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New Google ‘dissatisfied’ results in SERPS – how they work

January 9, 2007

Google has been dabbling with various new search result page (aka SERPS)  designs in recent months, and you may have seen new bits appearing in your searches. Many of thee were just limited trials (split testing) so didn’t appear on all searches or with all users – but some have now ‘graduated’.

One new feature which now appears to be a permament fixture was previously referred to as dissatisfied results. Google will show you three results that match your keyword, then breaks to say “See results for: xxx” and offers three results that match similar keywords, before continuing with the rest of the original results. 

It has become the subject of much debate, with many bloggers accusing Google of taking money for these new links. However Matt Cutts insists they are entirely algorithmic and are catagorically not paid for links. But it’s easy to see why they cause controversy when you see results like this:

Google search for [on demand] with “dissatisfied” result
A google search for [on demand] suggests a search for [comcast on demand] (a US cable TV provider)…

Google search for [diy shops] with “dissatisfied” result
A google search for [diy shops] suggests a search for [homebase] (a UK diy store). It’s main competitor appears first in the natural results (diy.co.uk) as well as in the sponsored adwords links.

So how is Google coming up with these alternative searches? From what I’ve read and from testing I have reached the following conclusion:

  1. A user does a search for [on demand]
  2. They’re actually looking for comcast’s on demand service, so don’t click on any results
  3. Google tracks this lack of click
  4. The user decides to be more specific and searches for [comcast on demand]
  5. They get the results they want, so click on a link
  6. Google tracks this click
  7. If enough people do this, google thinks a search for [on demand] might be intended to be for [comcast on demand]

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