What the Google Patent Filing Means to YOU

Google recently filed a patent for information retrieval based on historical data. According to Danny Wall, it has nothing to do with its “My Search History” feature, and everything to do with what factors will matter to how high your website will rank in Google’s search engine. Many SEOs may need to do some serious rethinking of their strategies in the coming months.

If you’re a big search engine geek like myself, then the latest news of Google’s patent filing has probably been filling up a lot of your time. If you’re just a normal person with a website, then you may not even know that Google has made a somewhat important patent filing, let alone know what it means to you and your website.

Now before I go any further, let me say that much of what I’m going to tell you is speculation based on what the filing says, and more than a little of my own testing and experience in the SEO field. The Google filing (#20050071741 – Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data) is a rather long winded technical document, and what I’m going to do in this article is attempt to give it to you in layman’s language, so you can grasp the overall concepts. I’m also going to limit this article to the “biggies,” partially for space reasons and partially to keep this thing from becoming a long winded technical rant.

For starters, just by looking at the patent it becomes pretty obvious that Google is going to begin looking at history very closely. This includes the history of your website, the history of individual pages on your website, and the history of links to your website and pages within it. It will be using this “history” to help determine relevance. Now this doesn’t automatically mean that a brand new website can’t rank well when it’s “new,” but it does mean that things like how things grow and change over time will be very important to Google.

It also means that all of the folks using “content randomizers” in an effort to make Google think their sites are being changed frequently are in for a big surprise. Because Google will be maintaining your site’s history, it won’t take very many iterations of returning to your site before the randomizer brings back content very similar to what was already there many visits previous. You can be sure that any such attempts at “fooling” the search engine will be looked at very harshly.

Having said that, Google is letting it be known that content “freshness” is going to count very heavily. It is going to look for new content on existing pages along with new pages being created.

{mospagebreak title=Watch those links and clicks}

The more often those two things happen, the better.

This of course means that bloggers, which “traditionally” post somewhat frequently, will be looked at very favorably by Google.

Further, because Google is looking for “freshness” in things besides just your own pages, but links to your site as well, the engine is also going to be looking for links to be going to more than just your home page, but for new links to also be appearing to internal content pages of your site. Again, this is another boon for bloggers which already do these types of things regularly, and often have these types of links back to them.

What is a somewhat significant shift, or I should say addition, is that not only is Google going to be watching the links to your site, the number of them, where they go, and all those things that has always been important to them; they are also going to be tracking click through ratios of those links!

Understand that this is a major development. Sites will not only need to have links, but those links will have to be utilized to be counted. Simply having a link to your site from a high PR website will do you no good unless people are actually using the link. And how will Google know if the link is being used and with what frequency? I’m guessing the Google toolbar will be the primary mechanism for this.

The importance of this is enormous, and the impact will be huge. It is going to require that the folks that sell “links” on their website rethink how they are doing this. It will probably require changing to a methodology similar to the hotlink strategy used here at SEO Chat.

It also means that in somewhat short order (probably in the next three months or so), all those link buys that people have going are going to be a little worthless (maybe a lot worthless). If you buy links now, the only kind of link that will be any good will be one that actually gets used by people … and that means that you’ll need those links to be within content.

Now that I’ve said that, it does appear that Google is going to be rewarding sites with generous link policies themselves. In other words, it is going to be a good thing for you to link off to other sites. My very strong suspicion on this is that “link farms” will be frowned on, while sites with a good mix of content and links off to external sites and pages will get the most “bump,” especially when the links are well surrounded by other content.

Now, here’s where things start to get very interesting.

{mospagebreak title=Watch the traffic, too}

Google is also going to begin taking into account the traffic patterns of your site’s visitors (again, probably through using the Google toolbar data). In this case, Google is going to be looking at trends in things such as length of stay on the page that someone gets to through the link as well as how many links, both internal to your site and external to it, get used by a visitor. In other words, a site which people are getting to by links from other sites, and then staying for a while and surfing around in heavily, will be scored higher than sites which do not get this kind of traffic.

This one is going to be a huge win for authoritative websites such as our own SEO Chat — and for blogs as well, for that matter.

Essentially, Google is going to be looking at user behavior on your site, and the history/trending of that behavior. They are going to be looking not only at what kinds of links, where they go, and what the link text says, but at user behavior regarding those links and the history/trending of that behavior.

This is both a very good thing for new sites, and at the same time a very bad thing. It is good because it means that a well done content driven site, that people use, like, and come back to, is likely to climb the rankings quickly. However, it also means that there will be some “time lag.” Yes, you can still get Google to spider you quickly, but because history is going to be important, to get top rankings you’re going to need to build a history in the first place.

Again, this means that you’re going to need to focus on giving your Web surfers what they want. Your site’s “stickiness” is going to be important not only to your own sales, but to your rankings within Google as well (which of course will also affect your sales).

If you’re a customer of mine, you know that I’m a big fan of putting blogs on your sites and creating authoritative sites. What is going on in the Googleplex only reinforces what I’ve been saying on this front. It is already not at all uncommon for someone’s blog to rank higher than their actual site. Given the new things we can expect to see happening at Google with their search engine, this trend will only accelerate.

Not only that, but authoritative sites, with regular update frequencies and lots of users are going to get a huge win out of these changes. The reason for this is simple. Not only is Google going to begin looking at your site’s history and the history of visitors to and from your site, it is also going to be grouping all of their various history trends into a single lump and provide scoring that way. In short, sites such as blogs and authoritative sites with tons of content which, by their natures operate exactly in the manner Google is looking to score, will get a benefit not only from each item individually, but another boost when they aggregate all their scores together.

{mospagebreak title=Why is Google making these changes?}

If you’re seeing a pattern here, it’s because there is one. It looks like Google has become painfully aware that some of their results have begun to be skewed by people with deep pockets simply going out and buying thousands and thousands of links. There are numerous searches you can perform and come up with links on the first page of the results that have nothing to do with what you were looking for.

Google is obviously taking aim at this. When the engine started, it prided itself on dishing out results to highly relevant and content heavy sites for a given search term. Over time, as people figured out that Google was relying heavily on calculating the number of inbound links, people simply went out and bought them.

Now Google is not only going to be looking at those links, but checking to make sure those links are being used. Google is going to be looking to make sure that your site regularly adds new content, and also checking (probably using length of stay data tracked through the toolbar) that people are actually staying to read the content.
Not only is Google going to be checking to make sure the people are linking to you, and that those people are going to the link and staying — but, in an effort probably to encourage good citizenship, they are going to want to see that you are linking off to other sites yourself and that those links are being used, too!

Personally, I find the changes going on a little scary. After all, the changes do rock a boat in which I was beginning to get very comfortable.

But seriously, I’m also excited by the changes as well. Sites that are hoping to simply sell some stuff without any “giving back” are going to find themselves plummeting in the rankings. However, website owners truly looking to give their visitors information that the visitor both wants and needs are going to be huge winners.

It is going to force people to become much more “customer” centric, and that’s always a good thing.

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