Technology

Summary. Google search results are like road signs that guide visitors to various destinations on the Internet. If your website isn’t showing up, it’s as if your street sign and business placard have been removed.

In the old days, people would look at a street map and follow written directions that read, “Turn here to find us.” Today, people search Google, and like those old directions, the listings say “click here (rather than turn here) to find us.”

When Google and other search engines fail, it can result in a significant drop in website visitors, and for organizations or those doing business on the web, a loss in revenue from donations or sales.

Sometimes a problem with positioning in search results is due to poor website design, detected malware on a site, or promotion methods that are deemed to violate search engine policies.

However, there can also be problems with how search engines present information. Gregory Johnson shares a recent experience with Google:

In my work with the Small House Movement, I’ll occasionally search Google for the term “small house” (without quotes) and see what comes up. A site I manage, the Small House Society, is one of the oldest, most comprehensive, and continually updated websites, so it has maintained the #1 position over the years, along with others in the top 10 that remain about the same. Today I noticed that the Small House Society had completed dropped from the top ten. In fact, I couldn’t find it anywhere in the results — at least in the top 24 pages. It had vanished.

I’d been searching on my iPhone, so I thought I’d check the search results from my notebook computer. There was a video link, but no indication anywhere that the Small House Society website existed anywhere.

I thought the problem might be related to the Google feature that shows you “Results from people in your social circle…” toward the bottom of the first page of results. The Small House Society was showing up there, but only because I am in my own social circle. So, that means it would be hidden to anyone else. At first I thought there was a glitch in the social circle results feature that caused links not to show up in the general results. I tested this with another search and the social circle results were working fine and not removing duplicate results from the full listing.

I eventually realized that the small house search error described above was due to the Small House Society website being categorized as a video in Google’s database.

As I write this, I’m exploring the problem further. Google’s predictive typing and instant real-time search results show the Small House Society as the top link for a search on small house. However, once you click the search button (or press enter/return) the Small House Society is missing from those search results.

Problems like the one I’m describing can go unnoticed and unreported unless you report them for your own website. This is why it’s important to occasionally search for your own organization, business, or the keywords that normally bring up your site. Doing so can help you find and correct problems quickly.

To report a problem to Google, simply perform the search that should produce the desired and anticipated results. Then, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Give us feedback link. That will take you to a customized Google feedback form.

Update. After notifying Google of this issue, Google resolved the problem before the end of the business day.

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Logo Design. The modified Google logo above was designed by Greg Johnson.

“I wanted a modified Google logo that would convey a simple ‘Google broken’ message. I thought something like this might already exist, and did a search, but found nothing. So, I created it myself by copying the Google logo and then making the last two letters of the name appear to be falling off.” ~ Greg Johnson

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