Shaddows - 10:55 am on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)
In reality the change was more gradual than that, but not everyone was noticing the gradual shift.
And to make my regular point, that's because far too many people rely on outdated "checklist SEO".
I still see statements like "totally white hat link building, where I vary the anchor text" or similar.
Also, I know its fashionable to shred whatever MC says. But, he has been saying for quite a long time that people should be focussing on their users, not building for Google. Then suddenly, Penguin aggressively targets SEO techniques. You can't say you weren't warned.
Anyway, back to this patent. I think this is an extemely important development. Not in and of itself (ranking has long been chaotic following changes- the common advice to wait for stability has been shown to be wise), but because it clearly demonstrates the type of thing Google does to flumox SEOs.
Never mind the conspiracy theories about Google making SERPs worse to drive advertising revenue. They are increasing the opacity in their structurs while claiming an increased transparency in their end product.
[slightly off topic sketch]
To borrow a meme from Leo, its like some... Cult... telling you that you can join the queue for heaven near the front, if you only follow their rules. Everyone worries they are not giving you the full information, in order for the Cult leaders can join ahead of you.
In the mean time, the Cult (now co-opting the word "Universal") is building a real world empire, hiding its power structures from view, encouraging confessions (for your own good, not so they have actionable information), building alliances with "temporal" authorities, and generally extending its influence across all spheres of every day existance.
The admission that queue positions do not strictly match your perceived divinity undermines the Universal Cult's stated aim of "Organising the worlds Souls" which could make you wonder what, exactly, they are doing. But maybe the big issue is not your queue number (demanding conformity is only a small part of their power), but the influence they are amassing through providing services in exchange for nothing more costly than blind devotion and loyalty.