Should we really worry about Google taking another slash at SEO?

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So now that I have the attention of everyone involved in SEO; let’s unpack the idea that Google is going after the SEO industry a little further and see exactly what all of the hubbub is about and what patent Google has that could disrupt your SEO strategy.

SEOBook ran an article on which spoke about “ranking modifyers”. The article centres around a Google patent that has been unearthed. The patent called “Ranking Documents” is concerned with when webmasters alter a page or the links pointing to a page.

The specific section of text is:

A system determines a first rank associated with a document and determines a second rank associated with the document, where the second rank is different from the first rank. The system also changes, during a transition period that occurs during a transition from the first rank to the second rank, a transition rank associated with the document based on a rank transition function that varies the transition rank over time without any change in ranking factors associated with the document.

The patent goes on to say:

During the transition from the old rank to the target rank, the transition rank might cause:

  • a time-based delay response,
  • a negative response
  • a random response, and/or
  • an unexpected response

So if you can translate patent speak, it basically boils down to the fact that Google is trying to ensure that “spammers” and the over-optimisation of websites is curbed. The trick is to look at the language that has been used further in the patent. It goes on to say:

The systems and methods may also observe spammers’ reactions to rank changes caused by the rank transition function to identify documents that are actively being manipulated. This assists in the identification of rank-modifying spammers.

It seems to talk specifically about “spammers” — spammers are those defined in this instance as those who are trying to manipulate the ranking of a page in the SERP — in other words, pages that have already been indexed.

So what does this mean for the SEO industry? Here is where it gets tricky — Google has often said that it is not the biggest fan of Search Engine Optimisation — to it SEO is a way of manipulating the rankings and not necessarily a way to assist it (Google) in ensuring that the best of the internet is always shown to relevant searches. This means that planning has become even more super critical when engaging with any form of SEO.

Employing “measure twice, cut once” type thinking will ensure that you are not being seen to constantly tweak and change current pages which is essentially what this patent is trying to avoid.

Some have asked what this means for companies who edit and update content regularly. In short — the answer is to ensure that the new content is on a new page or at least a dynamically created page — and not on an old page that will retain its URL and then be re-ranked.

Having said all of this; there is no evidence from Google that the patent is in use — however with Google you can rest assured that it has not registered the patent ages ago and not incorporated it in some way or another — unlike another large Silicon Valley company that has US$1-billion coming its way.

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