What Google Knows (That You Don't)

by Adam Riemer March 21st, 2011 

google toolbar

I was recently at Pubcon and one of the presenters in the Advanced SEO Tactics session brought up a good point: What does Google know that you don't know. 

What do we give to Google without knowing it?  What do our visitors tell Google about our sites and what can we do to help make our sites better for the unknown metrics?  Lets look at the Google Toolbar and think about what it tells Google but does not tell us.

Google Toolbar

Actual time on site, page views and time per page.

Although Analytics can tell us how many page views our sites have, it cannot tell us how many page views our competitors have for the same search phrase.  Analytics can tell us how much time the person spent on our site, but the Toolbar is telling Google how long they actually spent on our pages, how many times they came back to that page and compare it to the other sites that show up for your terms.  This information that Google can gather with the Toolbar about the user experience is insane and can be used to help boost you in the SERPs or possibly hurt you if people are coming  to your site, but spending more time on your competitors pages.

Bounce rates.

The toolbar tells Google the bounce rate of your site compared to your competitors.  Not only can this say that people found the information they were looking for from a particular keyword search, but if your competitors can lower their bounce rates on their competing pages, then that may be telling Google that their pages may be the better option for that keyword phrase and show them above you in the SERPs.

What these two metrics are telling us is that SEO is once again about the user experience.  Technically it always has been about the user experience since I consider conversions a part of SEO.  The difference is that Google gets actual and real time data about the user now and can follow and compare it to our competitors.  This wasn't 100% available 10 years ago, especially not in the volume that it is now.  So what can you do to make your site better for your users?


Ask yourself these questions:

Are you trying to sell too hard instead of providing information to them, and then selling when they know why they should buy from you?

If all you are doing is pitching your products, people may want to leave and not shop.  This is especially true with non brands and expensive items that have an effect on the person.  People want to know more about it, why they should spend their money with you and that your page and site are the right place to buy from.  If all you do is a hard pitch, you may make a few sales but if your competitors are more inviting, they could win the customers and Google may be able to tell the difference because of the Toolbar.

Is your copy written for SEO only or for your end user?

If the person finds your site and likes the product, do they like your copy?  Your copy needs to be readable and friendly for the end user.  If it is only written to stuff a million keywords then you could be providing a bad user experience and one where the person doesn't want to shop.  Remember to write your copy so that your keywords are present and in the right places, but you also provide a readable and good user experience.

What is your load time?

If you pages take to long to load, some people will leave.  Not to mention load time plays into Google's algorithm anyways.  If anything, make sure the product image loads first and fast so that even if the rest of the page isn't loading quickly, at least they know the product is there and for sale.  You may also want to focus on loading the order now button quickly.

Is your page in all flash or java or something that could cause someone to not be able to see it?

This is pretty self explanatory.  If the person cannot see the page or your information, they will leave.  Remember to keep your site friendly for as many browsers and end users as possible.  If Google notices people leaving, or people with certain browsers leaving, they may stop showing you to people with those browsers and possibly many other people with different browsers.

See also: Advanced SEO Tactics session notes

Adam Riemer

Adam Riemer is an online Marketer with over ten years of experience who loves everything from Broadway shows to Cooking and Wine. Thank you for reading my post and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Adam Riemer Marketing, LLC

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8 Responses to “What Google Knows (That You Don't)”

  1. […] all flash or java or something that could cause someone to not be able to see it? Full article: What Google Knows (That You Don't) So you don't have to signup for Google Analytics for Google to figure this stuff out. […]

  2. Very nice post Adam and very useful. I had the toolbar but uninstalled it because I thought Google just knew too much with me having it. My paranoia comes from a previous employer who was a freak about hiding everything he was doing from Google and Matt Cutts. lol I'm starting to relax a bit on my fear of Google and I've been thinking of reinstalling it. Eh, if I don't like it I can always uninstall again, right?

    For me, now that I've ventured into using Google Analytics, my focus is the bounce rate on my site. I'm not feeling the love from my number. 😉 I'll be showing it some extra attention to see if I can't bring it down to a number I like. lol

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Linda, good to see you again! Always a pleasure to have you comment.

      In general I'm pretty relaxed with what web companies know about me. I use Google Chrome and am so very very happy with that browser. Imagine what they know about me :)

      Bounce rate, eh? There are a couple of articles on the site you could have a look at.

    • Ruud! Always a pleasure to see you! I will most definitely be digging around this site and learning everything I can. I have no doubt I'll find the help I need to get my sites where I want them. Don't be surprised to see me here a lot. I may just be your biggest stalker soon! :)

  3. Adam Riemer says:

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for the nice words. Bounce rates are fun to play with. You can test everything from the design to the load time and more to get it there. You can use sprites for images, etc… You can also survey as people are leaving if they are a bounce. Tons of things you can do.

    I wouldn't be afraid of the Google Toolbar. If you use google or they cookie you, or you visit sites where you get cookied, or have other toolbars where Google can buy information from you are giving them the info anyways. Read the EULA if you want to know what they are seeing or looking for.


    Chrome has the blocklist feature, imaging if 10K+ people block your site, could do some serious damage to major brands that provide horrible customer service, etc… Chrome can provide a ton of data to Google as well without us knowing it. Possibly even more than the Toolbar.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      I know Adam but I love the browser so much :) went open source and rock melt for a while but google chrome itself updates much more often,much faster.

      The block list add on is a curious initiative of Google if ever I saw one.

    • Thanks for all the info and direction Adam! I have my work cut out for me and tons of reading to do now. Really nice post and I'll be back often!

  4. Adam Riemer says:

    Thanks Linda. I have a new article launching each week here and you can also visit my site for other topics and articles as well. SEP has been a great resource for me and I am very happy to be able to write for them. =0)