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Myth Busting 101: Bold statements

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 07 October 2008 11:19

Search Engine Watch reports – Google’s algorithm is shifting

OM-friggen-G I am just stunned. Top resources in the SEO world simply SHOULD NOT be making bare-faced statements. They should not be publishing material that take suspicions and suppositions and state them as fact. Furthermore they should be careful what advice they give as a respected source.

For starters, there are MANY algorithms… stating ‘the algorithm' is a DUH… and they are always being tweaked, but whatever, bigger fish to fry here…

Now, I am the last guy that would be going off about peeps recognizing and discussing the evolution of search. Certainly not when mention of behavioural factors are involved as it is a common theme around here. But to write things such as those which were published today over at Search Engine Watch – it is simply bad form. At very least put a disclaimer or temper the language to one less assertive and assumptive. Or….

Show me your data (and I'll show U mine)

I am curious about the data behind these suppositions? I know we do testing around here and that testing merely leads to more testing. Isolating parameters is nearly impossible; it’s more about the nuggets than the mountain.

Let’s look at what they claim;

Performance - knowing Google this is unlikely to be much of a signal, if one at all. The main concern I would imagine is bloated pages that suck bot resources or time out altogether. That is not to say this is a ranking signal. To be a ranking signal would mean Google values speed over relevance and that’s generally not the direction taken them in most ranking methods.

Even if it WERE a ranking signal, (I wouldn’t know… no data remember) it would be such a weak signal that discussing it over other considerations (try page segmentation for example) in modern SEO is nonsensical and screams for a WTF!!

I personally do not believe in this fairy tail that site performance is any type of serious ranking signal. Now AdSense... that's another story.


Bounce Rate – as we all know I am big on behavioural data and have no problem with peeps talking about this; in theory. There are no definitive studies of Google showing this is a strong signal; nothing more than patent applications. We have no statements from Google (outside of query revision analysis) that confirms the use of behavioural signals. We in fact… have very little.

Matt Cutts has said they would make for ‘noisy signals’ and that’s about it. Yes I understand there is a logical feel to search engines using this data, but without knowing the thresholds/weights we no jack really.

I do feel behavioural data may be in play; but not given a ton of weight. They are simply too easy to spam and are best left to personalization. Meaning, if you have a Google account, factors such bounce can certainly come into play. But they really should explain this and the fact there are many performance metric ranking mechanisms beyond mere bounce rates.


Links - Ok, not sure how they feel Google’s ‘algorithm has shifted ’ in regards to links, but once more no data here. But they did publish some interesting advice on places to get links including;
  1. Blogs < you know, comment spamming >
  2. Social bookmarking sites, < you know, social spamming>
  3. Social chat engines, such as Twitter < social spamming>
  4. Facebook -- eventually things will be crawlable! <WTF?>

And that’s about it for the advice on links and the secretive ‘Google algorithm change’ – I mean this is really not very good advice at all to me… I am astounded at the fine folks over there. How about letting me write guys? I am up for the challenge.


RSS for Rankings - The next sentence I had t read a few times to even make sense of;

“Other forms of measure that Google is looking at and is extremely important to target: RSS. This platform can have amazing implications in terms of how your articles rank

Whaaaaaaa? Dontcha think because you have deep RSS penetration that maybe, just maybe it creating the odd primary link (editorial) and some secondary (from distribution)? To say that Google changed the algo to show more love to RSS factors is reckless. There are perfectly benign explanations to account for the perception.

When stating things such as, “The magic number seems to be at least 25 for most things” – I want to see some testing. You can’t simply use some gawd-damned link bait hype title and then dupe poor believing readers into suppositions and theories.


Content – I though, “fer sure, now we’re getting somewhere”… but ooooo noooo. You see content doesn’t matter or as they had it; “It may be said that content is no longer king,”. Apparently editorial links are the cats ass.

But wait, didn’t he just tell me that bounce rates were part of the algorithm change? Wouldn’t I need quality content to ensure lower bounce rates? I’m confused here…

Tsk Tsk Tsk

I have really come to enjoy the contributors over at Search Engine Watch and always held them in high regard, (see, I can be nice ;0). This is just an unfortunate post that does little more but create greater confusion among business owners and webmasters.

The last thing I need is peeps coming to me saying these are serious factors for consideration or that ‘they don’t know who to believe’. It is irresponsible to write attention grabbing headlines with little substance behind them. To me this post is far below the bar for such an esteemed and followed publication.

Sorry SEW…that one’s a FAIL

..And if you want my sorry ass to write for your publication - get in touch today!




0 # DazzlinDonna 2008-10-07 14:26
LOL, glad it wasn't just me. I read that and thought to myself, WTF? I wanted to call up the author and ask him when he started working for Google, or which Googlet he married, because otherwise, it was highly unlikely that any of his "assertions as facts" were anything more than mere speculation. But even if each of his assertions were proven facts because he had a copy of "the algo" in his hands, that still didn't constitute significant change. Nearly every assertion he made caused me to wonder how anything was changed (or shifted). I kept feeling like I'd stepped into the past. But it was the last line that made me gasp the most, when he said "Thus, drive links, links, and more links if you expect to compete in this new market. " I was like, uh, yah, and that's different from the "old"
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0 # waveshoppe 2008-10-07 16:01
I just read that SEW post an hour ago and WTF is quite fitting.
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0 # Dave 2008-10-08 07:44
Hi Donna, Hi charles... I was kinda shocked that the post. I expect that from lame brain bloggers, not the SEW crowd.

I hesitated to write about it, as I tend to to mention specifics when ranting, but I felt that it was worth it to clear up ANY misconceptions borne from that unfortunate effort.
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0 # David 2008-10-08 09:34

As always, you cut to the quick. Sometimes it seems that people, in their haste to get their analysis in front of readers, don't take the time to produce a coherent, consistent commentary. Thankfully, you are there to clean up the mess!
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+1 # Scott Hendison 2008-10-09 09:28
I agree with you 100% that when using phrases like "Google is using..." or "here are some factors that are starting to change search results..." you'd damn well better back it up with data - especially when you're writing at SEL.

However, I really don't see that much to argue with what he's written, and part of me wonders whether the author didn't write it long ago, and just posted it now.

Your server / site performance, bounce rates, and time spent on site are all things that were factored in quite a while ago according to a lot of sources, and I've seen the results shift myself.

I think I first heard it from Matt Cutts at SMX Advanced 2007, right after "forced personal search" was rolled out.

And yes, you're also correct that comment, blog, and other social spamming are what they seem to recommend - and that's unfortunate too, but it works.

I suppose the key to being successful with that type of linkbuilding is how sincere you can make your bull$h^t sound.

By the way - great post - no, seriously - i mean it ;-)
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0 # Dave 2008-10-09 15:13
There is a long history of such post titles and it should be stopped. It is part of what I spoke of last week as far as the evolution of search. Anyone that is even slightly intimate with search algos would understand there are always dials being turned and toys being tweaked - thus flux is the normal state of things... it is stating the obvious.

I find it troubling lately that so many are making statements based on nothing more than 'what they read' somewhere. I have seen little to none in the way of any serious testing; so suspicions crafted to anomalies don't make for a definative statement to me.

Google has never stated anything about behavioral stuff outside of personalized search; actually Matt said it would be a 'noisy signal' in the regular search and I tend to believe that for the most part.
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0 # SEO Services 2008-10-10 03:31
Nice Post. Thanks for sharing this information with us.
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0 # Tino ICOM 2008-10-10 06:51
This guy hasn't got a clue.

How can he make such statements without proof or testing.

The article doesn't have structure at all. He starts by saying that THE algorythm is shifting but never offers a conclusion on this.

- Says that content is not king anymore. WTF!

- 25 RSS subscribers will help you ramk better

- "Google now tracks the number of your RSS feed subscribers". NOW?!? it has been doing so for nearly a year.

- Where did he get the 20% percent bounce rate figure? He doesn't even explain himself.

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0 # Dave 2008-10-10 11:20
Well, he does have a clue...I just think the post is dangerous for a widely read publication such as SEW.

One thing you get when being a forum hound is a healthy dose of scepticism. There are plenty of ideas floated that keep tin foil hat salesmen in business. Problem being is we don't know which are implemented, which pass testing and what weight is given to a signal.

This means that even testing becomes problematic - I suppose that's where the 'art' comes in... getting a feel for things.

Once more, I applaud the interest, but some of it will never be more that suposition as long as Colonel Google keeps the secret fixings to themselves on the finger licking SERPs... if ya know what I mean ;0)
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