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Google’s Algorithm Dance: No Fancy Footwork for Quality Publishers

Google is introducing a change to its search algorithm that will impact some 35 percent of searches on the Internet.

The end goal of the massive shift is to encourage publishers to keep content as fresh as possible, especially as it relates to recent news and events that are regularly updated.

For example, “If I search for [olympics], I probably want information about next summer’s upcoming Olympics, not the 1900 Summer Olympics,” wrote Google fellow Amit Singhal in a blog post.

“Google Search uses a freshness algorithm, designed to give you the most up-to-date results, so even when I just type [olympics] without specifying 2012, I still find what I’m looking for,” he explained.

Google did not respond to TechNewsWorld’s request to comment for this story.

Marketing Manipulation

The so-called freshness algorithm is good news at first glance, but it comes with a downside for retailers and SEO marketers — and possibly for consumers too.

The changes might encourage publishers to constantly update content to the point where the value-add is meaningless, all in the name of staying on top of the search rankings, Gabe Donnini, lead analyst at Chitika, told TechNewsWorld.

“There definitely is the potential to increase spam and decrease relevancy,” he said.

For marketers, the change means coming to grips with yet another in a long string of Google algorithm adjustments. Google has been tinkering with its Panda algorithm, which it launched earlier this year to weed out content farms. It also began encrypting searches and outbound clicks.

Most recently, it placed a value on JavaScript items — such as Facebook comments — that never carried weight in the algorithms before, Donnini said.

“Previously, publishers were not getting credit in search rankings for JavaScript,” he noted.

A Big Adjustment

Even positive changes require some work in order to adapt to them, and Google’s freshness algorithm update will require a significant amount of rethinking on the part of publishers.

Three main areas of focus are outlined in Singhal’s blog post:

  • Recent events or hot topics. People searching for Occupy Wall Street, for example, will find the latest new, possibly even minutes old.
  • Regularly recurring events, such as annual conferences or presidential elections. “Without specifying with your keywords, it’s implied that you expect to see the most recent event, and not one from 50 years ago,” Singhal wrote. Now, the algorithm ensures the latest information comes up first.
  • Frequent updates — that is, information that changes often but isn’t a hot topic or a recurring event, such as best camera products or new car models.

“Google’s goal is clear — make users happy — and in 2011, the only way to do that is to provide the best results that are most relevant and timely for users,” William Toll, vice president of marketing at Yottaa, told TechNewsWorld.

“Quality, genuine and useful content that gets shared by real users will get ranked.”

New Mantra for SEO

Indeed, “quality and useful content” should become the mantra of the overwhelmed publishers, retailers and SEO marketers that will be impacted, suggested Melanie Rembrandt, CEO of Rembrandt Communications.

“While many people write specifically for the search engines and will be worried about any changes that Google makes, those who provide valuable content to their target market will always be rewarded,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“It can be easy to get carried away by all of the SEO updates, changes and trends out there,” Rembrandt continued, “but if you give your customers valuable content while using the appropriate SEO keywords and coding, you can bring in new customers, offer interesting information to current customers, and please the search engines too.”

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