Google Removes Related Searches

// // April 19th 2013 // Rant + SEO

This morning I went to use one of my go to techniques for keyword research and found it was ... missing.

Related Searches Gone

Related Searches Option Gone

It was bad enough that the new Search tools interface was this awkward double-click menu but I understood that decision. Because most mainstream users don't ever refine their results.

But to remove related searches from that menu altogether? In less than a year related searches went from being a search tip to being shuffled off to Buffalo?

WTF!

Out of Insight

Clooney is Pissed

Google needs to understand that there are SEOs, or digital marketing professionals if that makes it easier, who are helping to make search results better. We're helping sites understand the syntax and intent of their users and creating relevant and valuable experiences to match and satisfy those queries.

I wasn't happy but wasn't that upset when Google introduced (not provided). But as the amount of (not provided) traffic increases I see no reason why Google shouldn't implement my (not provided) drill down suggestion. Seriously, get on that.

But then Google merged Google Trends with Google Insights for Search and in the process removed its most useful feature. That's right, knowing what percentage of the traffic that was attributed to each category let SEOs better understand the intent of that query.

Now Google's taking away the interface for related searches? Yeah, you've gone too far now. Hulk mad.

Stop Ignoring Influencers

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

Just like the decision to terminate Google Reader, Google doesn't seem to understand that they need to address influencers. And believe it or not Google, SEOs are influencers. We're demystifying search so that sites don't fall for get-rank-quick schemes. And you need us to do that because you're dreadful at SEO. Sites aren't finding much of your educational content. They're not. Really.

In the last year Google's made it more and more difficult for SEOs to do good work. And you know who ultimately suffers? Google. Because the content coming out won't match the right syntax and intent. It'll get tougher for Google, over-time, to find the 'right' content and users will feel the slow decline in search quality. You know, garbage in, garbage out.

Any good marketer understands that they have to serve more than one customer segment. Don't like to think of SEOs as influencers? Fine. Call us power users and put us back on your radar and stop removing value from the search ecosystem.

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Comments About Google Removes Related Searches

// 42 comments so far.

  1. Anthony Pensabene // April 19th 2013

    i’m still meditating on your prior post. #truestory , but never thought about it like that. a ‘marketer’ wont necessarily ‘need’ google, but the former’s nature is to be an ambassador, so they are helping google, and g does benefit from them.

    i don’t think the marketer will ever be dependent on the platform but forever at the peril of consumer behavior, which at the moment covets a digital and increasingly more mobile ‘answering service,’ and google, whether best or not, is branded in the mind’s of gross behavior.

    kind of like when the feds had to consult hannibal lecter in ‘manhunter’ the 86 one with will petersen, not the unneeded newer one though anthony hopkins is the man, google does benefit from ‘working with’ seos/marketers to better facilitate consumer behavior/obedience and the ‘long click.’ hope some of this makes sense, but i did allude to a michael mann film (miami vice ftw). cheers, aj – keep em coming.

  2. AJ Kohn // April 19th 2013

    Thanks Anthony. You’ve got it right. Marketers aren’t dependent on Google but the more information Google shares with marketers the better we can help sites, products and content meet customer needs … on Google.

    In an era of Big Data it’s strange that Google doesn’t want to provide insight to marketers. Oh, they’re happy to give out big chunks of interesting data and insight to ‘data scientists’ but marketers or … SEOs. No dice.

    Google’s turning into Cuba Gooding Jr and SEOs are shouting ‘Help Me, Help You.’

  3. John // April 19th 2013

    I kind of wish you had photoshopped your face into the image and had yourself morphing into Hulk. That would have been epic.

    That said, I’m not so sure I agree with you. I also noticed today that Related Searches had been removed, but we have plenty of tools like Soovle to help us get the auto-suggested (which is very similar to Related) searches. Also, you can still get Related Searches often at the bottom of searches, like this one for [nike shoes] – https://www.google.com/search?q=nike+shoes&pws=0. At least I see it there.

    Re: Google Reader, I’ve heard that it was a very hot topic internally as well and a LOT of Googlers were very angry at the decision. It was running on an old code base, and I wouldn’t be surprised at *all* if Google announced something like “Google+ Content Streams” or something like that. Then again, they probably should’ve said “We’re killing Reader but you can access all of your feeds over to Google+ (name random project name)”.

    JD

  4. klaus junginger // April 19th 2013

    Hi,

    We will certainly not miss this feature, since it has never been available in Google.com.br (Brazil). The big fat Q is (from our perspective) will G also remove the relates searches normally shown at the bottom of the serp?

    Killing the wonder wheel a couple of years ago was already a pity…

  5. AJ Kohn // April 19th 2013

    Thanks for the comment John.

    While Soolve and other tools do give you a list terms that’s different than what related searches could do for you. I can’t easily find root modifiers, modifier classes, synonyms, semantic terms, competitors and understand query structure from a bigram perspective with Soolve. I may be able to tease some of it out but there’s a lot of insight lost and what’s left is more difficult to gather.

    The related search to unit that remains on the bottom of search results is a pale subset of the data we once had. Frankly, it’s just a salt-in-the-wound reminder at this point. Just a research-tease.

    I’ve heard the same regarding Google Reader but am not optimistic about it returning in another form. At least not in the short-term. Google’s put blinkers on (it’s a horse racing term folks) in a quest for focus. Maybe the laser focus will pan out. I can’t fault their track record so far.

  6. AJ Kohn // April 19th 2013

    Klaus,

    Really? So related searches wasn’t live in all countries? I didn’t know that. I can’t imagine that Google would take away the related searches at the bottom of the page but … who knows.

    Wonderwheel is missed, though I believe the code base behind it powers the contextual targeting tool and ad group ideas features within the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Google Sets was also missed but is at least alive to a certain degree within Google Sheets.

  7. Tony Griego // April 19th 2013

    I think it’s becoming more and more clear that Google isn’t interested in giving KW data away anymore. First the Wonder Wheel, then (not provided), and now this. I don’t think this the end either…

  8. Siegfried // April 19th 2013

    Interesting!
    I wonder where are they heading…
    thanks for sharing

  9. Wing Chun Kali System // April 19th 2013

    Guys, the “related searches” moved to the bottom of google search results. It’s always ON.

  10. AJ Kohn // April 19th 2013

    Wing Chun, the “related searches” that are on the bottom are a pale subset of what was offered via the related searches interface. [redacted snarky comeback.]

  11. Wing Chun Kali System // April 19th 2013

    Totally agree AJ. The truth is that most of the time they just do changes and don’t really care if anyone is affected by those changes. The same happens with adwords, adsense, etc. Most messages sent to them will be ignored, or replied once by some employee (not an expert in the matter).

    Btw, nice blog. Was reading a couple of articles and learned a few things. Keep up the good work!

  12. Lukáš Pítra // April 20th 2013

    Confirming that related searches weren’t available in Mid Europe region too. Sorry to hear that Google kills another useful feature again though. My Google fanboyship has taken some severe damage over the last few montha :-/

  13. Chad Henkel // April 20th 2013

    Nice post AJ – without question if you’re a marketer or seo this is another move towards limiting data and making our lives a little harder. Overall though, do you think it’s possible that they removed the feature because the user wasn’t benefitting from it? I wonder what their reasoning was. Frankly, I wonder if anyone BUT SEO’s would notice?

  14. AJ Kohn // April 20th 2013

    Thanks for confirming Lukas. As for Google, I try to be balanced in my analysis. I like a lot of what they’re doing and generally find those at Google to whom I speak to be smart, amiable and earnest. Yet, the recent strategy of focus and decision making based solely on quantity of usage seems unwise and certainly makes me grumpy.

  15. virginia // April 20th 2013

    You know, I am so with you AJ. Almost thinking about moving the direction of the company, as I am trying to help small business’s here. However, I am starting think it is not worth the struggle, and also with the competitors…hhhhhhmmmmm.

  16. AJ Kohn // April 20th 2013

    Thanks for the comment Chad.

    There’s no doubt that the related searches feature was not a well used feature by mainstream users. In fact, I doubt highly that the Search Tools feature in total is used much.

    But I find it hard to believe that related searches was less used than, say, reading level. And if related searches were really useless why are they still at the bottom of search results? So at this point it seems rather arbitrary (if you’re feeling generous) or intentional (if you’re feeling paranoid). I ping-pong back and forth between these two viewpoints.

  17. Ramon // April 20th 2013

    Outside the US only few people saw the related searches, as these were not deployed to all Google instances. And, as we all know, “standard” users are automatically forwarded to their local Google (google.de, google.fr, google.es…), EVEN if they type google.com. (Try google.com/ncr if you don’t want forwarding to your national one)

    But even if it was for a limited community, related searches had its usefulness.

  18. Steve Floyd // April 21st 2013

    I agree with your assessment AJ, spot on. Coming from a UX and web development background before I ever entered the world of SEO, I often say that my approach is more about “Search Experience Optimization” than any engine. There is a breed of technical SEOs that are tired of Google’s blatant ignorance to the matters at hand. I still can believe they are killing Google reader and now related searches? Between this and the data they have been hiding from us [not provided] – it looks like they are on a mission to squeeze SEO out of the equation, or are just completely aloof to the needs of their biggest supporters.

  19. Victor Pan // April 22nd 2013

    Aaand now we’re back to using our own Free Keyword Tool and Ubersuggest. I really liked it when I could see keyword groups from Google’s view – and now that’s gone too.

    The job’s only going to get harder guys, so we better get smarter.

    On the flip side, you could give your queries a chance with Google image search –> note the selection is much much much more limited.

  20. AJ Kohn // April 22nd 2013

    Victor,

    Yes, there are other tools that do some interesting grouping but Related Searches did much more than that and gave you a real view into Google’s understanding of that query space.

    Some of the old stuff lives on in different places. The wonder wheel code powers the AdWords grouping tool and sets is now available via Google sheets. It’s just harder to get to and use. So while Google reduces friction for mainstream users they’re increasing it for power users.

  21. Victor Pan // April 22nd 2013

    AJ,

    You mean the AdWords contextual targeting tool? Ha, I haven’t heard of the Google Wonder Wheel for a while, and never made the connection that the two were running the same engine. Thanks for enlightening me!

  22. Erik Nelson // April 22nd 2013

    Thanks for the post…. it has been an incredibly frustrating few months with Google, mostly for the reasons listed above. Sadly, I dont think they see the value of SEO people as influencers and thus make all these changes to ‘stop those pesky SEO people’ which in the long run will hurt them. I hope they introduce some new tools to show the SEO community that they still ‘care’ but im not really holding my breath.

  23. Abe // April 23rd 2013

    This is an interesting perspective, AJ. Thanks for continuing to keep us informed, especially with Authorship. Keep up the great work.

  24. Tom // April 26th 2013

    Google was not really good in related searches and also at related sites. Maybe thats the reason why they dropped it?

  25. Garrett // April 29th 2013

    I just went to use the related search filter, couldn’t find it, and found my way here. Let me just say…. FUCK! Related search was a pillar in my keyword research routine. First the google wonder wheel disappears, then google sets, and now related searches. Does anyone know of a good alternative tool or method to get around the disappearance of this tool?

  26. AJ Kohn // April 30th 2013

    That was about my reaction too Garrett. There aren’t many true replacements since those related searches were a true window into Google’s perspective. Ubersuggest, Soovle, Google Sets (in Google Sheets) and the backend of Wonder Wheel (in Adwords Ad Group ideas and Contextual Targeting Tool) all provide some insight. Just not as much as we had previously.

  27. AndieTru // May 03rd 2013

    AJ – I’m from Buffalo. If related searches got shuffled here, I’ll let ya know. Love your insights!

  28. Alan // May 08th 2013

    Maybe they’re bringing back the Wonder Wheel

  29. Sue // May 09th 2013

    AJ – I’m an internet researcher for small business consultants and I’m beginning to feel like Google doesn’t want to be “relevant” anymore. Everyone I know used the related searches feature, and if Google’s not aware of who’s using their ecosphere, then they are as lacking in insight as many of the folks that SEOs help! Don’t even get me started on Google Reader, just as I was convincing my clients that it was a good research tool….

    Am I the only one who can see that related searches helped drive more traffic toward Google Ads? Is revenue not on the board at the big G??

    Totally agree with all of your comments. Hopefully *ears* at Google are listening or it may find itself going the way of Alta Vista.

    Just saying.

  30. Happy Dog Web Productions // May 09th 2013

    Huh, I hadn’t thought of SEO’s as influencers in exactly those terms, but now that you articulate it, you are exactly right. We not only do service to our clients and to the users who are finding them, but to Google, too – so it’s ironic that we suffer so much at the hands of Google.

  31. AJ Kohn // May 15th 2013

    Sue,

    It’s good to hear from others who relied on this feature. I do feel like Google hasn’t grasped market segmentation. In some ways it runs counter to any algorithmic search effort, right? Search results are largely personal in nature. They scale for you based on your own location, web history and query history etc.

    So I’m not sure Google understands that while a product might not have high adoption for the entire user base it might have incredible adoption among a valuable segment of the population. Sort of like how some TV shows survive because they’re popular with the 18-24 demographic.

    At some point the homogenized product adoption rate metric will bite them in the proverbial ass and perhaps at that point they’ll have time to course correct and apply adoption rates against segments instead.

  32. AJ Kohn // May 15th 2013

    I wouldn’t bet on that Alan but the Wonder Wheel back-end still lives on within the Ad Groups beta and other products in AdWords.

  33. LeadGenix // May 16th 2013

    Thanks for the update AJ. It’s a shame to see such a great feature go.

  34. Hannes Uys // May 26th 2013

    I personally think that Google just doesn’t care – just too arrogant if you ask me.

  35. Mike // May 28th 2013

    I’m personally tired of Google and their antics. They give us good and useful tools (Reader, Insights, Related Searches, etc.) and then they either take them away completely, or modify them into a lesser product. Google definitely could care less about all the small SEO companies out there. If you’re not a big business (or at least a big AdWords spender), forget about getting any “Google love.”

  36. George Anderson // May 31st 2013

    Yes, it makes you wonder what their long term goals are.

    Interesting read.

    Thanks
    George

  37. SEO Scotland // September 06th 2013

    Great read and really makes we wonder what the future holds for us.

    Thanks

  38. virginia // October 26th 2013

    Local is the way to go. Not sure why they removed Google local search check options but we love local. Small to medium business’s have to get on board here. If you have no Google Map…you are missing out!

  39. Tokyo Joe // December 22nd 2013

    This is in line whit google trying to get rid off refined SEO.

    They viewing the money (and/or time) spent on SEO as a lost revenue source.

    They want to funnel this money into to their own revenue making streams, such as adwords and other more refined products many of which we still haven’t seen on the table.

    This is why Google are slowly removing all possibilities for anybody outside Google to see what keyword is leading up to a successful hit on your site (in addition to many other measures in the same direction)

    At the moment this is aimed at medium and small niche businesses. They will all be forced to spend their money with google to get any traffic.

    This is also why Google are letting the big Elephants (“brands”) take over the first page results, and specialist sites are falling further behind. In the last year 1st page results (tendency) are usually some info-sites and on the revenue making side, the “big elephants”, specialist sites are more and more demoted to second page or lower.

    The first goal of Google is to get the small sites to pay more in various Google products to get traffic. Long term I can see the second stage is to hit the “brand” sites, this is also slowly initiated, but that is another story and more convoluted, as Google are taking on much “muscle”.

    The bottom line is Google want to remove refined SEO. This will not be a profession in 5-7 years time.

    Very simple SEO will survive so google can index a site easily and correctly. (Maybe most of all so Google can see how a site can can become a revenue maker for them).

    It7s also reasonable to understand such strategy and tactics are formulated by the top management only; section-heads and other employees are just spoon-fed small parts at a time and under more idealistic labeling, so they still can have rosycheeks and be happy looking.

    Probably Google at some point will introduce an all encompassing “SEO” which will help them to index the sites for their various purposes. It is also reasonable to suggest this tool will be the only way to SEO a site, all other ways will be deemed Black Hat and lead to a delisting. It’s classical way of letting somebody die by needling instead of cutting an artery. If you go for the artery the victim will put in an all-out fight, if you needle they will resign to their fate. As SEOs and SEO companies are doing.

    I’m not saying Google is looking for world control, but it seems as they are looking for total control of the web.

  40. AJ Kohn // December 23rd 2013

    Thanks for your thoughts Tokyo Joe. However, I don’t think the ‘we want to stop SEO’ is Google’s goal. Google’s real strategy is to get people to use the Internet more. When they do, they make more money. The idea that features are being trimmed to pad revenue doesn’t hold water in my view. It’s not truly material.

    Google doesn’t mind, and may even encourage, SEO that is both technical in nature and with a focus on user-centric digital marketing philosophy. However, they’ll continue to implement measures to ensure that SEO that seeks to manipulate is marginalized. Those continuing to do this are simply spitting into the wind.

    So you’re right that Google has big plans, but it’s not to control the web (they already do that pretty well) but to ensure we use it more frequently.

  41. james // January 07th 2014

    Google does it again. It looks as though the search operator “related:” has been removed entirely.

    It was once also available by using “info:” but if you attempt to use info: you will now notice that the ‘similar to’ no longer reveals any results.

    Not sure if this is a one off…but I know it was working just yesterday!

  42. Thomas Design // March 02nd 2014

    Great read, I’ve noticed Google making a significant amount of changes lately, so one can only dream what changes they will make next.

    Thanks for sharing

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