The Google algorithm isn’t changing and hasn’t gone awry

  • 0
  • January 2, 2008

Techcrunch and Mashable have thousands of people up in arms today saying that Google is changing the algorithm to favour brand new blogs over trusted content.

Don’t worry, it isn’t.

As usual both publications have got the wrong end of the stick when it comes to SEO.

The whole issue is based around Google creating a new years logo about the birthday of the TCP/IP protocol, the logo was liked to a search for “January 1 TCP/IP”. This search had very few results and wasn’t commercial enough to trigger any kind of spam filtering so straight away bloggers started to rank highly purely based on simple factors like title tags.

Duncan Riley of Techcrunch comments:

TCP/IP’s anniversary today has resulted in Google preferencing recent posts, including from Digg, over informative articles related to the search term such as Wikipedia who would have normally had the top or near to the top position.

Sorry Duncan but no matter how much Google loves Wikipedia they aren’t going to rank them highly if they don’t have a page about that subject. This page is closest and doesn’t include the search term in the title or the text. Digg is almost as much of an authority site as Wikipedia and will rank very well for an exact match search term such as this. The fact that Digg is an authority means their pages are not subject to the same ageing delay filters as those of a brand new site.

Kristen Nicole at Mashable has written an entire post with the same uproar that would happen if Google replaced the entire index with blog spam.

What the flaw allows for is an outpouring of spam results appearing at the top of a query, out-ranking Wikipedia results and other resources that you’d expect to be at the top of the page.

Just because Wikipedia is normally at the top of the page when you search doesn’t mean it should be. Try searching for something that doesn’t have a page in Wikipedia and you might see what I mean.

What really happened

Google has an algorithm called Query Deserves Freshness in which they look at search volume and blog post volume to decide if a topic is “hot” or not. If 100,000 people search for “New York” every day then on an average day the results will show trusted content from older sites. If, one day, a million people search for “New York” then something major has probably happened and Google will pull in as many new blog posts and news articles as possible to give people relevant results.

Because the search term “January 1 TCP/IP” went from no previous search history and very few results to millions of queries in one day it triggered the QDF algorithm ranking new content highly.

Google still used domain trust to figure out that Digg should be one of the top results and would probably have put Wikipedia at number 1 if they had an article about the subject.

The only “problem” here was that Google chose to link a logo to a set of search results without sufficient history to be trusted. The algorithm behaved just fine, it was Google’s logo team not talking to the algorithm / web spam team before unleashing millions of searchers on a low volume query that caused the “issues”.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Lyndon Antcliff

    I have only just got back to work and have not been reading the blogs so I read it here first. It seems there is an information lag with a lot of blogs out there, you really have to be careful who you are taking your info from. Patrick has become a trusted source where I know I can take the info and run with it.

    Happy New year Patrick, your blog is becoming a must read.

    • Patrick Altoft

      Thanks Lyndon. :) I’m just getting back online too.

  • Shane

    This was the very first blog post I read after coming back from the holidays, and you continue to knock it out of the park, Patrick. Great post.

  • Cannot find in google? ask bhau!

    This is wonderful information about google. I really appreciate your efforts to bring this information to us.

  • Kimota

    Ditto to the above. Been off-line and blog free for a week and Blogstorm was the first place I came for a fix. This continual paranoia in the blogosphere regarding Google manipulation seems to explode at least once a month with accusations of penalties, bias and corruption. But it always turns out to be something entirely trivial. Then again, these bloggers do get some linkbait post mileage out of the controversy, so I can see why thee things get trumped up out of all proportion.

  • Manish Pandey

    The ranking algorithm is still based on links and authority. Any site having authority and links to it is still going to rank. This is the same reason is ranking for the term “buy cheap viagra” even though they don’t have to do anything with “via#ra”.

  • Pingback: Link Love - Friday 01/04/2008()

  • Tom – The Home Business Archive

    Links from related sites and quality information on your own site should be enough to get a good PR.

  • Make Friends, Earn Money

    Where do you dig this information up, blogstorm gets better and better, i agree with Tom though that links from realted sites and unqiue content are the keys to PR and ultimately SERPS success

  • hellcola

    Nice post, I just wonder, does it affect PR in any way?

  • Paul Saunders

    At risk of moving this discussion from Daniel’s blog, your explanation still doesn’t explain the transient popularity of a number of my own blog posts on decidedly *non-hot* topics. What’s so special about “Welcome to the Weblog” or “My First Mountain”?

    Nothing so far as I’m aware. As an experiment, I even went to extremes with incredibly mundane and not at all out of the ordinary titles such as “The Rock” and “The Tree”, although I don’t recall either of those doing particularly well. However, I did make a post called “The Old Oak Tree” which ranked quite highly for a short while, out of millions of results.

    And what’s the big deal about “Worms Head Sunset”? Sorry to keep banging on about it, and it’s probably not the most common search phrase, but I’m still baffled as to why it’s still ranking so highly. It’s not like it’s the first time the sun had ever set at Worms head, it’s well known for doing that, so it’s definitely not a hot topic. What’s unusual about this one is that it disappeared from existence then returned to a high ranking.

    Bottom line, it’s not just hot topics.

    So how do you explain high Google rankings for non hot topics?


    • Patrick Altoft

      Paul, if your site has even a moderate amount of trust then it will rank for the main keywords of any post you make as long as the keywords are not overly competitive or commercial.

      In the case of the Worms Head Sunset there are only about 100 exact phrase matches in the world and yours is the top result.

      You say your pages only ranked for a short time, did you move them? Do the urls still exist in the same format as before?

      Welcome to Blogstorm by the way :)

  • Paul Saunders

    Paul, if your site has even a moderate amount of trust then it will rank for the main keywords of any post you make

    That must be it then. My main site’s been established since 1999 and my main pages rank well.

    In the case of the Worms Head Sunset there are only about 100 exact phrase matches in the world and yours is the top result.

    It’s also top for the non exact phrase. It even ranks 42nd out of 704,000 results for just “Worms Head”. But I agree, it’s not the most common phrase in the world.

    You say your pages only ranked for a short time, did you move them?

    Not originally, my blog was online for 7 months. However I recently removed it, choosing to concentrate on my main website instead. For some reason my normal web pages are far more popular than my blog pages were, so I’ll be converting my blog content and integrating it with my main site instead. I mostly write articles rather than topical posts, so I think they’re more suited to a traditional website rather than a blog.

    My site’s still in a mess at the moment though, I’m currently redesigning the whole thing from scratch. It’s going to look very different soon.

    Do the urls still exist in the same format as before?

    Not any more. The original blog pages may still be in Google’s cache, but most don’t exist at the moment. I’ve set up redirects for the few posts I’ve converted so far, but I don’t want to convert any more until I get my new design finished. The current pages have the same page titles and file names, but a different path. I haven’t added meta data yet either.

    Thanks. Looks like a very useful site.


  • mick

    Is google fast becomming unfair to keyword requests just favouring big business sites?
    It seems that way now doesn’t it?
    It is not democratic anymore in it’s results.

  • Scaltyfault

    I think you made some good points in your post.

Like what you see? Talk to an Expert