|Google Florida Algo Update |
|So, whats the new Google Florida Algo buzz? |
15th November 2003 would probably go down in search engine history as an important milestone. It is the day Google implemented sweeping updates in its algorithm, (nicknamed - Google Florida algo update), which threw several thousand high-ranking sites off their ranks. The entire SEO community is exhibiting unprecedented nervousness, even rage. While the feelings are mixed in various camps, one thing is certain that Google has ruffled quite many feathers. Although Google usually updates its algorithm every alternate month or so (with minor updates even monthly), the magnitude of changes this time was more than what webmasters and SEO community expected. The new changes have off-listed several thousand high-profile commercial sites that enjoyed a continued ranking. The change is sending shivers to several SEO businesses that are on the brink of closure if they are unable to understand how the changes take effect and how to get the clients ranked again. Considering Google commands almost 80% of search market share, moving focus to other engines does not seem to be an option.
The magnitude of algo changes has been rather severe this time. While the dust is still in the air, speculations are at large, on what the new algo is. As a company policy, Google does not comment on what their new updates do. There are no new guidelines on their site for webmasters or SEO community other than the same old narration of how very good content would be rewarded and unethical techniques would be penalized. Algos are always closely guarded secrets of search engines since any leak would mean an abuse of the system leading to contamination of their search results. Silence pays. Any comment, acceptance or a denial on the new algo behavior usually lets out parts of the algo secret.
In the absence of any official guidelines or comments from Google, our analysis is based on validations of various speculations, actual research, experience, knowledge of search engine behavior, trends and history. Some of our analysis and findings are covered in this article. Since the wide-ranging implications cannot be covered in one article, Im intending to cover all the important aspects in a series of articles focusing on changes, speculations, myths and facts. This article would cover an overview of some important aspects and we would go into the depth of each in the next few articles.
Here are some noteworthy initial findings
Many SEO analysts believe that Google is filtering sites using a secret filter list. I do not believe this to be true. Ill explain a little below -
Is Google filtering sites if the search term contains money keywords?
Since the hardest hit sites are from commercial categories, many SEO analysts believe that Google is filtering sites, which were ranking through search terms containing Money Keywords (also called commercial keywords or hit list words). Initial tests conducted by analysts indeed show symptoms that seem to substantiate this theory.
What would be Googles motive?
If true, why would Google want to do this? The reason that this speculation seems to getting substantial backing is because the timing of the algo change effect coincided with shopping season as well as the forthcoming Google IPO. Analysts believe that Google wants to force commercial sites to now pump in money in their AdWords paid listing program if they wish to cash-in on the December 2003 Christmas season. The free ride seems to be over. Others believe that Google wants to paint their bottom-line a little rosy to impress their future investors.
So who replaces the commercial sites in the ranking then?
It seems that the top-20 results have a high population of government sites (.gov), educational sites (.edu), non-profit sites (.org), directories and non-US sites. Since these kind of sites have not been voracious advertisers on Google, analysts believe that ranking them high would not effect Googles revenues and therefore puts pressure on commercial sites to go the Google AdWords PPC route.
From where would Google get the Money Words list?
Google has access to a large database of money words from their AdWords program. Interestingly, the advertisers and commercial site owners have themselves educated Google on which words are good money words. Since bids on each keyword phrase vary, Google also knows how valuable each keyword is.
So whats the real story? Is Google actually filtering commercial sites using a money words filter list?
Personally, I believe that nothing can be farther from the truth. I strongly believe that Google is not filtering sites, as the analysts believe. There is no money words list. The popular filter list theory is derived from the symptoms analysts are seeing, which in fact occur due to other reasons, as you will see in my next few articles.
It is true that one can notice a filtering-like effect in practice. We have reasons to believe that such an effect is actually a by-product of the new algorithm rather than intended. The new algo tends to affect commercial sites more than the non-profit ones. I would discuss this in detail in the subsequent articles and explain why this is actually happening.
Some time ago, a site was setup by a Google Hate Group which offered a tool to check your unfiltered old ranking results at Google by extracting data from Google in a crafty manner. This site (www.scroogle.org) is no longer able to offer the facility since Google updated its algo to prevent such searches. However, the site still shows a so-called Filter Hit List collected from various searches on its site. I studied the list and if anything, it validates that Google is not using any such list. How could one otherwise explain, that the term California Divorce Attorney appearing at the top, is about 20 times more valuable to Google than the terms Books or Adult which appear at the bottom of the list.
Any attempt by Google to filter commercial sites from the organic ranking would severely damage Googles brand and credibility to serve unbiased search results. Such attempt, if true, would be extremely near-sighted, not worth risking a fantastic brand and service Google has come to create. The IPO as well as the bottom-line would be devastated. Besides Google says it has different groups working on Search and AdWords and one group cannot influence the other. I believe them.