|Natural Links Work Better|
from real websites with traffic
from relevant PR2+ sites
from sites with strong backlinks
from sites with solid social counts
On February 2, 2005 afternoon, many webmasters noticed search traffic surge from Google search engine,
while the equally large numbers of webmasters watched their sites almost vanished from the search engine
in a flash. There's a major Google update happening on that day. For sure, dozens of Google software engineers and testers
had been preparing for this update for weeks. It's almost 100% sure that the Google would dance on Feb. 2. Well,
the day before (Feb. 1), the new MSN search engine had gone live along with an updated MSN.com home page and a letter
from Bill Gates. There were still 4 days away from Super Bowl XXXIX on Feb. 2, the update, however, was clearly aimed at Super Bowl.
That's when MSN would kick off its major market campaign on its new search technology. Google has a tradition to
quietly make major change without announcement in react to competitors' major move. Google quietly updated the size
of web document from 4 billions to 8 billions when Yahoo switched from Google backend to its own home-grown
Major updates from major search engines result major redistribution of search traffic among websites. Countless
threads have discussed the Super bowl update on popular SEO forums. They raised more questions than answered.
The Force Behind the Update
There're two major forces behind the Superbowl update - an internal one and an external one. The update was
partially driven by the release of Microsoft's new search engine, and partially driven by the internal needs of
software improvement. There're three types of update for large scale software like search engines:
- continuous update of document - This type of update creates the minor day-to-day SERP flux, but it won't
create major SERP re-shuffles that impact a large number of sites.
- update of application software - Google seems to do this on a monthly base. The update will involve
minor change of algorithm and bug-fixing.
- major update - A major update involves both major algorithm change and re-organization of index database. This is
the result that existing index database can't accommodate the major change of algorithm. The challenge is in
re-organization of index database. Indexing of billions of documents is a daunting task even for hundreds of thousands of
computers. Many webmasters had noticed the slowdown of Googlebot after the Christmas. It's reasonable to speculate
that Google might allocate some bot power for the re-indexing task. Google may have a plan for annual major update.
The last major update was that Florida update. There're many symptoms for a major update, which will worth an separate
What happened on Super bowl update
- from syntactic match to semantic match - Latent Semantic Index (LSI) or Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) is a well-known technology
However, it's not important to know (we won't know) what specific technology Google uses for
semantic analysis. What important is that we see certain degree of semantic match. Search terms may not appear in the title or even
body of a document that is ranked high on SERP, but we can find semantically related words in the titles or those document.
The implication for SEO is simple and straightforward.
- from PageRank to SiteRank - What we witnessed, after the update, is that many sites entirely dropped off SERP. There're no other
explanation other than criteria at site level are applied in this update. I'll call this SiteRank. If PageRank measures the
importance of an individual page, SiteRank measures the quality of a site. Major factors that can and should be used include,
not limited to, 1) strength of content (size of the related content pages), 2) quality of links (links from diversified sites with
variant anchor text to many different pages), 3) freshness of the content (regular update of content), 4) uniqueness of
content (less percentage of duplicate content), 4) age of the site, 5) outgoing links (less percentage of deadlinks and more relevant links),
and 6) a reasonable Pagerank. If you have a lower SiteRank, you can't even find your site using your company name, instead you found websites that
link to your site.
Philosophy behind Super bowl Update
It is the philosophy, not simply the technology, that will distinguish winners from losers in the search market. I'll briefly
examine the philosophy behind the Superbowl update.
- searcher engine can improve quality and relevance by tweaking algorithms - This is only partially true. In many case, users
can't find what they want is not because search engine aren't smart enough, but simply because these pages don't exist at all.
Majority of Web documents is written for sequentially access (reading a book or a newspaper), not written for search (or random access at all).
Good search engines should encourage publishers to create more pages for searchers.
- SEO does no good for search engines - This is not true. The problem is that search engines can't understand the content and
evaluate the quality of a document. Instead, they use link analysis to proximately do the job, sometimes, very poorly.
- Semantic Analysis will improve search quality Well, may be. Strictly speaking, LSI isn't a science or theory, it's a technology.
The success of semantic analysis is based on the assumption that semantic relationship exist with a document set. This may be true for
certain types of content.
- quality site will produce quality document - Not true. Many useful and insightful pages are created by individuals
who are experts in their domains, and don't have or don't want to access to so called authority sites.
Who won the Super bowl
On the Football play field, "the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years -- 24-21 against the Philadelphia Eagles --
and now they are challenging history." (Source).
I'd like to think Google as Patriots and Microsoft as Eagles since Google has been kicking MSN's ass for years in the search market. But I can't.
In the search war, the ultimate winners may not the best technology companies but the ones with good enough technology and right philosophy
of dealing with the major players in search space - users, publishers and marketers.
It's premature to speculate when and what will happen for next major update. It's gonna be another 10 -14 months away from
now. There may be on-going debate within Googleplex for the directions of next major update. But for upcoming monthly minor update,
we can expect Google to go in the same direction of Super Bowl update to further refine and stabilize the major change with the ideas
of placing some focus on semantic match and site quality. I've not completed a thorough and scientific test of new search results, the primary
impression was that the update has improved the relevance and quality of more general search terms (1 or two word search
queries), but it's harder to find specific information using specific search terms (3 or more word search terms) which was
Google's major competitive advantage over Yahoo and MSN. I'd expect Google to place less weight on semantic match and
site quality at least for more specific search terms in coming monthly updates.
From PageRank to SiteRank
Google PageRank - Basics, Secrets and Common Misunderstandings
Google Patent and Unsolved Mystery