Don’t Try to Beat Search Algorithms

There was a time, quite a few years ago, when SEOs could reliably trick search engine algorithms into listing their websites at the top of the results. Those days are long gone. In fact, the whole idea of gaining top rankings doesn’t mean the same thing anymore.

The truth is that search engine algorithms have become so complex, accounting for so many different variables, that no one can keep track of them all. Stoney deGeyter discussed this in almost excruciating detail. So if you think you or your SEO can game the system, think again.

Let’s start with the fact that Google was already analyzing something like 200 different ranking signals back in 2009. That’s three or four years ago; today, they’re almost certainly analyzing more. And even if they aren’t, it’s a fair bet that they’re not analyzing the same 200 signals that they used then. Search engine developers at Google constantly look for ways they can make their algorithms work better. So while we can make a fair guess at some of the signals Google uses, nobody in the SEO community knows all of them.

Next, consider that not all of these signals carry the same weight. How important is it that your domain name features your target keyword? Your title tag? Anchor text? Only Google knows the answer, and they’re not talking. Worse, that answer keeps changing, because it’s only a matter of changing some code to change the importance the search engine grants to any particular signal.

Now you may have noticed my use of the term “algorithms,” plural, when talking about Google. That’s because the search giant doesn’t use a single algorithm. Do you suppose it uses the same algorithm for the medical industry that it uses for the construction industry? More than likely, it doesn’t. That’s because those 200-odd signals I mentioned earlier actually carry different weight and significance in different industries. How far does this granularity go? Well, deGeyter notes that Google might have anywhere between 50 to 200 different algorithms running at any one time. “These different algorithms might be in play for different industries, different types of searches or testing the effects of various algorithm changes before a full push,” he explained.

And it’s just gotten more complicated over time, as Google has added personalization, geo-location, and social signals as factors and filters involved in search. So any particular search can be affected by the searcher’s zip code,  search history, previously visited sites, and even the websites his or her friends on Google+ have visited and liked – oh, excuse me, +1ed.

Naturally, Panda and Penguin also make “gaming” Google’s algorithms more complicated. (You were wondering when I’d get to those, right?). These black-and-white critters are no ordinary updates; they’re filters through which the search giant runs its huge index from time to time. As deGeyter explains, “If your site got hit with these updates, fixing the problem that caused it won’t bring immediate results. You have to wait until the next time Google runs the filter.”

So what’s a site owner trying to get top rankings in Google supposed to do? Well, you may have to give up the idea of “top rankings” as such. If you look at your site in Google and you have the top ranking for your targeted keywords, turn off everything that tells Google who and where you are. If you’re still at the top, guess what? You may not be the top result for many other searchers, who have all of their customizations turned on. It’s a catch-22.

Fortunately, there is a way to resolve it. Keep an eye on algorithm changes, but don’t try to chase them. And remember what you’re really trying to do! I admit deGeyter says it better than I can: “It’s not about trying to get just the right amount of words on a page, your keywords in just the right spot or even about the perfect backlink graph. It’s about building a site that visitors love, focusing on the keywords they search and doing it better than your competitors.” Good luck!

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9 Responses to Don’t Try to Beat Search Algorithms

  • Sir fliesalot says:

    I recently uploaded my video to YouTube, but I’m having issues with the “Related Videos” box to the right of it. It’s supposed to be a video of me covering the guitar part of “The Great Escape” by Boys Like Girls. But in the related videos, it shows a bunch of videos of people covering completely different songs. So I looked at their descriptions and saw that they all used the same guitar as me, which I also happened to put in my description box. I took it out, but those videos are still related to mine. I’ve tried removing nearly all my tags and my video description, and even changed the title to something general, like “Boys Like Girls – The Great Escape”, but those videos still show up in the related videos box. Likewise, when I look at other guitar covers of the same song, my video doesn’t show up in it (it got beat out by videos of drum covers or something.) If you’re interested to see what I entered in the tags and video description, you can view it here:
    Help would be appreciated :]

  • United says:

    If GBuy (apparently a Google service) is something different from Google checkout, where can I find that service? Is it better than Paypal?

  • arronwrath says:

    I have data in a Google spreadsheet that I would like to automatically import into my WordPress website. How do I do it?

  • Victoria T says:

    I just got a motorola cliq and have seen articles all over advertising the new update to google maps allowing navigation but when i go to google mobile it says to access the android market through my phone and download the latest google maps but when i do that google maps does not appear in the market. Is this becuase i am not on the Droid or is there some other problem that is not allowing me to find this new update?

  • Smashing Pumpkins says:

    Plz i need urgent help for solving these question??

  • davemc74656 says:

    so, im not the most technology savvy guy, i know my way around some programs but you know, average. i was listening to a lecture about viruses and it caught my attention.

    the speaker was talking about people out there (in the internet world) who make worms and viruses etc. and release them into the internet, which brings about my 1st question?

    1: how do people even get worms into the internet, now, i know it may seem childish but when i hear that i imagine a worm as being like an airborne virus, the internet being all the air and your random searching being you accidentally running into it while going through a DNS or whatever? so, i know that’s not right, the internet is just light being sent through a cable and being read as 1’s and 0’s and that makes your computer interpret the data and display it, so, how do people get worms in?

    okay, going past that, im always curious as to how these things go about doing what they do, its as if the virus has artificial intelligence of logic algorithms??? how can a worm (once again, my mental image) sneak into your computer and hack stuff in a sense so

    2: how do worms (viruses etc.) actually get into your computer and hack things, do they just go for random things that every computer has? what if you have some new OS, then would this virus be useless, just pointless data sitting in your computer unable to do anything?

    the third thing that was brought up was that once in 07 i believe, microsoft discovered a MASSIVE vulnerability in their DNS servers or something like that, and any would-be hacker could exploit, now, it just ended there, exploit. to do what?

    3: if some hacker got into say, Microsoft’s DNS servers, how and, what would they even do?

    there as one thing, final one, the speaker said the two of the main 13 servers that make up the backbone of the internet got hacked and severely damaged, running at 20% capacity so.

    4: first, i always thought the internet was just all the computers connected together, so… yahoo for an example has their servers, and when we go to yahoo, we are in their servers, and if more people come, they need more servers etc. etc. what are these 13 main servers, who owns them, where are thither? what are their importance?

    4.1: also, how could someone hack one of them, all i imagined it being was a HUB, like the center of a mall, there’s nothing to steal there, its just a gate way for making things more organized? what would you hack?

    4.2: how do these things get past security, in fact… how does security work??? i imagine it being like a border for getting onto a country (you computer or other networks) the security knows whats legit and lets it pass, and whatever looks suspicious, gets kicked back into the pool or desert internet. how do things get past? are some viruses like airborne real life viruses, and they just “slip through” with no way of stopping them?

    4.3: if all this is possible then why don’t (me assuming this makes sense) we (the gov.) just make worms that seek and destroy all this bad software, just make worms that know what should and shouldn’t be and you know, delete them (once again, me trying to make sense)

    5:perhaps the least tech required question, why do these people do it, why make problems and viruses, why?

  • Scott Bull says:

    I need to make a program to generate 23000 random numbers with no repeats in under 2-3sec. This is no specific language I just need to understand the theory.
    i did try gardners solution and the problem is that as the list of used numbers gets longer the time it takes to check grows exponentially. even when generating a mere 5000 numbers using this method in Qbasic 4.5 the time is so long (yes i took some measures an made calculations) it would takes days.

    BTW, i do not need to complete the task, i just want to understand the solution. I dont care if i can do it in some language like php or python with commands that are built in. I have already done that and its boreing
    Thank you for the shuffle solution. Are there other ways anyone can think of? obviously the problem is solved now but i want to here more ideas.

  • Lia-lu-li says:

    Hi There,
    I’ve been playing Go for a few years now, and my gf wants to learn to play too. She’s a very mathematical person though, and wants to know the formula behind the game. I know that we can’t program pc’s to play properly, but does anyone know any mathematical papers based on Go out there?


  • lildevilgurl152004 says:

    I have a hidden folder and I know how to find it and what not
    but the thing is when I use the search bar (in the start menu thing) I can see everything in the hidden folder and even view it.
    Do I have to hide them as well or is there another Solution that I don’t know about?

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