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There's a change slowly rolling out that improves the [nfl jerseys] query substantially. I'll check on the others. Thanks for the examples.
Some really dramatic changes to how we use links are on the way. (Sorry I can't say anything more specific. This is a really sensitive area.)
I assume he can't be more specific because he doesn't want to tip Google's hand any further - further detail could undermine their effort.
I think it was a few weeks ago when a Matt Cutts video was released and he said that USERS' biggest complaint WASN'T that there is too much spam in the SERPs, but that there were TOO MANY ECOMMERCE RESULTS in the top SERPS.
I wouldn't be surprised if they barely register on the "pagerank" scale at all, unless it's a high PR profile. That ship has sailed imo.
We were already in the middle of deploying an algorithmic change in how we trust links in our scoring. So between Feb. 1st and Feb. 8th, lots of rankings for the pages in question had already dropped. The author of the NYT article, David Segal, noticed that independently and we confirmed that algorithmic changes had been responsible for those drops. After Segal contacted us, we investigated and ended up taking corrective manual action as well.