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Google Continues to Tweak Algorithms Specific to Link Computation
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
For any of you who were in attendance at SES New York in March, you may remember Bruce Clay mentioning that in the past year Google performed over 415 changes to their algorithm. They are constantly refining their ranking algorithms. Over the past 5 or 6 months (and probably longer), they have been making additional tweaks to the various link components of their algorithms with some fairly complex link computations resulting in changes to the effects of what is referred to as page rank sculpting.

Google's Matt Cutts recently discussed PageRank and the idea of page rank sculpting. As he declared:
Even when I joined the company in 2000, Google was doing more sophisticated link computation than you would observe from the classic PageRank papers. If you believe that Google stopped innovating in link analysis, that’s a flawed assumption. Although we still refer to it as PageRank, Google’s ability to compute reputation based on links has advanced considerably over the years.
In addition, Matt's post touched on some interesting concepts:
  • PageRank or link attrition, where it could be estimated that 10-15% of the PageRank disappears before it can be passed to an outgoing link
  • The Nofollow tag - a method to annotate a link to tell search engines "I can't or don't want to vouch for this link." In Google, NoFollow links don't pass PageRank and don't pass anchor text. Matt Cutts says that Nofollow links definitely don't pass PageRank and Nofollow links don't help sites rank higher in Google's search results.
  • Google changed how they count NoFollow links - due in part to site owners who were trying to manipulate this technique (you know who you are)
  • Google still recommends building your link inventory naturally - if this is the case shouldn't Google reward sites that do this more than the the sites that try to manipulate and artificially inflate their link inventories (think page rank sculpting and link buying).
  • Google is not an advocate of PageRank Sculpting
  • Site Architecture is still important - create a website architecture that helps make your site usable and crawlable for visitors and the search engines. This is key, (large brands and ecommerce sites, take note)
  • Identify your most important content and promote it as such - consider letting Google and the other major engines know which pages are more important than your other pages (relevant to each other) by setting the priority of your pages in your XML sitemap feeds.
  • User forums and user generated content is key content and should be promoted
  • Google is aware of "power SEOs"
Bill Hartzer also identified some other interesting points related to Matt's post:
  • Google changed other, larger aspects of how they look at links. They did it a while back and not too many people noticed.
  • A better, more effective form of PageRank Sculpting is choosing which things to link to from your home page.
  • There are some cases where you might consider adding the NoFollow tag, like to pages that change often or require a login. Still, you might consider adding those URLs to the robots.txt file rather than adding a NoFollow tag to the links.
I agree with Bill's post especially when it comes to the importance of interlinking your site pages. You really need to develop a strategy for an effective interlinking strategy and promoting your site's important content (content will always be king). While it may take longer, producing unique and informative content can still garner a number of quality links to your site's content. Patience is a virtue. The manipulation of link juice is so boring. I don't want to say it's cheating, but really it's an artificial solution that provides "artificial results". Everybody (i.e. power - SEOs) say that they're not concerned about rankings yet they try to utilize techniques to try and quickly improve their "rankings" in the major engines. The fact of the matter is, by creating a site that is sound from an architecture point of view, and that adds fresh, informative content that will entice links will do well in the online space. This content can be in different forms including blog posts, videos, images, press releases and yes even old fashioned HTML pages. As a user of Search, so long as the content is relevant to my query and is not a piece of "manipulated" content within the results (because, believe me I know the difference) I am satisfied. Ultimately at the end of the day that is what Google, Yahoo, ASK and other search engines are trying to do... provide the most relevant content to searchers who use their search engine.

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, June 16, 2009  
  • At 4:04 PM, Blogger Rob said…

    I have to disagree (somewhat). I think sculpting is still useful for some clients - it's not for everyone but it can be effective for very large sites.

    If you know some of your pages aren't as useful because they are dated (for example), or aren't useful in SERPs (such as a login page) why not use sculpting?

    As far as google's ability to combat sculpting, all they've really done is adjusted for the "nofollow" attribute, and some javascripting of links, but there's still many many ways to hide links to help sculpt your PR so that non-essential pages don't inherit while important ones do.

    Remember, the SERP is a piece of real estate, and if focusing PR on some pages helps move them above the fold, or even better, into the top result then why not?

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