When Google Gets Confused

During a recent SEO Launchpad training, we were looking at a participant’s website. We had used the Google Adwords Keyword Suggestion Tool to get a quick idea of what Google thought the website was about.

To get a really good idea of what Google thinks of your page, you can use Webmaster Tools. For a quick idea, though, the Keyword Suggestion tool is great.

We were looking at a company that makes honey. Google suggested keywords about buying honeybees and beekeeping gear.

The participants were surprised. Not happy, either. If Google thinks you’re selling honeybees and you’re really selling honey, you’re not going to be offered to the right people.

Google doesn’t, when someone types in “where can I buy local honey?” go rushing around the internet looking for the answer. Instead, Google indexes web pages in its free time. Google looks at web pages, decides what they’re about and how trustworthy they are, and stores that information. Then when someone types in that question, Google looks through its list of pages on honey and offers the searcher what it thinks will be the best pages for someone looking for local honey.

Google doesn’t offer pages which it thinks are selling beekeepers’ gear to people who want to buy honey.

So why did Google get confused?

We checked out the page, and here’s what we saw:

  • The homepage has a grand total of 207 words, counting the copyright statement and the navigation. If you have fewer than about 500 words, you can’t really expect search engines to be able to figure out what you’re doing unless you have very carefully optimized all those words. The main content section contained 28 words.
  • There is no clear statement like “We sell honey” anywhere on the home page.
  • The word “honey” was used 17 times, 5 times in things like the copyright statement and privacy notes.
  • “Honey” was in the code for the page 63 times (including links, meta tags, etc.).
  • The word “bee” was used 13 times, only once in the fine print.
  • “Bee” was in the code for the page 61 times.

With so little content, such a low content to code ratio, and roughly equal use of the words “honey” and “bee,” it was quite natural that a search engine should guess that this page is about honeybees.

Signs that Google might be confused about your website:

  • The keywords listed in your Traffic Sources> Search> Organic report in Google Analytics surprise you.
  • The Google Adwords Keyword Suggestion tool surprises you.
  • Your rankings as shown in the SEO> Search Queries report in Google Analytics are much lower for your primary keywords than you think you deserve.

If Google is confused, check your website on the surface and under the hood. If you need help with that, contact us at 479.966.9761 or email Rosie. We’ll help you figure out the source of the confusion.


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2 responses to “When Google Gets Confused”

  1. Jamie Avatar

    I’m both surprised and pleased at my personal blog’s analytics. Sometimes when I see weird random stuff that brought people to the site I start to wonder where I need to make changes. But most of the time, it seems like people are finding exactly what they look for, especially in regards to reviews, etc.

    These are fantastic suggestions!

    1. Rebecca Haden Avatar

      We’ve had some interesting experiences with it, too. There was the time our lab site got super popular for “vampire babies”…

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