Matt Cutts Announces Algorithmic Changes: Google to Prioritize Authoritative Results for Search Queries
Matt Cutts, who leads Google’s Webspam team, posted an [interesting new video] today on the Google Webmasters YouTube page. He answered a question posted by a user who asks, “As Google continues to add social signals to the algorithm, how do you separate simple popularity from true authority?”
Cutts chose not to discuss social signals, and instead focused on how Google separates simple popularity from true authority. “We’ve actually thought about this quite a bit because, from the earliest days, it would get us really frustrated when we would see reporters talk about PageRank, and say ‘PageRank is the measure of the popularity of websites,’ because that’s not true,” Cutts stated. He went on to note that Google engineers make a clear distinction between “popular” and “authoritative” websites.
PageRank emphasizes reputation
Cutts cited porn sites, which tend to be very popular, as an example of popular websites that people tend to avoid linking to. In contrast, people tend to link more frequently to less visited websites, like government sites. While not many people might visit the website for the Wisconsin Real Estate Board, a significant number of people link to such websites, as they’re considered to be very authoritative.
“Popularity, in some sense, is a measure of where people go, whereas PageRank is much more a measure of reputation,” stated Cutts. Google’s PageRank algorithm attempts to measure and rank websites based on the perceived importance of these sites. PageRank enumerates the number and quality of links to particular web pages in order to assess how important websites are. This method is based on the assumption that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.
One way Google separates the popular from the authoritative, and uses that distinction to determine if a page is an appropriate match for a given user query, is to examine how topical the anchor text is on the inbound links. If a large fraction of the inbound links talk about the keyword or phrase the user is searching for, PageRank might deem that website to be an authority on that keyword or phrase.
Google to roll out algorithmic changes in the near future
Cutts then announced that Google is set to roll out algorithmic changes that will attempt to determine which web pages are better matches for user queries. These algorithmic changes will match queries not to the most popular sites, but to the sites that are recognized authorities on particular subjects.
As Google continues to incorporate better authority and relevancy signals into its algorithm (based on semantic analysis, identity, and other factors), online marketers will need to adapt to and take advantage of Google’s new relevancy signals. As Google’s algorithm shifts to authority, brands and online marketers must become authorities themselves, and establish real individuals as their authors.
In line with the push for high-quality and targeted content, online marketers need to publish exceptionally high-quality, authoritative content on particular subjects. Such content should then be promoted through influencers and influential channels via targeted distribution (avoiding many of the link building abuses that got websites penalized a few years ago).
Finally, online marketers need to observe best semantic practices to ensure that the meaning of their content is made clear to Google. This in turn will ensure that such content ranks well on Google’s organic SERPs.
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