Anybody who monitors their rankings will have noticed some fairly dramatic shifts in the Google algorithm. Many sites are rocketing into the top 10 which, of course, means that many sites are being dropped at the same time. We were fortunate not to have any clients on the losing end of that equation however we have called and emailed the clients who saw sudden jumps into the top positions to warn them that further adjustments are coming. After a weekend of analysis there are some curiosities in the results that simply require further tweaks in the ranking system.
This update seems to have revolved around three main areas: domain age, backlinks and PageRank.
It appears that Google is presently giving a lot of weight to the age of a domain and, in this search engine experts opinion, disproportionately so. While the age of a domain can definitely be used as a factor in determining how solid a company or site is, there are many newer sites that provide some great information and innovative ideas. Unfortunately a lot of these sites got spanked in the last update.
On this criteria, Our SEO Experts have to say that Google’s use of domain age as a whole is a good filter, allowing them to “sandbox” sites on day one to insure that they aren’t just being launched to rank quickly for terms. So We approve of domain age being used to value a site to a point.
This change in the ranking algorithm will most certainly be adjusted as Google works to maximize the searchers experience. We’ll get into the “when” question below.
The way that backlinks are being calculated and valued has seen some adjustments in the latest update as well. The way this has been done takes us back a couple years to the more easily gamed Google of old. This statement alone reinforces the fact that adjustments are necessary.
The way backlinks are being valued appears to have gain some grasp on relevancy and placed less importance on sheer numbers. Sites with less, focused reciprocal link directories are outranking sites with larger but less relevant link. Reciprocal links lost the “advantages” that they held over One way themed links until recently.
Essentially the environment is currently such that Google has made itself more focused than it was a week ago. In the current environment, building a reasonable sized site with a small themed link directory should be enough to get you ranking. For obvious reasons this cannot (and should not) stand indefinitely.
On the positive side of the equation, PageRank appears to have lost some of its importance including the importance of PageRank as it pertains to the value of a backlinks. In our opinion this is a very positive step on Google’s part and shows a solid understanding of the fact that PageRank means little in terms of a site’s importance. That said, while PageRank is a less than perfect calculation subject to much abuse and manipulation from people in the SEO community it did serve a purpose and while it needed to be replaced it doesn’t appear to have been replaced with anything of substantial value.
What does this mean regarding the aging of domains? While we truly feel that an aging delay or “sandbox” is a solid filter on Google’s part – it needs to have a maximum duration. A site from 2000 is not, by default, more relevant than a site from 2004. After a year-or-so the trust of a domain should hold steady or at most, hold a very slight weight. This is an area we are very likely to see changes in the next update.
As far as backlinks go, we’ll see changes in the way they are calculated unless Google is looking to revert back to the issues they had in 2003. Lower PageRank, high relevancy links will once again surpass high quantity, less relevant links. Google is getting extremely good and determining relevancy and so I assume the current algorithm issues has more to do with the weight assigned to different factors than an inability to properly calculate a links relevancy.
And in regards to PageRank, Google will likely shift back slightly to what worked and give more importance to PageRank, at least while they figure out what went awry here.