Google's Next Big Move
by David Leonhardt
November 2003 might go down in history as the month that Google shook a lot of smug webmasters and search engine optimization (SEO) specialists from the apple tree. But more than likely, it was just a precursor of the BIG shakeup to come.
|1. Google might start valuing
inbound links within paragraphs much higher than links that stand on
their own. (For all we know, Google is already doing this.) Such links
are much less likely to be the product of a link exchange, and therefore
more likely to be genuine "democratic" votes.
2. Google might look at the concentration of inbound links across a website. If most inbound links point to the home page, that is another possible indicator of a link exchange, or at least that the site's content is not important enough to draw inbound links (and it is content that Google wants to deliver to its searchers).
3. Google might take a sample of inbound links to a domain, and check to see how many are reciprocated back to the linking domains. If a high percentage are reciprocated, Google might reduce the site's PageRank accordingly. Or it might set a cut-point, dropping from its index any website with too many of its inbound links reciprocated.
4. Google might start valuing outbound links more highly. Two pages with 100 inbound links are, in theory, valued equally, even if one has 20 outbound links and the other has none. But why should Google send its searchers down a dead-end street, when the information highway is paved just as smoothly on a major thoroughfare?
5. Google might weigh a website's outbound link concentration. A website with most outbound links concentrated on just a few pages is more likely to be a "link-exchanger" than a site with links spread out across its pages.
Google might use a combination of these techniques and ones not mentioned here. We cannot predict the exact algorithm, nor can we assume that it will remain constant. What we can do is to prepare our websites to look and act like a website would on a "democratic" Web as Google would see it.
For Google to hold its own against upstart search engines, it must deliver on its PageRank promise. Its results reflect the "democratic" nature of the Web. Its algorithm must prod webmasters to give links on their own merit. That won't be easy or even completely possible. And people will always find ways to turn Google's algorithm to their advantage. But the techniques above can send the Internet a long way back to where Google promises it will be.
The time is now to start preparing your website for the changes to come.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Leonhardt is an online and offline publicity specialist who believes in getting in front of the ball, rather than chasing it downhill. To get your website optimized, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pick up a copy of Don't Get Banned By The Search Engines or of Get In The News.
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