When it comes to search engine optimisation Google is still the king. This week Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam fighting team announced in a new video that Google would be rolling out some changes to its algorithm in the coming months. From what Matt says in the video it would appear that the changes will be tied to looking at the content of the anchor text that leads to the website in question. Anchor text, in case you were not aware of it, is the text that is inside a link to a website e.g. this is a link to a leading Creative Design Agency.
During the video Matt talks about the difference between popularity and true authority in terms of website rankings on search engines. He explains that Google uses Page Rank as a measure of authority and not popularity. Page Rank is a rating between 0 and 10 that Google assigns to every website that it indexes, the higher the number the better the page rank and the higher the authority that Google regards that website with. Matt then dispels the myth that popularity is the same as authority. He uses the example that adult websites are popular with visitors but generally have few inbound links to them while government websites tend to have fewer visitors but have more inbound links to them. An adult site might be popular but a government site should carry more authority.
From my interpretation of what Matt says it is likely that Google are looking at introducing a more topic focussed version of Page Rank by taking signals from the anchor text of inbound links to your pages. If a lot of your inbound links include the word “marketing” then it will help your site to rank better for marketing queries. The intention is to try to improve the quality of search results for more topical queries by surfacing results from experts in their field and to stop sites that do not match the actual query so much ranking higher because they have more Page Rank authority in the field but not the actual topic. Matt implies that they are looking at text within anchor text to see if they can spot patterns that would suggest that you are an authority on specific subjects as well as broad topics.
The question that he is answering is “As Google continues to add more social signals to the algorithm, how do you separate simple popularity from true authority?” Interestingly when Matt answers he starts by saying that there is an assumption in the question about social signals and that suggests that social signals are not as important as many people think, at least in search engine optimisation terms. All those likes, shares and retweets are probably doing little for your search engine optimisation efforts but don’t give up on social. Social media will provide extra traffic to your site.
It is not yet known if this new update will be as major as the Panda and Penguin updates but I hope that it will lead to the creators of high quality, relevant content finding that search engine optimisation is something to embrace and not fear.