Google Algorithm Panda Update [like/unlike]

So it’s official! The Google update known as Panda, aka the “High Quality Sites Update,” has adopted user feedback as one of its ranking elements. User feedback is nothing new to Google, of course. For years, they’ve routinely used click-through rates and bounce rates to score AdWord campaigns, and they’ve also been thought to include a page’s overall traffic history when deciding where it should rank for a given keyword. The difference is, now the Almighty Goog has introduced two new features that operate through proprietary interfaces to collect specific data on how users feel about websites. Information they will then use in the calculation of search results rank.

Users of Google Chrome have at their disposal a new feature, domain block and those folks who have signed up for a Google profile can lay down a +1.

Essentially, domain block lets users unhappy that a particular domain shows up for specific searches can apply a filter that removes the offending domain from all future similar searches. (Just for searches done on that same installation of Chrome, of course. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could block every instance of a domain from showing up for anybody? Which just a click? Awesome!)

Google Profile’s new +1, on the other hand, is sort of a clone of Facebook’s “like” button. If you are signed into your Profile account—and it’s set to “public”—you have the option of tagging a search result as one you are particularly fond of. All of your +1s are stored in a separate tab in your account, where you can share or hoard them to your heart’s content.  Which is all seems like a weird attempt to turn search into social. You’ll get little messages in your Gmail saying “Your GPal Betty +1’d the Hamburglar Fan Page! Do you +1 too?” and you will then feel compelled to dash over there and register your opinion which will then be broadcast to all your friends who will feel compelled….

Ah, but  of course there is another shoe. What is Google really after? One very likely point to this exercise involves the collection of data. Every domain block casts a black mark, every +1 gives you a gold star. Which, when added into the algo, provides a clear, voluntary user-provided vote on the quality of a site. (Which will go into the algo mix along with the other 200 or so elements, but I’m sure it will improve search results in some mysterious fashion.)

I like Google. I’ve been +1ing them since the day they sifted their first result. But this Panda/social/user-contributed stuff really falls flat. First, you’d think they were the first to try it, based on all the hoopla. You’d be wrong. A company named Alexa has been providing search results and data sets based on user feedback for many years.

Second, Google’s strategy severely limits participation. Problem with Alexa is, nobody gives a damn. Alexa results come from a toolbar that some folks get installed into their browser. It’s really a kind of sucky toolbar, and a fair percentage of the people who have it got it installed deceptively by some other program they downloaded and just aren’t clever enough to remove it. This limits their data to people who really aren’t very aware of their surroundings. Google limits participation to 1. people who use Chrome, and 2. people who use Profiles. As of now, that’s a pretty small slice of internet demographics.

The new Google domain block schema improves the Alexa model in that half of the Google user votes come from people who’ve installed the Chrome browser—and use it. Which, because Chrome is actually a pretty sweet browser, makes the user base a lot stronger and thus their opinions  more valuable. The vote cast is also completely voluntary. The +1 feature, however, has much less going for it. Because Facebook already rules that space, and because nobody wants to have their “favorites,” “likes,” “iHearts,” and “+1s” scattered all over the freakin’ web.

And last but definitely not least, this model is just as open to manipulation as all the others. As your SEO, I will now include a guaranteed 250 +1s with every contract. And if you sign today, I’ll throw in 200 competitor domain blocks, absolutely free!

Google Chrome

Google Profiles


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