Lapizuli - 11:07 pm on Jul 22, 2011 (gmt 0)
If this is what Google is doing, then sure, it's problematic for certain types of pages. But isn't that what we're seeing? Really big misses for certain classes of pages and sites, high accuracy with some verticals and query types, and raw, untamed results with others?
I don't know if it's absolutely useless, though - just tricky, time-consuming, indirect, and maybe ill-fated, as the task here is to focus on quality.
A single signal for quality is impossible with so many different kinds of web properties. They've tried interpreting multiple signals in their complicated AI way, but have not been able to prevent mediocre content from ranking.
So they're shifting emphasis to across-the-board signals like authorship, reputation (through social networking), and authority, and de-emphasizing the quality-signalling SEO that is so heavily manipulable like links, grammatically correct writing, and keyword relevance. And more than ever, they're looking at user data, the only really objective signal of quality they have.
It's kind of a functional approach - if the page functions like it's useful, then it is.
So how to find the good content, given the problem londrum just pointed out - that their rankings bias what comes to the fore? If mediocre content was ranking before, then it follows that better content was being buried. So what do you do? Tamp down linking and keyword signals, reach to the ends of the web and pull more sites forward, and see what users tell you.
They've been using user data all along, but we're guessing that their confidence in user metrics has increased for some reason. Dunno what.
You know, I really don't think Panda is about crushing content farms. I think it's about becoming better able to hear through the noise in wildly variable websites and network neighborhoods. The website noise becomes more manageable if they turn up the volume on users' signals.
The most powerful set of data Google has is data on its users. They haven't been able to use it very much so far, because it's real noisy. But we're guessing they think they're getting better at it. We won't know for a while if that's true. And if Google loses too much search share in the meantime, we won't ever know.
Or we could be wildly off base. It could be bounce rate. :).
Time will tell. But I do think that if and when Google implemented/implements this patent, it'll mean an end to SEO as we know it, because the whole reason SEO was born was to communicate with a search engine, and the search engine doesn't want to listen to anyone anymore except the users (doesn't trust us for some reason). It would just be nice to get a memo when that happen(s)(ed).