Google Takes 67% Search Engine Market Share

Google Bing Yahoo logos

Slowly but surely, Google continues to close in on 70 percent market share, moving up 0.1 percent again this month to take a U.S. record 67 percent of all search traffic in November,comScore reported.

It wasn’t at Bing’s expense though, as they also grew their share 0.2 percent for a total of 16.2 percent. Yahoo dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 12.1 percent, while and also saw slight drops – to 3 percent (down from 3.2 percent) and 1.7 percent respectively (down from 1.8 percent).

Yahoo, despite relatively new leadership, has been slipping or holding steady for the past 16 months.

The November numbers mark new records for both Google and Bing and reflect explicit core search volume. This excludes contextually driven searches that do not reflect specific user intent to interact with search results.

November saw nearly 17 billion explicit core searches, with Google sites taking the greatest piece of the pie with 11.4 billion queries. Microsoft sites accounted for 2.7 billion searches.

Bing did see an increase of 0.4 percent in “Powered by” searches, taking 25.4 percent of queries in that category. Google dominated here as well, with 69.4 percent of searches on other engines carrying their organic results.



Is There A Deception In the Google Ad System?

As I was writing my previous article for SEJ, I conducted several experiments during which I stumbled across few troubling issues with Google’s methods. One such behavior is a serious issue in terms of customer awareness, which may be considered  border-line fraudulent. Make no mistake, my intention is not to become the Ralph Nader for Google customers, but something at this scale is worth my time and yours too.

Google Instant

Dollars, time, and cents

Before getting into the issue, let me remind you of some basic definitions:

Instant Result-Streaming:

Instant Result-Streaming is what Google does when you start typing a query (longer than a single word), and before you finish it, search results are streamed to the front page. This all happens very quickly before you click on the search button, or sometimes you don’t even have to click on the button. Google calls it “Google Instant”.


CTR (Click Through Ratio) is a measurement that indicates how many times your advertisement was shown versus how many times it was clicked by the user. For example, if your advertisement was shown (impression) 100 times, and it was clicked by the end user twice, the CTR for that ad would be 2%.

The Problem:

The problem is that Instant Result-Streaming (Google Instant) is eating up impressions before the users get ample time to view the page, and automatically decreasing CTR because no one will click on those ads present. In other words, you (advertiser in Google) are paying extra for a feature Google uses to increase its appeal. You’ll find below an example how this occurs:

My query is “auto insurance coverage in New York”. With this question in mind, I start typing. But, as soon as I finish the first word “auto” and before I start typing the second word“insurance” results are streamed with ads. Here is the screen capture:

Google Instant

Consider: This preleminary streaming result rapidly transposes as you type

Now, keep in mind you are comfortably viewing this screen capture with ample time because this is a blog page, not a search page. However, in real Google Instant time, as I continue typing with the complete query in my mind, I will not pay attention to this page any longer. It flashes within a fraction of a second before I start typing the 2nd word. Therefore, the impressions byAutoZone and Advanced Auto Parts are totally wasted. Here is my second word screen capture:

Google Instant money maker

Again, while still typing my real query more impressions go by.

Again, I will not pay attention to this page either because I am still typing. Impressions by State Farm, Geico, and Travelers are wasted. Now the 4th word:

Google Instant impression loss

More lost opportunities

State Farm gets another hit along with Maureen Lavelle and MetLife. I am still typing:

Google Instant

The survivors show up with only wasted impressions in their wake

Now I am finished. I am looking at the page, and I have ample time to decide what to do like any other Google user. The top ads State Farm, Geico, and Travelers survived. However, they survived at the expense of few wasted impressions along the way. In addition, the other advertisers like MetLife, or Maureen Lavelle are no longer on the screen. Their impressions were totally wasted.

Google does not give infinite impressions. The number of impressions are directly proportional to bidding, thus the advertiser is paying for it.

Before declaring it as DECEPTION, I have the following questions for Google (if they honor SEJ readers by answering).

  • Do the impressions in Google ads have a timer such that an exposure less than, say 5 seconds, would not count as an impression?
  • If the answer is “no” to the above, then comes the next question: Are Google’s customers presented with an explanation that some of the impressions could be part of Google Instant operation, with extremely low probability to be clicked? I did not find such information on Google’s ad system myself, but it is possible it exists in some form.

If one of the answers above is YES, then the Google Ad system is still not off the hook. This is because of the CTR problem, which will be lower with Google Instant than without it. But we can no longer call this problem a deception. However, it stands to reason that if both of the answers above is NO, then this is a deception.

I checked the Internet to see if this problem had ever been addressed, and yes,  in fact it has. One blog ( explains this issue focused on its effect on the CTR. The fact that the issue was already published on blogs provoked me further. It told me that the answers to both questions above are most likely “NO”. I was sad to see how people are taking an “accepting” position and trying to offer some Micky-Mouse solutions.

It is not my personal interest to find flaws in Google, I just stumbled upon it, and was astonished with the degree of disrespect Google has developed over the years for their core clientele, who are the bread and butter of Google. With this mentality in place, I would not be surprised to see some class-action suit against Google down the road. I strongly recommend that Google takes this issue seriously and finds a remedy showing their fairness. Here is the simplest solution:


Photo credit: Google time versus money mashup – courtesy © fontriel and © Michael FlippoFotolia. 

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Search Engine Journal, its staff, or its partners.


Google Hires Ray Kurzweil as Director of Engineering

Beginning December 17, 2012, Google’s new Director of Engineering is Ray Kurzweil, a renowned futurist whose affinity for Google has been known for years – since Google funded Kurzweil’s Singularity University. At Google, Kurzweil will be working on new projects involving machine learning and language processing.

Raymond Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil, who earned a fortune developing computer voice recognition, is now Google’s new Director of Engineering. (Image via Wikipedia)

The announcement comes one month after Kurzweil’s release of How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, a book that explores the mysteries of the human brain, and how this knowledge can be used to create intelligent machines. He goes far enough to predict the rise of the machines (cyber-humans) by the end of the 2020s. The Terminator may not be a work of fiction, after all.

Ray Kurzweil is best known for other two bestselling volumes, The Singularity Is Near and The Age of Spiritual Machines. He is also known for important contributions in fields of optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, and speech recognition. And he believes that the future belongs to nanotechnology and robotics. Now Google will be a part of that future.

In a blog post on his site, Google’s new Director of Engineering describes his new position with enthusiasm:

“In 1999, I said that in about a decade we would see technologies such as self-driving cars and mobile phones that could answer your questions, and people criticized these predictions as unrealistic. Fast forward a decade — Google has demonstrated self-driving cars, and people are indeed asking questions of their Android phones. It’s easy to shrug our collective shoulders as if these technologies have always been around, but we’re really on a remarkable trajectory of quickening innovation, and Google is at the forefront of much of this development.

“I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Google to work on some of the hardest problems in computer science so we can turn the next decade’s ‘unrealistic’ visions into reality.”

Google artificial intelligence dreams, may not be that far after all.


Google’s Computer Brain Learns to Identify Cats

adorable cat wizard meme pew pew pew

It takes 16,000 computers working as a brain to tell if a cat is a cat. We know this thanks to an experiment to create a computer brain carried out in the Google X laboratory, where the machine capable of of recognizing felines was created.

The results of the machine learning study won’t be released formally until later this week, so for now we must be content with a sneak peek via the New York Times.

The neural network made up of 16,000 processors was let loose on the Internet and given the opportunity to learn. What it learned is what a cat looks like.

There is more to it than that, of course. After all, even a dog knows what a cat looks like. What else does it mean?

Despite being dwarfed by the immense scale of biological brains, the Google research provides new evidence that existing machine learning algorithms improve greatly as the machines are given access to large pools of data.

In their abstract the researchers said that the work will also have benefits for face recognition systems.

“Contrary to what appears to be a widely-held intuition, our experimental results reveal that it is possible to train a face detector without having to label images as containing a face or not. Control experiments show that this feature detector is robust not only to translation but also to scaling and out-of-plane rotation,” it said. “We also find that the same network is sensitive to other high-level concepts such as cat faces and human bodies.”

You can check out Google’s official blog post on the subject, “Using large-scale brain simulations for machine learning and A.I.


Google Acquires (and Shuts Down) Trust Seal Company KikScore


Google’s second acquisition of the year is trust seal provider KikScore, based out of Washington, D.C. and Denver. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

As of June 28, KikScore announced, their service will no longer be available to their 1,700+ customers. They recommend that customers “check out the Google Trusted Store product as an alternative to the KikScore service.”

In the announcement, KikScore said Google has acquired their technology and “certain assets.” KikScore CEO and co-founder Rajeev Malik recently described his company in an interview as:

“… a patent-pending online reputation score and interactive report card for small businesses around the world. KikScore enables online small businesses to take information and reputational data about themselves, their track record of responsibility and dependability and show their website visitors that their business can be trusted. Small businesses do this by placing the interactive KikScore Confidence Badge, real-time merchant report card and comment platform on their website so they can close more leads and sell more.”

KikScore wasn’t thought to be an alternative to the Google Trusted Store product so much as they were complementary. While Google’s program focused more on customer service, purchase protection, and shipping, KikScore offered a more holistic look at the business as a whole. For example, customers could learn where the e-commerce website was hosted, who owned the company, and review customer feedback with real-time scoring.

In the world of e-commerce, trust is big business. A 2010 national survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance discovered that 54 percent of Americans at the time were “extremely concerned” at the prospect of loss or theft of their identifying or financial data online. Retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2012 alone surpassed $53 billion.

With their Trusted Store program, Google will try to compete with longer established companies to instill confidence in online consumers. KikScore’s technology will definitely help them beef up their offering, should they incorporate the features into Trusted Stores.

Google has been working hard at making online purchasing and mobile payment more attractive to consumers; in April, they also acquired mobile payment technology company TxVia. In that deal, TxVia’s 100 million customers came to Google as part of the package.


Google Bids on New gTLDs .google, .youtube., .lol & More


With the final list of generic top-level domain (gTLD)applications set to be posted in less than two weeks, Google has revealed a bit about its investment strategy. The company said that its gTLD applicationscovered both its own products as well as possible domains in which it could sell addresses to third parties.

While the company didn’t disclose just how many domains it had applied for, Google chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf said in a company blog post that the company had chosen a number of domains based on their connections to existing Google products.

Among the domains listed by Cerf were .google and .docs, connections to the company’s brand name and the Google Docs service, as well as references to its other companies, including .youtube.

Additionally, Cerf said that the company would look to register domains which hold “interesting and creative potential” such as the .lol domain.

While applying for control of a gTLD. Icann charges applications a $185,000 fee to file for control of a domain. The application process closed May 30 after being extended due to a prolonged outage.

Google said that those domains which it is awarded control of will be administered by the company with support for all Icann-accredited registrars. Additionally, the company promised to offer security and rights protection measures for administrators who run sites within its domains.

“We’re just beginning to explore this potential source of innovation on the web, and we are curious to see how these proposed new TLDs will fare in the existing TLD environment,” Cerf wrote.

“By opening up more choices for internet domain names, we hope people will find options for more diverse -and perhaps shorter signposts- in cyberspace.”

Icann is due to announce the full list of domains and applicants for the gTLDs June 13. The company said that it has received more than 1,900 applications in total.


How Google Uses Human Raters in Organic Search


Insatiably curious blogger PotPieGirl stumbled upon an indexed copy of Google’s training manual for human URL quality raters in October. The 120+ page guide was more a reinforcement of search engine optimization (SEO) best practices than an earth shattering revelation of the inner workings of the organic algorithm.

The actual influence of these human raters is debatable; many believe they are used in troubleshooting and improving the algorithm, rather than having a direct impact on rankings.

Matt Cutts, Google Distinguished Engineer and head of the web spam team, tackled the subject in a Google Webmaster Help video blog yesterday, in response to a question submitted by SEO AJ Kohn. What did Cutts have to say?

“Raters Are Really Not Used to Influence Google’s Rankings Directly”

Human raters work under the Search Quality Evaluation Team and are used in the initial testing phases of proposed changes to the organic search algorithm.

“There are hundreds of raters who are paid to – given a URL – say, ‘Is this good stuff? Is this bad stuff? Is it spam? How useful is it?’” Cutts explained. Once those URL ratings are assigned, engineers can test proposed algorithmic changes within Google’s internal corporate network and have the new results evaluated.

That evaluation of new results should show whether the results tend to be better, according to Cutts.

“Raters Might Miss Some Spam or Might Not Notice Some Things…” and That’s OK

One of my previous posts discussed whether it was possible (and worth it) to try to optimize your site for Google’s human raters. At that time, a person claiming to be a Google rater had said in a forum that they processed between 30 to 60 of these evaluations an hour. They really weren’t going into any depth and were looking for more glaring issues.

As Cutts explains in his video post, this is just a part of the engineering testing process. Human raters don’t have to get it exactly right; there are hundreds of them working to evaluate URLs, giving Google insight into trends in proposed changes and the new results they produce.

If a proposed change makes it past these initial test phases, it is put to a side-by-side test, where two sets of results are pitted against one another and evaluated for relevance and improved user experience.

In side-by-side testing, human raters are assigned a query and two sets of search results in a sort of “blind taste test.” They simply indicate which set of results is better, in their opinion, and may leave comments for Google to consider.

You Just Might Be a Human Rater

After all of this internal testing, Google serves up the new results to a small percentage of users and use a variety of indicators to gauge user satisfaction. Human raters are “no substitute for the intuition and the experience search engine engineers have,” explained Cutts, pointing out that a change that rid results of spam may not resonate as the best set for the user.

“We do take the evaluation and the results of human raters, as well as the analysts who evaluate those results, very, very seriously,” he said. “We want to make sure that we’re launching a change that is, overall, a big improvement – ideally, at least an improvement – for users.”

“Those Ratings Don’t Directly Affect the Search Engine Results.”

Cutts tries to lay the rumor to rest that Google’s human quality raters have a direct influence on search engine rankings. Rather, they are a part of the massive testing process leading to some 500 or so tweaks to Google’s search algorithm annually.

If you can get your hands on a copy of the Google Human Search Quality Raters Guide, it’s still worth a read, if only to reinforce best practices in white hat SEO.