Google Thinks You Don’t Want To Know About Its Algorithm Changes

    March 12, 2014
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google, for a little while, used to be more transparent about the changes it made to its algorithm. Then it became much less transparent, and is now saying that people were simply too “bored” to want to know about such changes.

Do you believe that’s really why Google has become less transparent about changes? Were you bored of hearing about what Google was doing to its algorithm? Let us know in the comments.

In December of 2011, Google announced what it described as a “monthly series on algorithm changes” on its Inside Search blog. Google started posting monthly lists of what it referred to as “search quality highlights”. These provided perhaps the most transparency into how Google changes its algorithm that the company has ever provided.

The lists weren’t exactly a complete look at Google’s secret ranking sauce, but it did give those interested plenty of insight into the kinds of changes Google was making from month to month. Some were big, and some were small.

If nothing else, they gave you a general sense of the kinds of areas Google was looking at during a particular time period. For example, there was a period when many of the specific changes Google was making were directly related to how it handles synonyms.

Google described the lists as an attempt to “push the envelope when it comes to transparency.” They started off delivering the lists one a month as promised. Eventually, they started coming out much more slowly. For a while, they came out every other month, with multiple lists at a time. Then, they just stopped coming.

It’s been roughly a year and a half since Google released one of these “transparency” lists. The last one was on October 4th of 2012.

Google never bothered to explain why it stopped putting out the lists, though I reached out for comment on the matter multiple times. That is until now.

AJ Kohn mentioned on Twitter (hat tip to Search Engine Roundtable) that “a Google test change log would save countless inane conversations and blog posts.”

To that, Cutts responded, “Except we did just that for a year, blogging all the changes we released. Eventually the world got bored.”

Did it?

Kohn and Barry Scwhartz – two of the more well-known search bloggers – both said they were not bored. Matt Dimock said it’s not true, and that he found the updates “very useful”. Others chimed in to express similar sentiments.

I know I was so bored with it that I blogged about every single list (usually with multiple articles on different changes), and multiple times about how they stopped putting the lists out, only to be completely ignored when I asked about it (and Google typically responds to my requests for comment, though they still haven’t answered for the screwed up YouTube embed code yet either. It’s still screwed up, by the way.).

Moz’s Keri Morgret asked Cutts if he would blog it again if Moz promised to have Rand Fishkin retweet every post. Apparently Moz, one of the most respected entities in search, wasn’t bored either.

Cutts made no indication that the lists would be back, though there is clearly interest in them. It’s nice that someone at Google at least finally acknowledged the lists at all.

Either way, apparently everyone finds transparency boring. Right.

Do you think the “world was bored” with knowing about changes Google made to its algorithm? Would you like to see Google bring back the monthly lists? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image via YouTube

  • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

    This makes a change from the usual sycophantic responses to every utterance from professional Google evangelists like Cutts.

    Apparently, Google evangelists now blame their own readers when they don’t bother to write blog posts or fail to keep other promises.


    • ALC

      I really don’t have a problem with the things google does. They are a company, being transparent just ups the cheats. I just wish they would be honest when they make changes and just say, “Hey, we are a company and a lot of the things we change have to do with their own bottom line.”

      Especially when it came to organic search results and keywords. I mean, analytics is a free program and they don’t have to offer it (although Bing offers it and there are other free analytics programs out there so it would be a big negative if they dropped it). If they are just trying to move people to adwords say so, don’t come out with some BS about privacy concerns.

      • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk/ BlokeToys.co.uk

        “They are a company”

        Inflicting legislation and rules on millions of businesses without any democratic mandate to do so.

        Scraping content from thousands of sites to present it as their own – theft.

        Promoting their own services over genuinely diverse content from external sources regardless of relevancy.

        Censoring content on a whim, without democratic support to do so.

        Promoting larger corporations over all others, regardless of the relevancy or value of the pages.

        Yeah, Google is a company, one with a blank check to manipulate the internet and control the flow of business, risking the livelihoods of millions of people. When you transfer what Google does to the real world, it would be akin to a blockade on a High Street, with Google staff directing shoppers to the businesses they like the look of, and boarding up the doors of those businesses who don’t “comply” with their demands.

        • PayTheUpfrontPrice

          Dear Bloke. Yup. Here in the US we call that “capitalism”. What you’re describing is “socialism”.

          If you don’t want Google scraping content from your site, block them. You can easily do so with the robots file.

          If you hate Google so much, start your own search company and convince users you have a better service. After all Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, Jerry Zang, Jeff Bezos, Craig Newmark (and the list goes on) all started out of their middle class garages. There is NO reason you can’t do the same.

          In the famous words of Margaret Thatcher, “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”.

          • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk/ BlokeToys.co.uk

            I didn’t describe Socialism at all (I know that’s a knee-jerk response from Republicans and Conservatives, so I’m guessing it might just be force of habit for you).

            What I actually described is akin to a Monopoly, or even corporatocracy, where a private businesses seizes an unreasonable majority of an industry and can then manipulate the market for their own monetary gain.

            Interesting too that you seem to think we live in a capitalist society. We don’t. In a real capitalist society failed banks and businesses would not be bailed out.

          • PayTheUpfrontPrice

            I actually agree with you on the last point about letting big businesses fail. But I don’t agree with your comment on Google being a Monopoly when it comes to eCommerce.

            As the share of eCommerce grows over traditional brick and mortar, competition is also changing the landscape of how shoppers buy. For example Amazon was a blip on the radar a few years back and now one recent study indicates 37% of retail purchases START at Amazon…that’s more than Google.

            The fact is, with the velocity of change that today’s technology brings us, no one company will be able to hold a monopoly or even be a member of an oligopoly for long. So regulating them is futile.

            Successful retailers will adapt the the rapidly changing market or will be left behind.

          • FrankLuska

            “For example Amazon was a blip on the radar a few years back and now one recent study indicates 37% of retail purchases START at Amazon”

            Blip?, hardly. You seem to have the impression that all businesses are on equal footing. Even the (now) mighty Apple, tried to sell itself to, Commodore and IBM. Why, they saw it as the best way to continue the brand. Amazon start date: 1994, took 20 years to get that 37%. Just raised “Prime” $20.00, has sales of 65 Bil. and still doesn’t make money as a company.

            Many people fail to realize just how much venture capital goes into companies to keep them alive. Twitter, ha, dead duck without it.

            Is Amazon is trying to monopolize, in hopes of future profit? or just let certain investors make tons of money from stock. Boy, if we could all do that ………….

          • PayTheUpfrontPrice

            Actually, if you do your research, you’ll see most of Amazon’s growth has been in the last few years since they opened up their sales model from just books, movies and music and launched Prime..


            You said, “Boy, if we could all do that ………….”. Why not say, “Boy, what’s stopping me from achieving the same?”. You have the same opp that Bezo’s did. He was not born of privilage…just an average guy from an average family from Albuquerque.

          • FrankLuska

            >”Boy, what’s stopping me from achieving the same?

            Really? I have $500,000.00 start up money lying around somewhere? I’ll be on the lookout for it, that’s for sure.

            > He was not born of privilage…just an average guy from an average family from Albuquerque.

            Average guy? Yep, everyone has grandparents that own 25,000 acre farms, get to go to Princeton, work as VP of financial-services firm D.E. Shaw! etc.. Oh how wrong you are. Enough with the average guy BS.

          • PayTheUpfrontPrice

            @FrankLuska. Frank, you’re a great example of the glass half empty. It’s apparent that you want to be more than what you are. However, because you’re not, you want to blame others for your short comings. With an attitude like yours, It doesn’t really matter if you’re born of privilege or born a poor orphan…you’ll be destine to fail at happiness.

          • NotAsScaredToDeath

            The thing about a good debate is that it always has two sides and is never black or white… (wink wink). I think that when you grow to 67% of a market, you are without a doubt controlling a marketplace and that is bad all the way around.

            The reality is that the web disrupted trillions of dollars in both positive and negative ways. Our generation is still figuring out how to deal with it. A few generations from now things will likely be very different and very much the same (more rhetoric here)….

        • ALC

          Here’s your problem Bloke. You can have a site on the internet without being on google. You can even be listed in google (by virtue of links, reviews, etc) without listing in google. Googe provides a service. They don’t have to, and they don’t have to do it for free either. It is kind of ridiculous to cry about google when it’s a free listing service. When you submit your site to google you are accepting their terms and they can do what they want with their business. On my post I simply point out that I know that they are a business and can choose to do what they want BUT I personally, just wish they would be honest about it.

        • ScaredToDeath

          I wanted to say ‘here here’ or is it ‘hear hear’ … I think you make fantastic points. The funny thing is that I am scared to death to even respond with my accurate name and email for the wrath it could bring down upon me and my clients websites. Your points are smart and pointed. The problem is that Google is not just a company, it is run by humans. These humans are human which is innately the issue. In America the goal is to win, at all costs. Government equals loss for most businesses. It is a slippery slope.

      • Bob Teal

        You may not have a problem but you know if we pay more for traffic then you pay more for products. Google is forcing us to raise prices on you when they do not need to. If you want cheap packaging supplies you would come to us. http://www.gbepackaging.com Why should we pay coders and seo people so much to save you money. Is the internet just a place for you to waste time? Then you should not have a problem with google but everyone else might.

        • ALC

          BoB Teal, I understand what you are talking about but you don’t HAVE TO list with google. You don’t HAVE to buy keywords. You seem angry that google forces you to raise prices…why are you mad about that? You’re mad because it’s YOUR business and you probably don’t like other companies, other people, or anyone at all for that matter telling you how you MUST run your business, correct? Well, google is a business as well. They probably don’t want people telling them how they MUST run their business either. I understand your problem. I have sympathy for it, but ultimately they are a business and there are no guns pointed at your head saying that in order to run your business or have a business that you MUST do business with google. If you look at my statement I am not completely happy with google and I have concerns about some of the things they do, but I would just like them to be honest about it so we know whats coming and maybe someone will come up with an alternative that can compete.

  • wertwert

    Algorithm changes got boring once you ruined organic traffic for website owners… It is what you make of it Google.

  • ted

    Fewer websites get organic traffic = Fewer people care about google. Thought I’d help Google connect the dots since they admit to, but don’t seem to understand, their growing irrelevance.

    • https://www.freightlink.co.uk/ Freightlink

      We don’t think so – Google still has 90% market share of search in Europe and it is not about to even reduce by a minute amount.

      • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk/ BlokeToys.co.uk

        While you’re battling 100 other sites to get ten hits from a third page position in Google, someone else is getting 20 hits from a first place position in Bing.

        It doesn’t matter if Google has 90% share of the market in Europe, when you’re competing with 100 others for scraps.

        • https://www.freightlink.co.uk/ Freightlink

          You’ve contradicted yourself. That person getting ’20 hits’ from Bing is still battling 100 other sites. The dichotomy is the same – the only difference is that nobody uses Bing. I’d rather get 3 hits from Google in 1 week than 20 hits from Bing in 6 months.

          • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk/ BlokeToys.co.uk

            You misread.
            Being in position one on Bing, bringing in 20 hits a day, is more useful and effective for me than being on page three of the same search with Google and only getting 10 hits.

            It makes no difference how many people are using Bing or Google, what matters is the position you have and the traffic you are getting.

            Your claim that no one uses Bing is completely false. If it were true, I would not be getting any hits from Bing, when I most definitely am.

          • https://www.freightlink.co.uk/ Freightlink

            Any traffic is great, even from ask.com but bing will let you get away with just about anything. And if porn interests you then microsoft is much better for you and your market.

          • Mike

            Good point. In my experience, traffic from Bing / Yahoo converts better as well. A first page spot on Google may get more traffic, but a lot of that is just spambots and scrapers.

      • wertwert

        What you are describing is called a monopoly.

  • Arnan

    Wasn’t the world all about transparency around that time? Now that the hype has passed, so did Googles interest for it.

  • http://www.afzolahmed.com/ Afzol Ahmed

    great information and thank u for sharing.

  • http://www.giryagirl.com/ Adrienne Harvey

    Wish I had known about their changes blog sooner!!!

  • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk/ BlokeToys.co.uk

    Google is one of those corporations that likes to present a fluffy, hugging, transparent image, but it’s clearly anything but. People have been waking up to this in their masses over the last few years, and this is just another example of the kind of doublespeak Matt and his buddies like to use to claim one thing while actually meaning another.

    People were not “bored” with knowing what Google was doing, the mobster team just decided that while they like to bullsh*t the world about “transparency” they don’t actually want to tell anyone what the big bad corporation is actually up to.

    I’m sure Matt is a nice enough guy in real life, but he’s becoming nothing but a propagandist for Google. The recent suggestion that small sites “stand a chance” in Google was laughable – “Stand a chance”? What does that even mean!? If being on page 180 with a full page of unique content while Amazon is in position one with a page of nothing but tripe, then that’s definitely “standing a chance”.

    • Sidupac

      I need to add my piece to that last statement. I totally agree. I am seeing many more results in Google that are utter rubbish. Yes it is good to put big company sites high up because they have a good reputation etc but the results I’m receiving are getting me more and more pissed at Google. I have to use many more search terms and everything is becoming far too time consuming just to find the results I am after – all this while giving Google more hits and more money no doubt. This is just some kind of favoritism. Sometimes what the little guy has to say is FAR more valuable to me than what I probably already knew about from some main stream organisation anyway. Perhaps they should be giving users more options on how THEY want things to be filtered to make their algorithms better and not by doing what they think will help us.
      And yeah I also agree that their teddy bear exterior doesn’t reflect their true colors – although this is probably something many have come to expect nowdays as standard – from even family members in some cases I presume.
      But yeah I really don’t like this new ‘people are bored’ attitude from Google (well, Matt). I certainly didn’t get bored. I can only see this as a cover for another reason. Perhaps they are scared they will be giving away too many hints making people change tactic and a need for further adjustments and so on.

  • https://plus.google.com/+DaveLankester333/posts?hl=en Dave Lankester

    Maybe Google just take the point of view that only the ‘black hatters’ need (want!) the transparency? The good guys are already doing it correctly while the bad guys can just carry on wasting their time …….
    I’m sure that would be my attitude if I were them …….

    • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk/ BlokeToys.co.uk

      So now it’s only “Black Hatters” that pay attention to the rules and demands Google makes on independent businesses?

      It’s a shame we’re not all Amazon. We can’t all afford to take a Google employee out to dinner to get the inside scoop on what Google plans to do next month.

    • Chris Crum

      If that was their attitude, I don’t see why they would have started releasing the lists in the first place. They never included every single change, and I’m sure held back things that they thought could be exploited.

  • Bob Whyte

    Who on earth with an interest in Internet marketing could possibly say that people are not interested in the nuances of Google’s algorithms. That’s preposterous for Google to be suggesting. Who’s kidding whom?

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/seogreece Christos Passas

    I believe that Google tries to totally remove all kind of information
    that passes over to the public. In other words i believe that in the
    long term Google will try to discourage (and ultimately will try to
    prevent) the majority of people from finding specific details about
    Google’s way of evaluation and its overall ranking process

  • Boo Boo

    Becoming successful – I hated Google advertising. The sheer arrogance of failing my advertisements because I did not use a final Full Stop!
    They are still not giving the customer what they want (apart from slow Google Maps and great Satallite.)
    They are just PR crap advertising themselves – yes it works because people follow people – not goggle…
    (1. Look with wide open eyes, typically in amazement: I goggled at them in total disbelief)…

  • http://www.admain.co.uk AdMain

    I’m bored with Google. Annoyed in fact. Their search results are probably the worst I’ve ever seen. Signing into Analytics and stuff is now a cluster f*** of an experience.

    Is it just me, or do you sign in with a username and password, then have to get sent an SMS verification code, then still open analytics in a new window snd if you switch off the verification, you can’t access the admin side of analytics.

    Analytics. Even that sucks compared to what it used to be.

    Outlook is better than Gmail. Everything social is better than Google+. Bing looks better and has better search results. Analytics sucks and what a pain in the backside and why Webmaster tools and analytics needs to be in two sections I will never know.

    I used to like all the Google products. Now they just plain suck at everything.

    And I’m, not alone in this from friends anf relatives comments on Facebook too. Seems everyone that uses a Google product is some way or form, other than Andriod and Drive seems to think the quality has dropped through the floor.

  • Andrea Funk

    I am not bored! My company makes Quilt from our customer’s T-shirt – very far removed from the business of understanding google ranking. But I have to know what’s going on so I can keep my website and blogs consistent with what google is using for rankings. My business depends on my web ranking. Being is the dark just makes everything a guessing game.

    But, they do have the right to keep it hidden.

    • http://www.admain.co.uk AdMain

      And that Andrea is classed as spamming by Google. Guidelines state if you manipulate your site to gain placement it is against their guideline and that is what you are doing.

      You are taking their information and putting it into practice to get better listings thus manipulating the search algorythm.

      • Andrea Funk

        Isn’t that what SEO is?

        • http://www.admain.co.uk AdMain

          Spamming. Yep. Although it seems publicly floated companies get away with it. 😀

  • Bridalpro

    I would love to read a monthly blog post about Google changes. Keep bugging them.

  • http://www.roycobden.com/ Roy Cobden

    Perhaps transparency was becoming inconvenient for them. The problem with transparency is that people tend to hold you accountable when they actually know what you’re doing.

    It can lead to awkward situations, awkward questions. Questions you may not want to answer. (Anyone remember that “new era of openness and transparency” election promise?)

    I’m sure Matt Cutts would like everyone to “just trust us” that Google will take care of things in everyone’s best interests.

    • roger’d

      Perhaps transparency was becoming inconvenient for them, but not because of accountability, but because of leeches trying to game the system.

      • http://www.roycobden.com/ Roy Cobden

        By Google’s definition nearly anything you do is considered “gaming the system”.

        Online a high rank in the serps is a competitive advantage. Offline a biz owner can try all sorts of creative
        marketing & advertising to achieve competitive advantage. An online biz owner doing what could be considered roughly equivalent to improve their competitive advantage in the serps risks getting slapped.

        We all know there’s gaming going on, but I’d bet none of us here could agree on where to draw the line between “striving for competitive advantage” and “gaming the system”.

  • http://www.phonerepairdoctor.com.au/ Phone Repair Doctor

    I think the average punter (99% users) doesn’t care. And the ones that do are in the business of gaining rank, so it goes against their charter for a better web without SEO cheats. Aaron

  • Denis

    Лекарственные растения использовали постоянно. Если к нам в Россию в XV, XVI, XVII веках приезжали иностранцы, то удивлялись: что это за необычный народ? Врачей у них нет, лекарств нет, чем они лечатся? А человек использовали натуральные ресурсы: продвижение, парилку, лекарственные травы, мед и остальные продукты пчеловодства, медовуху – и не болели, самая здоровая национальность была. С сегодняшним днем пусть даже сравнивать не охота

  • Bob Teal

    Just pay them and dont ask questions. Thats what they want. Results dont matter cause they will change the rules on the fly. Write for the customer and pay them.

  • http://www.backwaterstudio.com Kathleen Johnson

    We are “too bored” to want to know how the Google Algorithm impacts our business websites? Really? What a pompous position for Google to take on what I need to being my website in line with their egregiously arbitrary algorithm. So fed up with Google……

  • http://www.roycobden.com/ Roy Cobden

    Another thought…

    Google is the biggest player in the oligopoly of “online search” and their
    ability to “do harm”, even inadvertently, is enormous. They really ought
    to respect the importance of transparency because it’s probably a
    big factor in keeping heavy-handed govt regulation away.

  • Vladimir Velichkov

    I am tracing Google Algorithms long ago. Google have a tendency his algorithms to estimate websites like visitors estimate them. If you want Google to estimate your website well, make all possible for the appreciation of your visitors. There are not such needs to trace the concrete changes in Google Algorithms.


    It’s pretty obvious why people got bored. Google has made searches irrelevant. Want a local business? You have two options. 20 paid advertisements or 3 paid directory listings (yelp, etc). For anyone who thinks that Google cares about content…you are wrong….unless you are wikipedia. Small guy who has a great local product and worked on great local content? Irrelevant. Yelp and their 50 listings of businesses will show up ahead of you. Eventually people will finally realize… Google doesn’t care one bit about content IF there is an opportunity to make money off PPC. Want to rank for something that has no transactional value? Great! Anyone can blog about the top 10 reasons why the Filet-o-Fish is amazing. In fact, you can probably rank in the top 3 in a matter of days. But who cares?

    Google set the standard. Local business searches will get 15 ads (with all kinds of useless ad extensions to increase the ad space). 3 useless directory listings (yelp, thumbtack, etc) a map listing with NO information other than the proximity (congrats on that content and effort of the website)….and now the world follows.

    Go spend 4 months making the most perfect website. Responsive. Great detail. Well thought out landing pages. Excellent content. A fantastic local experience. Enjoy being beneath a directory in the organic results that you have to pay to be in. Google’s certainly made those big companies happy. Check the stock price of Yelp.

    It’s ok to make money, they deserve that. But to give worse results just to make more money, and give no opportunity to any small business to work harder….that’s crappy. Worse? People buy into the crap that is spewed out about how much really working on your local business site matters for SEO. Go do some searches :) Compare the content. Compare the real local experience. Note that the only winner is Google or Yelp.

    PS – If I wanted to search Yelp, wouldn’t I just search Yelp?

  • Guest

    Matt’s excuse is laughable, as is Google’s feigned moral outrage over the government’s sweeping data dragnet. Google clearly believes that they are the only ones who should own everybody’s data and they are quietly drawing the Cloak of Invisibility around everything they do and how they do it. We have reached the point at which corporations can become de facto governments and establish their own rules and be accountable to no one. Because Google can crush me like a bug (and sorta has already), I’m posting as a guest.

  • Local CEO

    Personally I won’t be reading the algorithm change statements, but I would certainly like to have consultants that I hire to optimize our marketing efforts be able to understand how Google sorts, prioritizes and defines its searches. The more transparent Google is the more I like it so that we can work around any challenges or select other options.

  • Emily

    Yes, I was bored with it. No, I don’t think they’re purposefully less transparent.

  • http://www.shop.graciousstore.com/ Gracious Store

    I the reason why Google stop being transparent about its algorithm updates is not because people are bored with updates but rather because each time Google releases such updates they receive very negative response from webmasters and SEO. So one can say that the reason why Google stopped releasing the updates is because they are fed up with the negative responses they receive each time release updates