Monthly Archives: January 2011

Why a Public Google Algorithm Would be Catastrophic

Google remains the giant of search engines. Accounting for 70% of the search engine market in the USA and a whopping 90% here in the UK, its dominance cannot be argued. However, recently the search giant has come under some tough scrutiny and faces an investigation by the European Commission into whether or not it penalised its competitors in its results.

All of this once again raises questions over whether or not the algorithm should be public and (despite the fact that Google is unlikely to ever even consider publicising it) the blogosphere has been alight in previous months with arguments both for and against the publication of the complete algorithm.

My opinion? It would be entirely catastrophic for the Google algorithm to be made completely public. Now, granted, I’m not talking about catastrophic on a natural disaster level. But in terms of how users go about finding relevant websites online it would be pretty dire.

The main benefit that publicising the algorithm would offer would be peace of mind that it’s as fair as it should be. But the downsides are immense – and not just because I would probably be out of a job!!

As SEOs, we spend much of our working time trying to meet criteria in an algorithm that we essentially have no real visibility over. Of course, the basic criteria are publicly available. We all know that meta titles and meta descriptions are key and that links to your site from other sites are critical. But we also know that some links could have a negative impact and that loading parts of your site with “too many” keywords could result in a penalty. We know good practices that Google openly publishes and we know what would constitute bad ones. But this only scratches the surface of SEO.

Testing, experimenting and tailored strategy planning are absolutely vital. It’s not about “gaming” Google, but about finding ways to give it exactly what it wants and as there are literally hundreds of “minor” algorithm updates (plus some bigger ones) each year, this changes. Certain strategies have less value over time while others offer more.

So with all the time we spend trying to give it what it wants, why would we not want Google to tell us exactly what the deal is?

Simply, because it would make the search engine less valuable. It would give rise to “spammy” websites that are designed simply to meet the search engine’s every last criteria but that add no real value. It would ultimately mean poorer quality results and this in turn would mean fewer users. Users would gradually drift off to other search engines where they actually find precisely what they are looking for and get a list of higher quality results.

The algorithm as it stands is by no means perfect. It is open to abuse and does get abused. There’s questions over the seriousness with which the search engine takes complaints about spam sites sometimes and I have personally carried out searches where the top couple of results have been irrelevant and poor quality. But for the most part, it’s pretty incredible. Indexing 100,000 pages per second and delivering 90 billion sets of search results per month, it’s a hard working search engine to say the least. And the vast majority of these searches do produce relevant results and ultimately point the user in exactly the direction they were looking to go.

It’s a work in progress. Every major update is geared more and more towards cracking down on spam and rewarding high quality websites and SEO techniques. And despite the fact that we might tear our hair out with some of the seemingly random additions and changes at times, there’s no denying that it’s a pretty slick setup!

Comments Off | Posted on in Search.

Creative League Update

Following our post yesterday on the Creative League so far, it seemed only right that we should update the blog after last night’s match.

Now, we did intend to go out and beat Code Computer Love by a good 20 goals. Ok, so we’d have settled for beating them by ten. Or five. Or one. However, it wasn’t to be. Football fate wasn’t particularly kind to us. We lost 10-8 and should point out that Code scored a penalty whereas we missed one. We’re pointing that out because that way we feel like we sort of took a point. But we didn’t and the reality of course, is that we’re still bottom and still have no points.

creative league table

Let’s skip the doom and gloom though and move onto the positives. We played well! In fact, to quote Mark Bebbington,

“That’s the first time I’ve come away after losing and actually felt quite happy.”

While we don’t want him to get too used to losing cheerfully, we’re going to take the fact that we played the best we’ve played yet as a definite plus and look forward to next week’s game against Return on Digital.

I know we say this a lot, (and it clearly hasn’t done us much good to date) but we’re feeling rather confident!

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The Creative League So Far…

We’re now 4 matches into the Creative League and despite our confidence at the start of the season, we haven’t really done as well as we would like. Ok, let’s be blunt. We’re doing dismally. Really dismally. We’ve successfully managed to acquire, from 4 games, 0 points, cementing us firmly to the bottom of the league. It’s not all bad though. Last week, for example, we scored 9 goals! Unfortunately, the opposition (DFC) scored 21. That gave our goal difference a bit of a battering too. Ok, why don’t we just show you….

creative league table

So we’re having a season that’s arguably as catastrophic as Liverpool’s, only we haven’t got a Roy Hodgson to blame for it. So instead, we’ve gathered a brief list of excuses reasons for our under par performances:-

–          We’ve been afflicted here in the office with all manner of the sniffles and other debilitating symptoms.

–          At the risk of sounding a little like Arsene Wenger, we’ve felt hard done by with some refereeing decisions. Sniff.

–          We have no manager. I wonder if Roy Hodgson is free….

But excuses aside, we’ve been diabolical! However, we have a renewed sense of confidence and tonight we’re going out against Code to score 20!! Hopefully they won’t then score 30!

Google Mobile App Search and Keyword Tool!

We’ve spent the last week or so playing around with the mobile element of the Google keyword tool. For anyone who’s not yet had a look, essentially, under the advanced settings you can now filter to show searches only by people using mobile devices.

Of course, we’ve carried out a host of random searches on some keywords you would expect to be particularly “mobile friendly,” and on a host of others as well. My inner geek is a fan of the keyword tool…and the pretty graphs in Analytics and a host of similar things, so I was rather pleased to see something new added to Google’s rather useful (though sometimes questionable) tool.

It’s a really great addition and without doubt provides an excellent insight into searching habits based on whether users are on their phones or at their computers.

It won’t come as any surprise that the quantity of searches coming from mobile devices is now around 10% in some areas. That’s no major shock to us. We’ve been monitoring the proportion of traffic that comes from mobile for over a year now and the increase in 2010 (not just in certain industries, but across the board) has been phenomenal.

And as the number of Smartphone users grows, Google’s attention has certainly been turned to catering for them. More recently, you’ve been able to find apps results within the organic results for certain searches from a mobile. I searched “penguin app,” in Google through Safari on my iPhone. The results returned put 2 apps right at the top of the screen.

It displays a fair amount of information about the apps as well, given the size of space! It tells you their title, their average rating, price and the developer. And more conveniently than anything, clicking one of these results open the App Store on your handset so you can download them instantly. Repeat relevant searches on an Android device and it will open the relevant Android app store. Nifty!

At present, this seems to only be app specific searches, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this enter organic for a whole host of searches, not necessarily app specific. When searching on a mobile, it certainly makes sense that, if there is an app relating to your search, you should be shown this app within the results. And that takes SEO mobile….

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