Googles Next Big Move

November 2003 might go down in history as the month that Google shook a lot of smug webmasters and search engine optimization (SEO) specialists from the apple tree. But more than likely, it was just a precursor of the BIG shakeup to come.

Google touts highly its secret PageRank algorithm. Although PageRank is just one factor in choosing what sites appear on a specific search, it is the main way that Google determines the "importance" of a website.

In recent months, SEO specialists have become expert at manipulating PageRank, particularly through link exchanges.

There is nothing wrong with links. They make the Web a web rather than a series of isolated islands. However, PageRank relies on the naturally "democratic" nature of the web, whereby webmasters link to sites they feel are important for their visitors. Google rightly sees link exchanges designed to boost PageRank as stuffing the ballot box.

I was not surprised to see Google try to counter all the SEO efforts. In fact, I have been arguing the case with many non-believing SEO specialists over the past couple months. But I was surprised to see the clumsy way in which Google chose to do it.

Google targeted specific search terms, including many of the most competitive and commercial terms. Many websites lost top positions in five or six terms, but maintain their positions in several others. This had never happened before. Give credit to Barry Lloyd of for cleverly uncovering the process.

For Google, this shakeup is just a temporary fix. It will have to make much bigger changes if it is serious about harnessing the "democratic" nature of the Web and neutralizing the artificial results of so many link exchanges.

Here are a few techniques Google might use (remember to think like a search engine):

  • Google might start valuing inbound links within paragraphs much higher than links that stand on their own. (For all we know, Google is already doing this.) Such links are much less likely to be the product of a link exchange, and therefore more likely to be genuine "democratic" votes.

  • Google might look at the concentration of inbound links across a website. If most inbound links point to the home page, that is another possible indicator of a link exchange, or at least that the site's content is not important enough to draw inbound links (and it is content that Google wants to deliver to its searchers).

  • Google might take a sample of inbound links to a domain, and check to see how many are reciprocated back to the linking domains. If a high percentage are reciprocated, Google might reduce the site's PageRank accordingly. Or it might set a cut-point, dropping from its index any website with too many of its inbound links reciprocated.

  • Google might start valuing outbound links more highly. Two pages with 100 inbound links are, in theory, valued equally, even if one has 20 outbound links and the other has none. But why should Google send its searchers down a dead-end street, when the information highway is paved just as smoothly on a major thoroughfare?

  • Google might weigh a website's outbound link concentration. A website with most outbound links concentrated on just a few pages is more likely to be a "link-exchanger" than a site with links spread out across its pages.

    Google might use a combination of these techniques and ones not mentioned here. We cannot predict the exact algorithm, nor can we assume that it will remain constant. What we can do is to prepare our websites to look and act like a website would on a "democratic" Web as Google would see it.

    For Google to hold its own against upstart search engines, it must deliver on its PageRank promise. Its results reflect the "democratic" nature of the Web. Its algorithm must prod webmasters to give links on their own merit. That won't be easy or even completely possible. And people will always find ways to turn Google's algorithm to their advantage. But the techniques above can send the Internet a long way back to where Google promises it will be.

    The time is now to start preparing your website for the changes to come.

    About The Author

    David Leonhardt is an online and offline publicity specialist who believes in getting in front of the ball, rather than chasing it downhill. To get your website optimized, email him at [email protected]. For a copy of Don't Get Banned By The Search Engines: For a copy of Get In The News:

    In The News:

    Can SEO Be Made Predictable?  Search Engine Journal
    Can SEO Have a Negative Effect?  Search Engine Journal
    SEO Hamilton  Search Engine People
    What Does It Mean to ‘Do SEO’?  Search Engine Journal
    My experience with SEO  Practical Ecommerce
    What Is Forensic SEO?  Search Engine Journal
    7 Coding Barriers to SEO Success  Practical Ecommerce
    WeWork Selling Conductor SEO Company  Search Engine Journal
    5 Local SEO Tips for Startups  Business 2 Community
    How an SEO Can Wreck Your Life
    What Is a Google Penalty in SEO?  Search Engine Journal
    Google Shares Top 3 SEO Factors  Search Engine Journal
    The High Cost of Ignoring SEO  Practical Ecommerce

  • Speed Indexing - 3 Steps to Getting Your Website Listed in Google Quickly

    Getting your website listed in Google quickly simply requires that... Read More

    Searching The Internet Without Search Engines

    The World Wide Web contains more than ten million websites... Read More

    How Search Engines Connect Sellers and Buyers

    Maggie knows how to find what she wants. She lets... Read More

    Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website - Step 4: Content Optimization

    Welcome to part four in this search engine positioning series.... Read More

    Would You Let A Dog Or A Butler Market Your Website?

    The latest news to hit the Internet's 'water cooler' is... Read More

    Youve Got The Power, Why Arent You Promoting It?

    Like all things, theft is theft, misery loves company, negative... Read More

    What is Your Sales Message?

    So you built a website, you have a product, but... Read More

    Is Google Having a Tough Time with Their Website Limit?

    If you are one to pay attention to what happens... Read More

    Understanding Google - What You Need To Know To Conquer This Search Engine Giant

    Use a keyword density of about 1 to 2%. Use... Read More

    Search Engine Rankings for Beginners

    Search engine optimization is best left in the mystical land... Read More

    How To Write Effective And Unique Articles That Are Optimized for the Search Engines

    It is a well known fact that writing, distributing and... Read More

    Three Search Engine Ranking Gold Tips

    Getting a high ranking in the search engines is something... Read More

    Playing By Googles Rules

    As the undisputable leader in search engines, Google places a... Read More

    SEO Made Easy!

    Search engine optimization remains a minefield of old advice, outdated... Read More

    Is Reciprocal Linking Dead?

    I just read an article at SitePro News that really... Read More

    Ten Critical Website and Search Engine Promotion Mistakes

    When it comes to promoting your website, you might think... Read More

    Link Popularity - Basic Overview

    There are many techniques that SEM/SEO experts use to optimize... Read More

    Design A Spider Friendly Site

    To be successful in the search engines it's important to... Read More

    Why You Need a SEO Maintenance Plan

    A search engine optimization maintenance service plan will ensure that... Read More

    Five Simple Steps to Getting Links to Your Site

    Today if you want your site to survive in the... Read More

    Maximize Your Search Engine Traffic - 13 Ways to Pull in More Visitors From the Search Engines

    Maximizing traffic from the search engines to your web site... Read More

    Easy Steps to Get Onto Google Top Search Pages

    To get on Google's top pages can be accomplished by... Read More

    Keyword Density And How To Use It To Keep Traffic Flowing To Your Site!

    Generating high traffic to your web site can be costly,... Read More

    Search Engine Optimization: Site Structure and Popularity

    In the Global Internet era the industry presence is undoubtedly... Read More

    7 Free Search Engine Resources You Should be Using Now

    Ask any business person who's website is at the top... Read More