Author Topic: Google's Fruit Loops Algo  (Read 777 times)

martinibuster

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Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« on: February 02, 2018, 08:42:44 PM »
I've had these observations about Google's algo for the past three years, maybe longer. I've been meaning to put these observations into an article all this time and finally got around to doing it.

Quote
"This is why I use the phrase Fruit Loops Algo to refer to Google’s user intent focused algorithm. It’s not meant as a slur. It’s meant to illustrate the reality of how Google’s search engine works.

Many people want Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch breakfast cereals. The supermarkets respond by giving consumers what they want. Search algorithms operate in a similar manner. That’s not keyword relevance to search terms you’re looking at. It’s relevance to what the most users are expecting to see.

Understand the Search Results
The ten links are not ordered by which page has the best on-page SEO or the most links. Those ten links are ordered by user intent.

Write for User Intent
Understand what users want to accomplish and make that the focus of the content. Too often publishers write content focused on keywords, what some refer to as “semantically rich” content. In 2015 I published an article about User Experience Marketing in which I proposed that focusing on user intent will put you in line with how Google ranks websites.

Drastic

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2018, 10:30:48 PM »
I like it. I've been explaining this to clients lately in tech terms for why we pick the keys we do. They get it, but it's lengthy... I think I'll try the cereal/grocery store analogy and see if I can get there quicker.

I'll call it "Fruit Loop Results" to help them remember the concept.

littleman

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2018, 10:48:56 PM »
>That’s not keyword relevance to search terms you’re looking at. It’s relevance to what the most users are expecting to see.

That's an interesting observation...  Seems to me that “semantically rich” content needs to be yet another layer in the SEO checklist, adding to keyword complexity.  Man, I miss the days when mad-lib style kw density was enough.

Mackin USA

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2018, 11:38:08 AM »
I'm old enough to remember HIDDEN TEXT being the key  8)
Mr. Mackin

buckworks

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2018, 03:43:08 PM »
The cereal aisle analogy breaks down for me because Froot Loops itself works very hard to MAKE people want Froot Loops.

So people want Froot Loops because that's what they see, and you end up with a feedback loop based on artificially created and manipulated expectations, which won't always surface the best option available.

What's a good balance between savvy curating and merely catering to the filter bubble of the lowest common denominator?

ergophobe

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2018, 04:04:05 PM »
I think that's precisely the point of the Fruit Loops analogy - you have to work to make users want what you offer so that the user signals improve.

So old school: optimize titles for Google
New school: optimize titles for users

Old school: optimize navigation for Google
New school: optimize navigation for users

Old school: offer cereal that the grocery buyer thinks his customers will like
New school: offer cereal that the grocery buyer sees his customers like based on purchasing metrics

I've always said that a certain set of people (the ones MB addresses himself to) fail to see that the ranking "tricks" they focus on, from hidden text to stuffed h1s to keyword density calcs to low-quality backlinks are proxies. They can only work for a while and the better they work today, the harder Google will try to correct for the gamification effect. Google does not and never has cared about those, per sen, but had to find some proxy of user intent.

As the tools to independently understand quality and intent improve, all the other stuff must, necessarily decrease in importance.

The ultimate goal of Google is to create an engine that keeps people using it, which means it *must* serve the results they want, not the "best" answer to the question. Otherwise, ooop! No ad sales and no Google
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 04:07:03 PM by ergophobe »

martinibuster

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2018, 07:00:54 AM »
>>>So people want Froot Loops because that's what they see...

They see it because that's what most people buy. Shelf space is measured by sales per inch. If sales per inch drops by a certain level then that product is replaced by another product that has a higher sales per inch ratio.

At the mainstream supermarket you see Cocoa Puffs. At Whole Foods they offer Annie's Homegrown Organic Cocoa Bunnies Cereal...

The point isn't the sugar bomb cereal itself. It's that the supermarket sells what people buy most.

Google's algorithm is tuned to satisfying the most users. That's what the CTR studies are all about, determining what kind of SERPs satisfies users the most. For mobile, because people click less, they use Viewport Time metrics, measuring how long a browser viewport lingers on a section of the page. It's done to measure user satisfaction. User Satisfaction drives what Google shows. Hence, it's what satisfies the most people, Organic Cocoa Bunnies for some searches and Cocoa Puffs for others.

I've conducted surveys across different niches and the answer is consistent: Google tends to let down users who are looking for expert answers. People tell me they migrate to forums and Facebook Groups when they want to find an expert answer.







martinibuster

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2018, 07:03:09 AM »
>>>...make users want what you offer so that the user signals improve.

Shhhh....

Adam C

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2018, 09:15:30 AM »
Strikes me that Google are interpreting individual queries in multiple ways and deliberately serving results to match a multitude of these interpretations rather than the 10 closest keyword matches.

ergophobe

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2018, 02:48:48 PM »
>>Google tends to let down users who are looking for expert answers.

Yes and no. If you actually are an expert, you can probably craft your search to get expert answers and you start to leave signs, which Google will eventually notice, that yo are an expert and don't want superficial answers. The problem is when you are searching outside your area of expertise (in my very subjective and non-scientific experience). In any new area, you as the searcher go through a set of iterations as you hunt for the right level with your questions. It's like dropping depth charges on submarines.

That said, I do think that if you linger on a set of "expert" pages and then come back for another round of searching, you get more expert answers (again, super subjective and not something I've tried to research)

>>deliberately serving results to match a multitude of these interpretations rather than the 10 closest keyword matches.

Again, this is really, really subjective, but I think search results are getting more and more personalized and less and less keyword dependent. Of course, we all know that because it's been happening for years. But there are some things I've noticed lately that seem more prevalent in the last year or so

1. Synonym highlighting in SERPS. Now I see terms that many humans would not recognize as synonyms treated to the bold highlight and I feel like that breath of those terms has expanded a lot lately (post Rankbrain?). Most of us here remember when it felt like a big change when it was no longer worth optimizing for plural vs singular. Yesterday I searched on "plans historiques de Geneve" and "cartes historiques de Geneve" and the search results were identical and the bolded search terms were identical. I saw a more extreme example a couple of days ago to the point that I called Theresa over to look... but I forget the search terms.

Conclusion: "keywords" as we knew them 10 years ago are dead.

2. Autocomplete is getting better and pushing people to certain searches, but not in the way it once did. Now autocomplete has full spell correction on the fly and is personalized based on your searching habits. Again, I feel like this has changed a lot lately. Yesterday, I read an article on sound isolating versus noise cancelling headphones while trying to find some bluetooth headphones for my dad. My next search, I typed in "best sojund i" (sojund with a J). As soon as I typed the "i" Google suggested "best sound isolating headphones" as a search query.

In other words, the only word in that search that old "keyword" Google would have recognized is "best." But based on my recent search behavior, new, smarter Google knew my intent as a searcher.

Conclusion: "keywords" as we knew them 10 years ago are dead.

Honestly, I don't watch this sort of thing like you guys, so that's all probably painfully obvious. But I suppose that's the point. Even I see this just in daily use, without really studying the SERPs.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2018, 02:52:35 PM by ergophobe »

martinibuster

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2018, 02:26:53 AM »
>>>Google tends to let down users who are looking for expert answers.

You're right Tom that Google learns to add more expert level queries to their Suggest drop down tool when formulating a query. So if I query, Lasagna Recipe, Google Suggest will show, "authentic italian lasagna recipe from italy" which of course shows me what I'm looking for.

===================
I have polled people in fishing forums and other topic forums about their experiences finding expert info on Google and to a person they tell me the reason they come to a forum is because Google doesn't surface expert level content. They find it on forums.

Living in San Francisco, in close proximity to wine country and cutting edge restaurants as well as outstanding ethnic restaurants, I learned to have a deep idea of how food should be cooked.
===================
Back to Lasagna

So when I'm looking for a specific kind of recipe, I am dismayed by how Google shows AllRecipes so often. I said this to someone (who's McDonald's burger type of person) and they responded that they love AllRecipes. Well... yeah. Of course you do.  ;) 

AllRecipes is perfect for that person who cooks at a newbie level. So if you Google a recipe for Lasagna, you'll get AllRecipes at or near the top, whose so-called "World's Best Lasagna" recipe calls for "Italian Seasoning," tomato paste, and canned tomatoes. Reading that recipe I kept expecting them to suggest adding Cambell's Cream of Mushroom sauce as a replacement for bechamel. 

But that's what makes most people happy.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2018, 04:28:48 PM by martinibuster »

DrCool

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2018, 02:03:11 PM »
>>Google tends to let down users who are looking for expert answers

I never really thought that much about it but now that I look back a bit it seems like when I want a fact or something (usually when my kid asks me a crazy question like "how fast is a blink" or "how much does the moon weight") I just google it and I am happy with the results. But if I am looking for more of an opinion (recipes definitely fall into this category) I go directly to a trusted source or forum or FB group or something along those lines.

grnidone

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2018, 02:55:55 PM »
>AllRecipes is perfect for that person who cooks at a newbie level.

I'm astounded by people who don't know how to cook at all.  And, how many people say they're intimidated by cooking.

martinibuster

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Re: Google's Fruit Loops Algo
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2018, 05:47:13 PM »
Maybe a little reluctance to learning?

I consider myself a pretty good cook and have produced some intricate and complicated dishes. But I am intimidated by baking, something my wife and my 13 year old daughter a very good at.  So I'm content to let them handle that part.

I don't like sweets anyway so I'm certain the major part of it for me is a reluctance to learn.