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Excellent Research On The Impact Of The Google Knowledge Box And The Google To Bing Ratio Of Search Traffic

knowledge box starves website google vs bing traffic lyric sites glenn gabe

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#1 earlpearl


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Posted 09 March 2015 - 09:21 AM

Glenn Gabe  of G Squared Interactive, and a columnist at SELand provided some excellent research in a case study that looks at the impact of the Knowledge Box and the Bing version of the Knowledge Box on traffic to websites.   


In this case study he documents how Lyric sites were impacted by Bing and Google placeing a knowledge box above the serps.   The impact is devastating to website traffic.


My takeaways:


As most webmasters recognize Google search traffic is crazy greater than Bing search traffic:   In this case, about 12 times as much. (over 35million visits/month versus under 3 million visits/month).   More or less in different categories and verticals its dominant at an extraordinary level, and far higher than that reported by most market sources.


Secondly the loss of traffic to websites pushed down by the knowledge box is enormous.  In this vertical the google knowledge box and bing variation take up all or most of the screen real estate, and completely answer some or most of the questions that searchers might have.


Both the impact of the knowledge box and its expansion across the web along with the utter dominance of google in search are points to consider.


Excellent data by Glenn Gabe.




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Posted 09 March 2015 - 09:56 AM

These lyrics websites took a really big hit because they built a business using the intellectual property of other people.   So the information that they publish is not unique to them. 


The Knowledge Box can hit you if you are publishing unique, when people just want small snippets of common information.   For example, you have a website about Christoper Columbus and someone wants the names of his ships and searches for "names of christopher columbus three ships"... they get the knowledge box with the answer, eliminating the need for that visitor to visit your site.   It is even possible that a quote from your site will populate the Knowledge Box... and at least then it gives you a way to get to the top of the SERPs without defeating wikipedia and history.com.... and that's how a quick and easy article on the Washington Post is pulling in a lot of traffic.

#3 bobbb


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Posted 09 March 2015 - 10:23 AM

To add to the above, I can't see how those website owners can really complain about Bing/Google taking their wind when they actually stole the data never owned the data. I can feel for them in their lo$e but they had to expect it. They should be glad their "magic ride" lasted as long as it did.

Now the guys really taking a hit for their data are the big dictionary companies. Google just steals their definitions outright... and I take part of the blame for Google's success because I also use it as such.

<rant>Can we not say the same about Youtube? Are not all their songs "taken" from somewhere else? ibid Wikipedia</rant>

#4 glyn


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Posted 09 March 2015 - 10:30 AM

These lyrics websites took a really big hit because they built a business using the intellectual property of other people.   So the information that they publish is not unique to them. 


What a great summary of a G's model vis-a-vis knowledge graph, YouTube and people's privacy.

#5 earlpearl


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Posted 09 March 2015 - 11:00 AM

I don't know anything about lyric sites.  Per Glenn they do something with regard to compensating publishers.  I don't how much or substantive it is.  You'd have to look at the above article and the earlier article that is referenced by the SELand one to see the specifics.


Clearly the knowledge box grabs traffic from visitors and likewise starves websites.  I'm sure the impact varies.  Glenn referenced the difference between search phrases for "song lyrics" and song lyrics meaning".  He has access to data we don't but evidently both phrases are fairly voluminous.


Across the board the knowledge box takes traffic from websites.  If the sites are monetized with adsense google is pulling the traffic into its own world of google pages and hoping for clicks on ads wherein it doesn't have to share the income with website owners.  (that is a helluva partner, isn't it?)


I usually look at these things from the perspective of small businesses and local sites.  The biggest hit on local sites was the recent conversion from a carousel view of up to 20 choices of local competitors to a miserly view of 3 businesses in what I like to call the "NO KNOWLEDGE PAC"


It hit restaurants and hotels within the US and accessed via the US via google.com .  


the NO KNOWLEDGE PAC offers 3 miserly choices of local restaurants or hotels (and some other businesses) with NO MAP, NO PHONE NUMBER, NO ADDRESS, and NO LINK.  Essentially all the information a consumer wants.  One writer likens it to Alice in Wonderland


If one clicks on a restaurant in the NO KNOWLEDGE PAC there is a lot of information in a subsequent Knowledge Box on that restaurant that takes up all the screen real estate.  Its sort of stunning but when reviewing the info on a restaurant a link to the restaurant menu usually goes to another website, not the restaurant site:  Not in all cases, but often enough.


For instance if you clicked on this restaurant via a search for "Italian restaurants Shaw"  (Shaw=a neighborhood in Washington DC).  and then clicked on the picture in the NO KNOWLEDGE PAC you get a very large knowledge box about the restaurant, including a link to the restaurant menu that is not from the website, but from UrbanSpoon.


That isn't good knowledge.  That is a secondary source.  The restaurant website has far far better menu detail.


I'm sorry.  I look at the knowledge box and see Google intent on starving website traffic.   Its a significant issue imho.  


In the case Glenn described above, Lyric sites lost something in a range of 17% to over 40% of their traffic for certain search phrases;  (larger losses per WMT data).   Those are killer losses.

#6 iamlost


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Posted 09 March 2015 - 11:18 AM

A couple of comments:

First, as EGOL mentioned the lyrics aggregator sites have been doing for years what G and B and streaming sites are now doing so that it is hard to be sympathetic. Competition can bite. Perhaps they should have investigated actually licencing content for mutual benefit and protection?

Note: of course the current revenue model may be preferred by copyright holders.
Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future was there to see [sic]
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Second, that said, the effects are definitely of interest. I'm sure I've not been alone in running similar analysis on my (non-lyrical) sites. Fortunately, my niches have not been greatly impacted running from under a percent to almost three of pages being returned for KB resultant queries. And SEs are not a sole traffic source. Again, that good news aside, the traffic percentage drops (20%-60% depending on query) for KB type queries are within what he describes.

Third, and this is the kicker, is what he did not address, did not even mention that I saw: what was the effect on revenue? Just because traffic drops does not mean that revenue changes in lock step.

I know that every single time I have ever gone to a lyrics site it was simply to refresh my memory or copy a verse; unless the site had cpm revenue I was a visitor without value. And as I usually simply went to the first search result it may or may not have been the same site twice. None of them offered any reason/benefit to use one over another. Oops. So to me and zillions like me the SEs have simply saved me a step. A gain without a loss. Big marketing fail by the lyrics sites.

I suspect that their traffic losses do mean huge revenue losses unless the 20% plus they haven't lost provide 80% of their revenue. I do know that in my niches the KB resultant queries revenue loss is under a tenth the traffic loss (~20% to 60% search traffic loss == ~1.5% to 5% search revenue loss). Which shows that most of the diversion/loss isn't, particularly.

Of course every site in every niche will vary and vary greatly in some instances. But if you aren't tracking this how would you know?


Do I like the metamorphosis from search engine to search and answer engine? No.
Do I appreciate it? Frequently.

My advice:
* diversify traffic sources, especially to other than SEs.
* offer unique content and guard it.
* with non-unique (widely available aka commodity) content wrap it in layer after layer of added value.
* consider licensing non-unique content aka transform into unique and guard it.
Note: yes, this can be expensive if it's all you have - but if that is your business model it is the only available definite defence.
* ANALYTICS are a web business' barometer, crystal ball, and reference library.

Edited by iamlost, 09 March 2015 - 11:21 AM.

#7 earlpearl


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Posted 09 March 2015 - 11:32 AM

I like and appreciate Iamlost's comments and suggestions above.


One other point I forgot to mention:  When I tried some of the search phrases for various versions of lyrics I saw no ads at all.  The lyrics sites don't bother to use adwords.  


So there you have a relatively high volume number of searches and google isn't making any money off of them, except for andsense the lyrics sites are carrying.  Similarly, in the restaurant example I referenced above, its amazing how few restaurants advertise via adwords.   Chains do, but by and large local restaurants don't.   Now the change in restaurant visibility is similar to the change in hotel visibility wherein the vertical is heavily monetized, by a variety of players, significantly the Internet travel agents and the hotels themselves.  Google has a direct piece of the Internet travel agents via its BOX at the top that provides booking information.


Regardless of heavy monetizing in the hotel universe, the NO KNOWLEDGE BOX of hotel results in the US thrusts the google booking box even more front and center.   In the restaurant universe of searches, should local restaurants feel a loss of traffic, and an impact on their sales....they could be spurred to advertise, just as lyric site owners might consider it.


Google search:   Its google's world.  Best to do things to diversify out of it, just as Iamlost suggests above. 

#8 bobbb


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Posted 09 March 2015 - 12:20 PM

I'm sorry.  I look at the knowledge box and see Google intent on starving website traffic.   Its a significant issue imho.

No one is arguing that. (my) Comments were specific the the lyrics sites as I imagine all other were too. You are right [google stealing data] is a significant issue but is now part of life. I don't think the intent was/is to starve [other] website traffic but to keep it on theirs. What's the difference? semantics? None!


Refrain: [iamlost lyrics]

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