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Google explores ranking industries differently - can you compete?

 11:14 pm on Jul 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

DS: Does Google have different ranking factors for different industries?

MC: We have looked at topic-specific ranking. The problem is it’s not scalable. There’s a limited amount of that stuff going on — you might have a very spammy area, where you say, do some different scoring.

What we’re doing better is figuring out who the authorities are in a given category, like health. If we can figure that out, those sites can rank higher.

DS: How many different categories?

MC: Lots.

What are you seeing in your vertical and can you compete with Google's interpretation of what's "better"? Thoughts?



 11:25 am on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have been dealing with different serps for years. Let's not forget about QDF and universal serps. Those changes made me evolve my approach to SEO and enabled me to gain more traffic when my competition didn't evolve with those changes.


 12:34 pm on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is where there is an advantage in targetting a sub-niche that is much narrower than a topical niche/category. Whilst a larger authority site may get the boost just because it has authority for the more general search terms within that category, they can often be outranked by a smaller niche site targetting a specific sub-category within the larger category.

This is where good page titles and meta descriptions inviting click through are just as important as the landing page/site quality of the smaller niche site. I have observed in a number of cases a new page on the niche subject entering SERPs at the bottom of the page 1 and then over the time creeping up eventually outranking large authority sites that held top positions.

In my observations I think this was not because of backlinks (gained neglible amount), I would rather speculate it was because of user metrics the new entry showed over the time. From my observations of several sites, it took 3-6 months for the new niche entry to outrank a larger authority site.


 12:47 pm on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

There is a peculiar statement in this interview:

MC: We’re rolling out a test of a “structured data dashboard.” There’s a beta for people interested in being in the beta. The URL to volunteer is bit.ly/sdtesters.

What do you see when going to this page?

This content is neither created nor endorsed by Google.


And is the current position on Google+:

DS: That’s why you don’t use Google +1s.

MC: Yes, for the same reasons. It can be sparse. It can be unreliable. That’s why I push back when you ask me about this.

Google+ is already unreliable?


 2:16 pm on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)


He didn't say that Google+ is unreliable, he said that using Google +1s [as a ranking signal] is unreliable.


 4:04 pm on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hmmm ...

It can be unreliable.

That's enough for me:-)


 4:32 pm on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

MC: We have looked at topic-specific ranking. The problem is it’s not scalable.

Hmm, Ask Jeeves was doing *real time* topic-specific hubs and authorities ranking back in the beginning of 2003. It seems that Google, if any company, should be able to scale it.


 5:04 pm on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

The Web was a lot different (and smaller) back in 2003. Maybe that's one of the reasons why Ask Jeeves (a.k.a. Ask.com) is a shadow of what it was was: It wasn't scalable!

Side note: I can remember when Ask Jeeves sent more traffic to our site than Google did. (It was our @1 referrer for a while back in 2002 or so.) One of the editors liked our site and linked to it generously.


 11:26 pm on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have always noticed this in reverse, namely, that big brand sites get away with "errors" that would cause a loss of ranking for a small site. News sites can cover numerous topics, yet rank well for most of them, while a small site needs to become an authority for its niche.

I can also see where important niches, e.g. health, can be given special attention to keep the truly reliable sources of information fairly high, provided they don't make a serious error - and MC admits to doing this.


 11:42 pm on Jul 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I can also see where important niches, e.g. health

Just how important can a niche be? I supply specialised construction products and heaven help you if one "accidently" falls on your head because a ranking BS site has given totally the incorrect information.

I'm getting really, really pi$$ed at Google ranking mis/mal/informed scraper sites ahead of me simply because they're blogger/American/full o'crap ...

To use the terminology of today ... I trust Google -1000% ... :-(


 3:34 am on Jul 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

If we consider how Google is looking at entities, semantic search, and authorities, maybe we should consider Google's algorithms as parallel with Freebase. That's where they pull information for the Knowledge Graph.


"Freebase has over 39 million topics about real-world entities like people, places and things... Some topics are notable because they hold a lot of data (e.g., Wal-Mart), and some are notable because they link to many other topics, potentially in different domains of information."

Various types of information for different industries would mean various ways of analyzing them.


 5:03 am on Jul 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

That is just not true. I have seen two of my competitors absolutely obliterated this year. Both health sites, both authorities, they're almost nowhere to be found in Google anymore. Meanwhile wikihow is providing incorrect medical information and ranking highly.

I honestly don't understand what's going on but it's definitely not finding the best authorities. It's become an absolute joke.


 4:49 pm on Jul 9, 2013 (gmt 0)


Do you have any recommendations or advices in tackling the different SERP's. Are there any specific tasks that we can do to perform better in one or another? When we do so, is it a gamble that we sacrifice website visibility in one SERP in favor of another?

What and how have you evolved your SEO strategy related to this phenomenon in terms of different SERP? I do think that we will see more and more industry related ranking SERP's as we move further along. Your insight would be greatly appreciated.

I liked your advices for the general ranking and marketing tips in another thread that I read.


 5:04 pm on Jul 9, 2013 (gmt 0)


I second your observation. Authority sites can rank for almost any term, especially at the beginning of publishing of new content. Then that traffic gradually fade and dissipates to other sites serving similar contents.

Super targetted sub niches do take a long time to gain momentum. But once traffic is established, it is hugely more reliable than an all encompassing authority in my view. I also observe that the momentum does take 3 month~6 month to establish. At the beginning the traffic volume is dismal at best. The risk is that sub niches can only get so popular and it's almost impossible to rank and gain traffic for other terms outside of the niche.

My general business strategy at the moment is to build both authority sites as well as sub niches interchangeably to "lower" my risk. I observe that my niche sites with good content are clawing and winning traffic from other "spam" authorities that offer no value, that are pretty much ranking with blank pages with keywords and shallow to nonexistent content.


 9:18 pm on Jul 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you look at Google's recent "How Search Works" interactive infographic [google.com...] you'll notice something interesting.

In Part One Crawling and Indexing, they say that "we sort the pages by their content and other factors...". Notice that you see "string theory" separated from "physics" and "P-BRANE".

If Google categorizes things first and then they apply the algo factors, then it could possibly be a way that that they would rank industries differently. They're different topics (different industries), so the factors like linking would only be applied amongst an industry or topic.


 9:34 pm on Jul 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

If Google categorizes things first and then they apply the algo factors, then it could possibly be a way that that they would rank industries differently. They're different topics (different industries), so the factors like linking would only be applied amongst an industry or topic.

I'm wondering if this could also explain some of the really oddball stuff we've seen in the past couple of years. Tedster thought "zombie traffic" might be some kind of user testing Google was doing, but I don't think we ever really figured out what kind of "testing" would go on as long as some people were seeing it. But what if it's just that they aren't sure what niche to group a site into and they keep trying new things?


 11:03 pm on Jul 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

zombie traffic aside, there has been a definite shake up at an industry level with major competitors dropping to previously unseen sites. The ones that remained look like made the right link associations, right keyword sets and offered up sacrifices to the Google gods.

Though a Google Dance like movement seems to be running throughout the SERPs regardless of specifics

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 11:37 pm (utc) on Jul 9, 2013]
[edit reason] fixed typo [/edit]


 10:59 am on Jul 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

My advice would be to seek out win-win solutions. Look for opportunities that will generate direct traffic to your site AND ranking signals for Google.

Instead of building just any backlink, develop backlinks from industry websites that will drive real traffic to your site. This will make you less dependent on Google and at the same time likely boost your Google rankings.

Every industry and website is different so you need to get creative and customize your solution. Think outside the box and make your marketing dollar work twice as hard. When you seek out non-Google ways to drive converting traffic to your website you will likely also be generating the ranking signals that Google is trying to measure.


 2:50 pm on Jul 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

@aakk9999 observations spot on!


 4:33 pm on Jul 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think they do look at different industries on a case by case basis, as Matt says. In a lot of the previous updates, people would say their niche has been affected so much, but I noticed nothing in mine.

Then, suddenly this time, the SERPs were all over the place. Up, down, and all around. Last week we had an across-the-board ranking drop (1-3 spots, generally) for some keywords and then this week it was almost completely reversed.


 4:49 pm on Jul 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well we already know they look at the payday loan industry differently, they've said as much.


 11:08 pm on Jul 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is something I concur with - particularly in the health niche. It seems that most specialist sites have disappeared.

The top results come from very big general health sites, a few govt sites, and then mainstream newspaper sites.


 1:47 pm on Jul 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Related is the presentation of the SERPs. Dr Pete lists 85 -- 85! -- different SERP features that impact listings in Beyond 10 Blue Links: The Future of Ranking [slideshare.net].

The variety is really quite amazing.


 3:57 pm on Jul 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for that, jimbeetle.


 1:28 pm on Jul 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

Just how important can a niche be?

MC says that Google does give prominence within the health industry, where traditional authority sites (teaching hospitals, govt health bodies, major health NFPs) don't invest in SEO. I am guessing that people's health is perhaps any corporation's most important concern and it ticks their CSR box to boot.

Finance is another protected area where major banks and insurance companies usually occupy the top spots for broad "respectable" terms. But when you get to payday loans and debt consolidation, you can see major movements for the smaller entities who did well last year.

When I look at the sites that rank for a cancer term from Australia, I get a mix of seemingly reputable sites from the US and Australia and the few I checked don't have any advertising on them. I note that many of the top-ranking sites have an HON Code of Conduct badge, which may need more study to assess any correlation with ranking.

I suspect that Google does not think that giving me a local selection of oncologists would help me unless my search was explicitly about cancer professionals in my city.

But when I look at safety equipment without further qualification, it is mostly commercial sites in my city, map, seven-pack - Google assumes I must want to buy something, not read some scholarly papers on it.

So, we might use the expression "health and safety" in the same breath, Google has a wider view.

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