Keeping your Website Optimized for Google Algorithm Changes

September 22nd, 2011
Scott Huffman, Engineering Director, Google

Scott Huffman, Engineering Director, Google

Do you sometimes wonder why your website is indexed highly one day and almost nowhere to be found the next day? Or why Google has subtle changes one day to the next? Don’t worry, you are not alone and for the most part it will be a recently introduced Google algorithm change from Matt Cutts and his team at Google.

In most cases Google doesn’t announce a change to their algorithms and there is generally no prior warning, but it doesn’t take a good search engine optimization company long to undertake some speedy research in internet land to find out what changes have been made.  Often followed by a large panic by their clients wondering what went wrong with their SEO plans.  Depending on your relationship with your search engine optimization consultant, you should be advised of a Google algorithm change that will affect the indexing of your site – before your monthly report arrives in your inbox!

Why Google makes changes and improvements to algorithms

Google wants to have a search engine that works for users that allows them to find what they really want to find – the first time.  Before Google makes algorithm changes they put in a huge investment into understanding what works for users.  Every year Google will implement over 500 improvements to its search algorithms to make sure they achieve the best results for each user.  Scott Huffman, Engineering Director at Google says “we really analyse each potential change very deeply to try and make sure that it’s the right thing for users”.

The process for changing algorithms

If Google sees a set of motivating searches that are not performing as well as Google would like, the engineers will then come up with an hypothesis about what signal or data can be changed in the algorithm.

A change or improvement to the algorithm may also start with a creative idea, but it always goes through a testing process.  “All ideas are tested through rigorous scientific testing” says Amit Singal, Google Fellow.

After a change has been made to the algorithm the first test is with “Raters” who are external people trained to judge if one ranking is more relevant and of a higher quality than another.    These results are laid out side by side on the screen for queries that the engineers’ experiment might be affecting.

Once this has been tested Google then uses what they call a “sandbox” which is where they send a small fraction of actual Google traffic to the sandbox and are then able to compute lots of different metrics.  In 2010 Google ran over 20,000 different experiments.  Amit Singal says “if scientific testing says this is a good idea for Google users, we will launch it on Google”.

The importance of an optimized website

Taking all of the above into consideration it’s not difficult to see why SEO companies have to work extremely hard to keep your site optimised and why SEO companies really need to be on the ball.  With over 500 changes to the algorithms each year it shows how important a continued relationship with your SEO Company is!

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