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Why are Google's Algorithms Not More Widely Understood ?

 12:44 am on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Here's a philosophical question:

Why are Google's algorithms not more widely understood ?

There are many on this board who have done an admirable job analyzing and deducing pieces of the Google puzzle. As a matter of fact, an entire board here has been dedicated to this endeavor.

With "insider information" leaks rampant in all industries, why is it that Google has been able to keep a lid on its proprietary algorithm so well ? I mean, there are 10's of thousands of Google employees world-wide......how come the disingenuous in this world haven't been able to successfully bribe Google employees to get this information out in the open ?

It amazes me that Google's algorithms aren't more widely known with accuracy. I would expect that there are many greedy people out there, that would pay big bucks for such information. How has Google been able to keep a lid on its intellectual property so well ?



 2:20 am on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

One obvious answer is that Google has extremely loyal employees - and Google takes very good care of their employess. Google is considered one of the most desirable employers around, so much so that they can have thousands of job candidates for every slot they fill.

But it's more than that. "The algorithm" is a total work made of many components, and thopse components are all in constant process. What did Udi Manber say, 450 changes to the total algoritm in 2007? So even if something extremely specific and detailed about the current algorithm was leaked, that tidbit would not have a very long shelf life!

Google's general intention seems pretty clear as far as the general shape of the ranking algo goes. That's put forth in the guidelines, and the algorithm is an evolving attempt at formalizing those guidelines with mathematical calculation.

[edited by: tedster at 3:01 am (utc) on June 10, 2008]


 2:51 am on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

"The algorithm" is a total work made of many components...

I suspect only a few know the entire scope of what is at work.


 3:14 am on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

The algo is also different for different keywords. That was very apparent beginning with the Florida update years ago when they not only targeted competitive commercial keywords but did so unevenly. A commercial term may have been targeted in one geographic area and not another and others were added to the "list" later. In some cases they were never added and remained unaffected by the changes.

Even today you can't necessarily apply the optimization "rules" you are using for one set of keywords and apply them successfully to another.

That makes it very difficult to define the algo with any certainty - and then when you add the frequent changes into the mix it is darned near impossible.


 7:43 am on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Also there are n ways to arrive at the same ranking for many terms so it is difficult to devise the perfect recipe.

Recipe 1 has 3 parts back links, one part low keyword density, two parts muck one part magic.

Recipe 2 has 8 parts paid backlinks, one part scraped content with high keyword density.

Both cakes taste the same.




 8:01 am on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

If you stick enough pins in the donkey then some of them will statistically land near the tail! The new way with Google, unfortunately, seems to be to create as much rubbish as humanly possible and some of it will work well in Google then as Google changes its factors some rubbish goes down but some other goes up leading to a nice stable traffic model. Create as many baskets as possible with one little egg in each instead of working hard on one large egg in one basket, that is what recent events have taught me to do in the future.


 9:19 am on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

AND... They put different rubbish at the top on .co.uk

Hey lets give those Brits their own rubbish and we'll keep our garbage.

If the trash starts to stink too badly we'll chuck it out too.




 3:00 pm on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Maybe the algorithms are like Monty Python's funniest joke - too dangerous for any one person to know in entirety, so chunks of them are worked on by different groups isolated from each other. No single point of failure.


 5:06 pm on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

A. The algo isn't hard to figure out.

B. Whether intentional or out of ignorance, many "experts" give incomplete, misleading, or wrongly focused information.

C. Those who do know, don't tell. As mentioned above, one can easily make "LOTS" of money with the information so why would they share it? Having any single SERP is a zero-sum game.

D. {insert my bi-monthly rant here about ignoring SEO boards for 3 months. Analyzing 100's of SERPS, keeping a database, and suddenly Goog's algo becomes CRYSTAL CLEAR)

E. 450 changes? Bleh. See point D. and you'll realize it's about 10, 20 MAX that really affect anything that actually needs to be focused on. The other 430 "tweaks" make great forum fodder but have little effect on ranking at will.

F. TURN OFF & DESTROY listening to ANYTHING that comes from the 'Plex - Google Employees #1-#5. They either falsely promote FUD or simply don't know because of various reasons given above.
Let the SERPS be your teacher. (see point D again)

You don't need Goog Employee #1-#5 or #10,000 to tell you when something has "shifted" in the 10 ...err... 450 major factors. The database you have created in Point D will keep you well ahead of the curve and allow you to easily notice when it's truth or FUD.

G. The sooner you forget about "white" "black" "grey" and focus on your ROI and risk-tolerance levels, the quicker you'll "experiment" with ideas that people swear are going to get you banned, penalized, whatever, and see what the SERPs want. Not what Goog employees would LIKE you to do or what XYZ SEO pundit THINKS is safe/dangerous.

H. New rant -

Someone recently commented on "Xbox Playing SEO wanna-bes" and it made a striking point about COMPUTER GAMES (that's all the algo is) and those able to succeed at SEO. Any gamers out there will understand the analogy that succeeding with Goog is nothing more than playing an excellent MMO strategy game (with 450+ variables involved) and certainly not the HARDEST games available.

Are you prepared to spend 6-9 months "playing" all day and night long to learn how to get the high score/strongest character?

Once you've "mastered" the game, its quite easy to master the add-on and companion modules that may be slightly more difficult but still rely on the same BASICS of the original game.

Just like hard core gamers/high stakes poker players/market-making traders and investors, successful SEOs play their gaming style close to their chest.

That said...

the simple answer is ... The employees don't know. The ones who do, HAVE (as documented by certain stories) set up very successful businesses with their knowledge.


 5:38 pm on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Precisely whitenight, precisely.


 5:42 pm on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

I suspect only a few know the entire scope of what is at work.

I'd be willing to bet that the Founders of Google don't even know the entire scope anymore.

450 changes in 2007? Okay, who at Google can rattle off all 450 changes and understand each one? ;)

The Algo is a living, breathing, thing. It adapts to its environment day in and day out. Why do you think there is so much movement in the SERPs these days? It is adapting, learning, growing, becoming "intelligent".

I also feel that you really only need to understand the core concepts. The others are all effects of the core.


 6:41 pm on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well put.

The answer to the original question in the first post is - the algorithm is probably widely understood to be exactly as pageoneresults describes - a living, breathing, thing. It adapts to its environment day in and day out.


 9:53 pm on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

The algo constantly changes - the goal stays the same: they want to present the best and most accurate info to the visitors. So build the greatest site and they are working for you at the plex trying to algo your site to the top. Of course you will not always be at the top, and that is why they tweak it. Building a site for the snapshot of the current state of the algo will keep you tweaking instead of them ... old news.


 10:04 pm on Jun 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I do believe much of how the algo functions is clearly spelled out in the many patents that have been awarded to Google over the years. Those things are a gold mine of information if you can decipher them. Its like reading the W3C. :)


 12:35 pm on Jun 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

If you think Google is secretive, what about Yahoo and MSN? Google at least occasionally gives out hints or confirmations via Google Guy, Matt Cutts, or a few other ubergeeks like the Search Team chief. We get general ideas mostly but occasionally specifics.

What have you ever got from Yahoo or MSN? I haven't seen any thing from any of them in the last 10 years! Mind you, that could be because even they don't know.



 12:23 am on Jun 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

What have you ever got from Yahoo or MSN? I haven't seen any thing from any of them in the last 10 years! Mind you, that could be because even they don't know.

However...those used to dealing with the vagaries of G, and their experiments trying to surmount new/changed/altered/fubar algos, should by now have learnt what does/does not work with Yahoo!/MSN.

I just want to know why Yahoo!/MSN users do not click on ads as much as Google referers?!?!?


 4:29 am on Jun 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

re: Whitenight....excellent post !

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