Google’s got a brand new bag; rank modifying spam patent
Have you heard about Google’s new algorithm? It’s gonna be freakin’ huge! They’re really out to get SEOs this time. Whatever you do… stop doing SEO. The end is near! SEO is DEAD!! Bibble… babble…dibble…irk…
The Sky is falling
Well it seems once more the ‘chicken little‘ syndrome has hit the SEO world.
In yet another example of turning a simple patent filing into a swath of ignorance, it seems the sky may indeed be falling. It all started innocently enough, as it usually does, with brother Bill (Slawski) writing about a recent patent award to Google.
From that point, it just began to get a life of it’s own culminating in one VERY misguided article on Zdnet. Allow me to walk ya through.
After Bill’s analysis the good folks at SEO Book decided to add some commentary, in their usual style. As did my good friend Barry Adams, (although his was a broader op-ed on Google’s perception of SEO). And really, anyone that knows ‘the Book‘ or Barry, would kind of expect that.
After that, it got some coverage on SEOoptimise and Search Engine Land. Those were somewhat more tempered, but until Saad edited his to add some clarifications from Bill, it was by and large still being treated as something ‘new’ that was happening from Google.
A patent is just a patent
One of the more troubling aspects is that there was a lot of chatter about this being some new method Google was implementing. Hmmmmm… not so fast. A patent award date isn’t what we look at. We actually are more interested in the actual filing date (Jan 2010 in this case). That part tends to get lost.
Look at wording from the SEoptimise article;
“Also, Bill Slawski provides an excellent analysis of how this new approach will affect a page’s rankings. “
“In layman’s terms, this patent document specifies how Google intends on making rank changes to its search engine results pages (SERPs). ”
In fact, as noted by Bill since then, elements of this can bee seen in patents as far back as 2002 and the historical ranking series (was later re-filed as one patent).
“The filing date of that patent is 2003, so chances are that Google has been looking at the use of a transition rank function since at least some time in 2002 ” – Bill Slawski
Then of course we need to consider if the method was, or is still, being implemented in it’s original form. Then we can also consider that this approach could be used in different ways, as that part isn’t exactly evident.
I personally get the sense that this would be something applied to sites that have already tripped another spam signal (there’s a ton of them) as another bit of evidence prior to any type of manual action. I say that because if this was applied index-wide, the SERPs would actually be a massive state of flux. Think about it. It makes more sense as yet another layer of spam detection to avoid false positives.
The Zdnet Connection
And of course this all lead to one of the most misleading and incredible bits of SEO related journalism I have seen in a LONG time;
“how Google is now measuring any attempt at raising the rank of a web page as the work of a spammer — no matter the quality of the content — and it will penalize the site. ”
“Any attempt to modify the rank of a web page, after it’s been ranked, could spell disaster for the site owner. ”
One of my fav’ bits is when he talks about the Google Panda updates…
“If they did anything to try and regain their lost ranks, (and lost business) that immediately flags Google as the work of spammers! ”
Seriously? That’s just hilarious. He further muddied the waters when defending his position on Google Plus
Really? It’s related to the ‘Panda algorithm suite‘? Erm no… and you obviously haven’t a bloody clue about any of it do ya. An ‘algorithm suite? That doesn’t even make sense.
Strangely enough, people come thumping out of the bushes to defend the SEO industry when Tom wrote about it, but few said anything when SEO Book did their take on it, the likely genesis for the Zdnet article. If you’re going to hold them to the flame, you might also want to do so with the Book no?
This is not the patent yer looking for
Right, so ya feel me so far right? The problem of course is that this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s happened may times in the past and the infamous ‘reasonable surfer’ instance, sticks out as another recent collective insanity moment relating to patents.
You remember that one right? Seemingly at a lack for material, Rand Fishkin started talking about a post from Bill one morning as part of his SMX London preso. Next thing ya know, the blogs of the industry started to come alive with this, you guessed it, “NEW” thing that Google was doing.
If we go further back, we can get into the whole LSI crap that also was misuderstood but a rampant bit of SEO lore for many years.
Which is truly my point here today folks. Get yer heads together (and outta yer ass?). If you don’t know about something, stop writing about it. If yer gonna write about it, either get some context (like actually reading the patent) or talk to someone that knows.
We must stop just regurgitating things for the sake of filling a page. At the end of the day it only ends up confusing and misguiding other SEOs that may not have the knowledge to take things with a grain of salt.
Anyway, I awoke at 3am this morning and couldn’t sleep cause of this madness, thus had to write about it….
As you were…
UPDATE: It seems Tom is back to help those of us that were ‘confused’ about the original post. Of note, he states that;
I’m not advising anything, I’m reporting that a little known Google patent appears to be playing a major role in how a post-Panda Google now ranks web sites and web pages.
Right then… (from my comment on the post);
1. Panda was about thin content and ads above the fold. Not web spam.
2. Penguin was originally named the ‘web spam update’ and certainly WAS about spam
So, if you want to draw lines between anything, it would actually be the Google Penguin updates, not the Panda ones. Her further states;
This creates the situation where if a site owner tries to improve the quality of a page, by rewriting passages to make them clearer, adding additional information, links, video, etc, this could result in a spammer flag from Google, and a period of randomly fluctuating index ranking.
Again, if you are truly trying to improve the page. Make it more useful or search engine friendly, then there is little to be concerned with. In fact, given that this kind of method has been around for nearly a decade, if what you’re doing hasn’t caused your site trouble to this point, this patent award should likely be disregarded. It truly is more about those that are indeed trying to spam. Please do go back and read; Are you ready for the next Penguin assault?
In short… look at what I have done here. I have made changes to this page in the last 3hrs. Tom, do you truly believe that this page will be flagged as spam? That I am somehow causing myself grief? hmmmmm….