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Google's Patent on Backlinks - many interesting clues from 2007
tedster




msg:3963007
 7:45 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

I read Google Patents often, not because they use everything they put into a patent. They don't - and especially not at first. But the patents offer clues about what MIGHT be coming down the road. And a couple years later, sometimes they give us nice clues about ranking puzzles that have begun to surface.

With the current update apparently doing "something different" with backlinks, I went back for another reading of the 2007 patent application Document Scoring Based On Link-Based Criteria [appft1.uspto.gov] and I found a bunch of interesting points. It's not necessarily the clue to this update, but more along the lines of explaining some other observations.

If you read the entire patent, you don't end up with a clear-cut list. Instead you get "sometimes this way, sometimes that way, and it all depends". Most interesting to me was the way some back link factors can work differently (and even work the exact opposite way), depending on the query terms.

The patent mentions some of the standard factors we already talk about - trust and authority of linking sites, spikes in back link growth, spikes of similar anchor text, and so on. But a closer reading brought me some other goodies. Here is my paraphrase for some of the paragraphs I found interesting:

PAGE SEGMENTATION and RATES OF CHANGE
[0051] Here Google defines a factor called UA [update amount], and it can be a factor that they weight differently for different segments of the page. Not only the back link juice itself is weighted differently, whether it changes is also given a different weight, depending on where the link appears on the page.

PAGE CHANGES CAN IMPROVE OR LOWER RANKINGS
...it all depends on the query terms!

[0052] Pages that show an increasing rate of change might be scored higher than pages for which there is a steady rate of change.

Now contrast that paragraph with this:

[0055] For some queries, content that has not recently changed may be a better result. So ranking factors can work one way for one search term, and the opposite way for another.

PARTIAL INDEXING OF PAGES
[0053] This paragraph deserves some exact quotes:

In some situations, data storage resources may be insufficient...search engine may store "signatures" of documents instead of the (entire) documents themselves to detect changes to document content. In this case, search engine may store a term vector for a document (or page) and monitor it for relatively large changes. According to another implementation, search engine may store and monitor a relatively small portion of the document.

And so we hear "why can't I find my page for an exact phrase search." And we also have a hint that sometimes Google may not have enough storage all the time.

RANKING FOR SEVERAL SEARCHES
[0063] How often a page appears for different searches can help boost rankings across the board. So maybe optimizing a single page for several different terms makes some kind of sense, eh?

RANKING CEILINGS, TRAFFIC THROTTLING and the YO-YO EFFECT
These two paragraphs deserve to get bumped together:

[0075] A spike in BACKLINKS can mean two things - a suddenly hot topic, or an attempt to spam.
[0102] A spike in RANKING can also mean two things - a hot topic or spam.

Now here's where it gets interesting: According to [0102], Google may allow a ranking to grow only at a certain rate, or apply a certain maximum threshold of growth for defined period of time. This might well account for the pain of "I've hit the ceiling" that we sometimes feel.

Even beyond those painful ranking ceilings, I've seen analytics that show amazing Traffic Throttling [webmasterworld.com]. The daily traffic graph looks like a barber comes in at 2pm every day and gives a buzz cut. And in order to throttle traffic that effectively, the only way I can see is Yo-Yo Rankings [webmasterworld.com].

This patent suggests that if a site experiences an extreme throttling of its traffic, (or a yo-yo between page 1, page 5, page 1, etc) then the site probably had some suspiciously spiky growth in back links -- spikes that couldn't be explained by a Hot Topic suddenly popping up for the general public. And so, Google put the site on their traffic regulator.

That lines up exactly with the cases I've worked with. And members here first noticed the yo-yo (traffic throttling) in 2008 - more than a year AFTER this patent was filed.

 

whitenight




msg:3963024
 8:35 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

That lines up exactly with the cases I've worked with.

Which means what, exactly?
The pages got lots of spamming links quickly?

Meh, it doesn't matter anyways.

It's NOT the growth of backlinks that's the problem.

It's the ___________ of backlinks that's the problem.
(lol, that's as huge a clue as one's gonna get on eliminating the yo-yo)

Yeoj




msg:3963027
 8:40 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Excellent post, thank you.

WRT the page segmentation issue and rate of change, do you interpret that to mean that static links in footer type areas are going to be worth less if they do or don't change? i.e. are Google trying to spot link sellers, or identify worthless footer links?

tedster




msg:3963036
 9:32 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

The value of the footers links for their target page? Yes, it's pretty low compared to the content area -- or the sidebar area, or even the menu area. As a ranking factor for the page where the link appears, the footer area is also rather low.

Now rate of change in footer links (or really, anywhere)? That might well be a link-seller flag. But depending on the site, it could also be a sign of constantly changing news, well researched and worth ranking well simply because it is frequently updated. So there would be a correlation with the site's category in a web taxonomy, as well as the Query type for which it potentially ranks.

Frequent changes to the main menu or the title - I wouldn't touch it. I've heard enough horror stories to know that those kind of frequent changes can really bite back. And if you've got an external link in the main menu area, it better be pretty stable.

RedCardinal




msg:3963043
 10:07 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Interesting that Matt Cutts is listed as an inventor. Not noticed him on other patents before.

RedCardinal




msg:3963044
 10:10 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

@Whitenight - so there might be a clue in your clue?

longen




msg:3963049
 10:21 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

That might well be a link-seller flag. But depending on the site, it could also be a sign of constantly changing news

If its a news site then the text surrounding the link would change as the news changes. Whereas with link selling the page content might stay the same, but the links change.

whitenight




msg:3963051
 10:35 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

@Whitenight - so there might be a clue in your clue?

lol, no offense to tedster's fine re-reading and analysis of the patents,
but I've been giving "clues" to this issues since late 2007.

I've always said it has to due with a certain aspect of backlinks.

I've been saying "change your backlink profile" as the SOLUTION from the beginning.

HOW one does this is the "secret sauce" but i try to continually tell people what it is NOT so they can eliminate those causes, until they get the solution.

If you put together Tedster's in-depth posting and my "clues", one is bound to eventually "figure it out".

And when you do, you'll be just as hesitant to give that information away for free as I am.

Sure, for the sake of argument, I'll say Tedster's
"throttle equals the yo-yo"
is a main component of the issue.

There are many other factors involved, as well.
Many of them UN-intentional side-effects of the various conflicting filters that the current update may be trying to fix.

Which is also why I stress the understanding of the WHYS of the Yo-Yo are less important than the solution...

Why do I say this?

Because one can GET OUT OFF the Yo-Yo... permanently.

The patent is NOT the algo.
If so, then one would be forever stuck in perpetual yo-yo land due to "traffic throttling"

That, of course, is a false premise, no matter how much one may feel they will always be yo-yo-ing.

And I said in the pinned yo-yo thread, once you've "hit the ceiling"
you need to FORCE Google to believe you deserve to be in the top 3. (Not Top 10, the top 3)

RedCardinal




msg:3963054
 10:46 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Actually I was just counting the number of spaces you had blanked out :)

But on-topic, I think there is definitely more than one phenomenon that people refer to as "yo-yo". But I think you've likely added some spice in the form of a potential fix for one such phenomenon. Thanks.

dertyfern




msg:3963066
 11:07 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

whitenight, I believe that what you're suggesting by changing link profile is just getting more on topic links by higher caliber sites.

whitenight




msg:3963069
 11:12 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

whitenight, I believe that what you're suggesting by changing link profile is just getting more on topic links by higher caliber sites.

There's more than one way to skin a cat...err...change one's link profile. (in Goog's eyes)

tangor




msg:3963076
 11:48 am on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Interesting observations. Will this produce a fess up? Probably not. The Google Machine is as transparent as Mississippi mud. But it currently is the mighty river we have to navigate...

Shaddows




msg:3963089
 12:33 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Off the Yo-Yo for a sec.

The bit about multi-phrase ranking is counter-intuitive, if it means a scatter-gun approach to putting themes on a page.

I would suggest this would be for synergistic ranking (co-occurring phrases) rather than multi-theming.

On the same topic, here's something worth testing. Say you have a broad subject, and several blocks of text focussing on different facets of said subject. What would give best ranking: a group of interlinked pages hosting each text block, or a concatenated page with fragment IDs, particularly if the other text-blocks are JS hidden. From a presentation POV, these seem the same.

From a historic POV, the tightly-focussed, topically-linked interlinked pages would be assumed to work better (if you don't get too granular). The Patent suggests otherwise. If I were to bet on it, I would say that the patent merely reduces the advantage of one over the other.

Gomvents




msg:3963120
 2:13 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Shaddows, that's more about eliminating "Google bombs" as when ALL the incoming anchor text is EXACTLY the same, that is very fishy and more and more becoming a method of getting flagged

bhartzer




msg:3963123
 2:21 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

changing link profile is just getting more on topic links by higher caliber sites

Remember that a link profile can include incoming and outgoing links: *ALL* links.

ponyboy96




msg:3963151
 2:58 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Shaddows, I think the best approach is to have both. This usually results in an indented ranking in the SERPs with your laser targeted page ranking first and the mentioned page right below that.

I think the main point was to spread the wealth with similar on-topic content smattered with related subject information.

i.e widgets page - blue widget, red widget, cheap widget
blue widgets page - big blue widget, small blue widget, cheap blue widget
big blue widget page - information, price, purpose, use, related: small blue widget, cheap blue widget

arikgub




msg:3963164
 3:15 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Can you learn anything about the algo from Google patents?

I've been with one of the world's largest telecom companies for many years, and have written quite a few patents for them ...

We have never patented an idea that we thought could make a REAL difference vs competition. I can also tell you that
"deceiving" patents is a common practice ...

creative craig




msg:3963167
 3:29 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Can you learn anything about the algo from Google patents?

I think Tedster answered this question in the first few sentences.

Jane_Doe




msg:3963336
 8:06 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

We have never patented an idea that we thought could make a REAL difference vs competition. I can also tell you that
"deceiving" patents is a common practice ...

My first patent is going to patent the process of how make a red herring patent to throw people off the track of what your company is really busy trying to do. :)

JS_Harris




msg:3963364
 8:42 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yo-Yo Rankings - I have the ultimate saw blade charts in some of my reports (not popular niches, limited backlinks available), like clockwork too to the minute.

Changed content - If I leave a site alone for a period, say 30 days, and then begin posting once a day the traffic spike for the first few days is astounding for the entire site, not just the new pages. It levels off quickly, within a few days, but when compared with a site that received daily updates the entire time the spike leaves the site slightly ahead traffic wise, with less content.

Backlinks - i'm convinced that the volume of them is not as important as the rate of retention.

Page sectioning - i'm dealing with this issue right now on a site that seems to have lost value in its internal "related articles" section. Search engines seem to have a pre-set weighting factor assigned to the most popular cms systems.

Thanks for the links tedster, although figuring this stuff out directly leads to more changes it's still good stuff.

cangoou




msg:3963374
 8:53 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

changing link profile is just getting more on topic links by higher caliber sites

Remember that a link profile can include incoming and outgoing links: *ALL* links.

Okay, but how to change a backlink-profile? You can add, change or delete links - or am I missing something?

Everybody is telling you: Do not modify (too much) links, because Google then knows you got control over these links and will punish you.

Everybody is telling you as well: Do not delete (too much) links, because Google counts deletion of links negative for you (at least for some time).

This is both adviced for incoming and outgoing links.

So either I'm really missing something or you have to change your link-profile in a very loooooooooong period of time.

tedster




msg:3963376
 8:54 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Overall backlink factors:

1. Trust of linking sites
2. Authority of linking sites
3. Page segment where link appears
4. Churn
5. Diversity of site types
6. Natural diversity of anchor text
7. Natural growth rate for the keywords involved
8. Quantity - but it's not as big a deal as many think.

Whenever there seems to be a ranking problem related to backlinks, I go through this list mentally to discover weak spots in the backlink profile. "Attracting" backlinks is the best method of "building" backlinks, long-term.

willybfriendly




msg:3963380
 9:04 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

tedster, might I add to your list one more - deep links.

While true that pages, not sites, rank, I would wager that IBL's to multiple pages on a site is a stronger signal of value than a whole lot of links to a home page and nowhere else.

cangoou




msg:3963382
 9:07 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks for this list, very interesting thread.

1. Trust of linking sites
2. Authority of linking sites

Has it already been discussed or could you give a clue how to detect/measure these 2 factors on a given side in a reasonable
amount of time?

tedster




msg:3963388
 9:28 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

For trust, check the ranking of sites they link to. For authority, look at their backlinks. I find I don't need any precise measure - just a kind of quick pass/fail impression.

CainIV




msg:3963395
 9:58 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

[0051] Interesting, especially the part referring to page changes (as well as anchor changes). But what can we deduce here?

[0052] Interesting, the core standard has been improved on :)

[0053] Would this refer to the modified way in which the previous now ambiguous 'supplemental results' term was used? This is all about page rank, unique meta tags, taxonomy, internal linking, sitemap (html, xml) etc.

In terms of throttling I tend to believe that the "buzz cut" and Yo yo are separate entities, unless the nature of the yo-yo has changed.

When I did specific controlled testing with a website, the Yo yo effect happened when specific items on the page / site were changed which might represent a lowered trust on the overall domain.

I was able to 'teeter' rankings in absolute conjunction with changed items.

[0055] appears to me to refer to the analysis of semantics for a query, which might explain why some queries would better match a static page that is rarely updated, and others wouldn't. For example, queries that are historically associated with current events or news items would be expected to be tightly knit with pages whose content change often.

Queries for product purchase based keywords might be expected to be associated with pages with less changes, and queries that are strongly associated with past events might be expected to stay the same within reasons, with minor updates every so often.

tedster




msg:3963423
 10:54 pm on Jul 31, 2009 (gmt 0)

In terms of throttling I tend to believe that the "buzz cut" and Yo yo are separate entities, unless the nature of the yo-yo has changed.

How can Google perfom a traffic cut-off, at the same exact level every day, without sending the rankings down a few pages at the time of the cut-off? I can't see any other potential mechanism except a complete removal of that url from the SERP for the rest of the day, and that wasn't what was happening.

I agree that there are several different yo-yo reasons possible - and different mechanisms. For example, there could be a time-related trigger, or a traffic volume trigger to shift the rankings down.

And the causes for different types of yo-yos could also differ. There could be different kinds of "unnatural" looking changes in the backlink profile -- spiky growth, not enough diversity or authority, etc.

Some feel that the historical trust and authority (even the "brand") of the website itself in Google's eyes may also play a role - high enough trust and you've got immunity. Nevertheless I know of a high-trust, strong authority, internationally branded website that saw a time-of-day yo-yo (not the traffic-triggered buzz cut) when they suddenly began to rank well on a keyword where they never before showed up.

They had done a link building campaign that probably went overboard on keyword-in-anchor-text, but whatever the precise trigger, they were not immune to the yo-yo.

crobb305




msg:3963530
 3:51 am on Aug 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

on page changes

If on-page changes can trigger a yo-yo effect, even a month or two later, would reverting back to the previous version make things worse, or do you think that leaving it alone for a while is a better bet? I have experienced this, after making on-site navigational changes (to improve CTR and usability), then the yo-yo effect began a month later and still continues here 3 months later. The prior version had been static for years.

tedster




msg:3963550
 4:49 am on Aug 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't think on-page changes can trigger the yo-yo. I think it's always backlink related, and I apologize if I gave any other impression. It's extremely unlikely for on-page changes to generate a ranking spike on a major keyword - it takes backlinks to do that, in my view.

micklearn




msg:3963573
 5:30 am on Aug 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

I truly appreciate your summary of the patent, tedster. Kudos for taking the time. I'll be taking a closer look at the link you provided and this patent, as well: [appft1.uspto.gov...]

Slightly, OT...I try to browse through a number of forums on a weekly basis and on one of them I found something rather disturbing...a monthly subscription to a list of sites where one can submit a site and/or pages to gain back links. Based on the related thread(s) I've read through there, search engines, mainly Google, are behind the times, and the subscribers are enjoying their trips to the bank. Can any search engine combat something like that?

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