google's Agent Rank patent, and there is a push to create a distributed login system called OpenID. Google may not need a single login to track everyone. All they have to do is get a large representative sample of legitimate web users to get a pretty good idea of what is important.

As Bob Massa said, search engines follow people.

Personalization is not going to be what makes SEO harder. It is going to be linguistic profiling, attention profiling, community interaction, and layered user feedback that make it harder to promote garbage and easier to promote quality sites. I still see spammy link building working today, but I don't see it staying that way 2 years out.

Published: February 27, 2007

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Comments

February 27, 2007 - 12:38pm

Yahoo and Google are both quickly amassing a smorgasbord of diverse social data points. The problem I see is that as they incorporate these data points more robustly into their rankings it has the potential to corrupt online social interactions in the same way that Google has corrupted the link pattern of the network by their reliance of links for ranking.

How long before a “nofollow” type kludge will be necessary once social interactions begin being bought and sold in mass quantities?

People’s behavior can be bought, and behavior that has been purchased is difficult to discern from natural behavior. Buying and selling online social behaviors is just in its infancy. As it becomes more important to the marketplace, it will grow into a full-fledged industry of its own.

February 27, 2007 - 5:43pm

I have had this idea for a while. I believe Google is already beginning to implement this. Why wouldn't they? User experience is more important than backlinks. However I don't believe backlinks are being done away with as some claim. I believe backlinks will still play a role, but another factoring, one that may not be so easy to manipulate is going to also become very weighty. If Google develops it correctly and implements this correctly it will become even a richer user experience IMHO. It won't be so good for BH guys though :P hehehe

It will be interesting to see this develop. And when it does I will be able to say "I TOLD YOU SO!!!" :P

One thing though MBLAIR: Yahoo! is no where close to this. Yahoo! doesn't yet understand the difference between spam and quality. It will have to sort that out before even working on a technique such as this. Yahoo! is behind and I would venture to say MSN has a better chance at it then Yahoo! I have seen positive changes in MSN. I have yet to see one in Yahoo.

February 27, 2007 - 6:31pm

Incorporate rss feeds, google reader, into the mix too for usability measurement.

February 28, 2007 - 3:42am

Randy: I agree with you completely that Yahoo is far behind Google when it comes to traditional algorithmic search engine ranking methodology – I didn’t intend to imply otherwise and am sorry for the confusion if I did.

I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Yahoo so completely. To understand Yahoo, you have look at the big picture. Their roots are far different from that of Google. While Google’s user base comes directly from their mastery of the algorithm, Yahoo’s user base comes from more social initiatives. In fact, Yahoo began as a directory, within which not much attention was paid to the search algorithm at all.

In fact, Yahoo used to contract Google to provide their algorithmic search results. Algorithmic-based search results are one way of providing users with information but not the only one. Yahoo Answers is already being incorporated into numerous serps – this leverages Yahoo’s strength in social assets to enhance their overall search experience.

I think Yahoo is playing a different game than Google – and it is too early to tell how their end game will play out in the long run. What I do know is that they have, throughout their history, continued to develop and acquire properties that are more in the social sphere. Whereas Google focuses primarily on amassing information or providing what would be the equivalent of “online utilities”, Yahoo has focused more on social network infrastructures. Flickr and MyBlogLog are a couple examples of this.

February 28, 2007 - 5:26pm

I don't know what google does with usage stats from its toolbar, but they should have a pretty good idea from that which sites people visit and for how long. Admittedly that's a subset, but an increasingly large one. Having a use for that data helps explain why google incents affiliates to encourage firefox downloads (other than to break ms dominance, which would be petty if that were all it's about).

March 1, 2007 - 11:55pm

Fantastic post until you get to the part of quoting that search engines follow people. IMO - The search engines that followed people pretty much died and got bought up. The search engines that found out what people wanted then used the peoples' wants to innovate to the next level (read as "applied leadership" and not being reactive, but rather causative), are what are left.

I'm a neophyte in the post-2003 SEO/SEM/Internet Marketing Game, but your SEO Book - Very Well Done, Mr. Wall! Thanks for catching me up so succinctly. (Sorry if this isn't the right place to put this...)

From my neophyte eyes, I see Google buying attention (agreeing with you), but the purpose seems to be a lot bigger to me. It's more of a coming "psychographic semantic tailor made for you" serps. Maybe I'm kookie, but with the discussion about the login above for Google... Whew. Kind of wild. Kind of powerful in a corporate marketing database-y kind of way. (Not big brother-y). Thanks again, Aaron, for your sharing of your SEO Book and this blog.

Russell Burnham :)

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