What’s changed in the Matrix…ehm I mean Algos?

Whilst at SMX London last week I attended the session;Whats new with the Algorithm?,now, I had quite high expectations for this session as the panel included: Mikkel deMib Svendsen, Dave Naylor, Dixon Jones and my favourite Icelander Krisijan Mar Hauksson. Not so surprisingly this session was dominated by talking about the new Google PageRank and what is thought to be a change in the linking algorithms with regards to paid links. Not necessarily because the panel wanted to talk about it but the audience brought it up, again and again and again. Yawn

Now I love these guys on a panel together, its so entertaining, a weird mix between Scandinavian irony and Northern English sarcasm = comedy. But, saying that, I was quite disappointed they didnt go further into the different aspects of the algorithm. Maybe the session should have been called Whats old and now more important in the alogorithms??? Now, that might have been more relevant, basically what Im saying is Im bored of the Google PageRank discussion. A few of my clients websites got a decrease in PageRank BUT it hasnt affected their rankings whatsoever. Has anyone else had any change in rankings and traffic since the PageRank update? If so please shout!

Let’s compare the search engine algorithms to the Matrix (why the fuck not?), do you remember this scene from the movie:

Neo sees a black cat walk by them, and then a similar black cat walk by them just like the first one

Neo: Whoa. Dj vu.
[Everyone freezes right in their tracks]
Me,ehm I mean Trinity: What did you just say?
Neo: Nothing. Just had a little dj vu.
Trinity: What did you see?
Cypher: What happened?
Neo: A black cat went past us, and then another that looked just like it.
Trinity: How much like it? Was it the same cat?
Neo: It might have been. I’m not sure.
Morpheus: Switch! Apoc!
Neo: What is it?
Trinity: A dj vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.


When one part of the algorithm changes, is adjusted or added to, its likely that the old stuff will change as well, right? Now, I have no doubt that something changed in the algorithms with regards to the PageRank and quite possibly related to paid links. BUT my point is WHY is everyone looking at just the obvious that changed, the more interesting bit is what other things did they change to accommodate this? See where I’m going?

I have a few theories, ok maybe more lose random thoughts, about what has ACTUALLY changed in the Matrix, god damn it, I mean algorithms. And I would love to hear your thoughts on this, let’s get a real discussion about this.

1. IS CTR back in the Algorithms? Once upon a time you had people franticly clicking on their own website in the SERPs to get it higher in the results. As CTR was a quite natural way of measure relevance, ok slightly naive of the SE thinking no one would take advantage of this. We all know that CTR is a significant part of the Quality Score in Google’s paid listings, now isn’t there a chance that this vaild measurment of relevancy is back in the algos, obviously more sophisticated than before, including bounce back measurement etc etc?

2. Content for pity sake! I am such a big believer that it all starts and ends with your content. If you don’t have flipping keyword rich content it does not matter how many links you have. I really don’t think SEO is about sodding links, if you don’t have a keyword strategy and optimise your content properly (without keyword canablizing it to death) you are on your way. But what is the more important part of the content? Here’s my order, and please feel to disagree. I might punch you, but please go ahead ;)

- Title tag (this tag has always been important but I think it’s become even more important in the last 12 months, so don’t fucking ignore it!)
- H1 tag
- Internal links & anchor text
- Main content (now I get a lot of stick for this but I still work on keyword density, not to get an ultimate keyword density or anything like that but to make sure one page will get ranked in-front of the other for targeting as quite often it’s difficult to not keyword canabalize a little, some relevant keywords you just have to use throughout the site.

3. Technical SEO aspects. Now I will gladly admit this is where I know the least. At one of the last sessions at SMX “Website Tuneup” Rob Kerry (evilgreendonkey) did a cracking job at evaluating some really shocking websites. But I must admit I found myself thinking “whatthefuckniwho?” most of the time. Some of these sites were not getting any results simply because of the ridiculous mess their code was in, loads of re-directs going to pages that didn’t exist and loops of endless error messages. This is where we need to start thinking clever, or maybe just basic. I think if a website is built with accessibility in mind it’s quite often SE code friendly as well. Rob can you share some knowledge with us here? What were the tools you used to find out how messy the code was?

So what’s it going to be? The blue or the red pill????

Ha! Google is the “system” and to be able to figure out the system you have to be “in it”. Taking the blue pill is what an SEO will do when all he cares about is earning shit loads of money and spamming the fuck out of Google. Now taking the red pill is always questioning and sharing your knowledge with other SEOs and together achieve greater understanding of the system!


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21 Responses to “What’s changed in the Matrix…ehm I mean Algos?”

  1. g1smd says:

    Some of the “tactics” employed by at least one of the reviewed websites were truly shocking from a technical standpoint. I mean, writing the entire page content to the browser screen through some JavaScript function? What were they smoking?

    Others were just people who had overlooked or misunderstood the technical aspects of the URL structure and the HTTP response codes that the various URLs within their site would return to the search engine bots. Those issues will be fairly easy to clean up.

    Things found on the reviewed sites included stuff like:
    - redirecting from the root of the domain to an internal page (big no no),
    - having eight different ways for any page of the site to be indexed,
    - using a 302 redirect instead of a 301 redirect,
    - redirecting from non-www to www but leaving all your internal links pointing at the non-www URLs,
    - allowing paths and filenames of any case to resolve to the same pages (big oooops, but that’s IIS for you),
    - using a 302 redirect to some dynamic index page instead of serving a proper 404 status for URLs that don’t exist (Ahem! That 302 creates infinite Duplicate Content),
    - serving a page over 1 MB in size even for the root index page, including 200 KB of JavaScript (what the heck does that code DO?), and 800 KB of images (all displayed at thumbnail size),
    - over 200-word long page titles and meta description data,
    - identical title and description on every page of the site,
    - needing a subscription to view any of the site and wondering why none of the search engines had signed in and indexed anything.

    You get the idea.

    We take this search-engine stuff for granted, but for the newbies this must all seem like rocket science. Good job there was a panel of experts to find all that stuff out and highlight the right way to do things.

    One thing is clear though, spammy sites and schemes don’t make it past the review panel. They have a nose for stuff that stinks. It is always interesting to watch the site owner squirm when their spammy scheme is discovered within just a few seconds.

    I really do want to know what that nifty program was, the one that Jake Baillie used to see the response codes and response times for various page and file accesses. I want one of those! It looks a tad more useful than Live HTTPHeaders and WebBug.

  2. David Ledoux says:

    Beautiful, intelligent with the mouth of a trucker…back when I was growing up, we had a saying about hot SEO babes like that…

    …date them.

    “I don’t do hospitals! Everyone I know that died has been shot in the woods and taken to a hospital, where they died!” – Lucky

  3. imjuk says:

    nice post – Is Neo a spammer? By the end of the matrix he games the system, turning the rules that control the environment upon themselves thereby reducing the quality of the computer index and the resultsin the extinction of the ordered universe that the matrix had created.

    Also does that make Matt Cutts the Agent Smith of Google?

  4. ha ha, well I reckon Neo is a proper bad ass black hat =)

    I was actually thinking about photoshopping a picture of Agent Smith with Matt Cutts face, but Matt is such a nice guy it just didn’t feel right =)

  5. I can’t believe you spelt my surname wrong, it’s going to be your surname in a couple of weeks!

    What question did you ask? Am I giving your readers free consulting now?


  6. Julie Joyce says:

    All of this does make me wonder what else changed in the algorithm…everyone’s so focused on PageRank changes; are those the cover for something else? With Google, I’d not be surprised at all.

  7. g1smd says:

    Some of the recent wobbles may have also been down to various sites temporarily appearing to lose their backlinks from the ODP when Google was re-jigging the domain canonicalisation (and hence PageRank) for various ODP domains a few weeks back.

  8. Oooohhh… I love this post!

    Fantastic and good point Julie – is the pagerank dance a cover for something else…?

  9. Julie Joyce says:

    I really do not like Keanu Reeves, even though he does resemble Jay. Is that at all relevant to this post?

  10. Todd says:

    One of the best roundups of the algo I’ve seen in a while. People get hung up on the dumb details instead of these important ones. It’s not overly complicated, but subtle changes can make a big impact and should be planned for accordingly in the decision making process. It’s also very important to understand what the search engines are LIKELY to do based on their major concerns, and historical decision making processes and timelines.

    Bonuse points for being a super nerd with the parallel to the matrix – will geeks EVER really get anough of that?

    I gotta say, it’s kinda nice when you finally SEE the matrix and can start dodging bullets before they’re fired;) Keep plugging on new forms of content and links and the agents will never catch ya.

  11. @ Rob: I didn’t spell your surname wrong, you are imagining it =) Ehm…cough cough…

  12. @ Todd: thanks dude, glad you liked it *big grin*

    See you in Vegas =)

  13. Matt Ridout says:

    Very enjoyable post, I will be coming back for some Red Pill action lol

  14. imjuk says:

    Xmas is the perfect time for Google to roll out stuff – Anyone old enough to remeber will know the pain caused to SEO guys in the xmas season. Couldn’t be a business decision to help inflate PPC prices – could it…..

  15. I never thought of that, good point “imjuk”, the conspiracy plot thickens =)

  16. Smart Julie and Witful Lorie…

    So EvilGoogle is after Neo, time to JackUP and desend into the Algo..

    We must save Zion…

  17. g1smd says:

    Some sort of glitch in the matrix?


    One site seemingly has more than 7 Billion pages indexed.

    Is this a page count estimate that’s just b0rked, or is there something else going on?

  18. Jon Dunn says:

    Lisa- I have to agree with you, its Yawn, Yawn as far as I’m concerned about Googles’ stance on paid links. Like you said; has anyone suffered in the SERP’s? Not obviously from what I can see? But i tend not to deal with purchasing or selling links. So what is all the fuss about?… well, its because Google cant detect paid links algorithmically? They want all the fuss, they want all those business owners worrying about that little green bar,they want everyone to talk about Google and Paid links. Its scare mongering. When else do they publicly warn the world about new and upcoming algorithm changes?
    Im not sure why there would be any other algorithm changes, are you saying it was a cover up? or that other changes could have been made to accomodate it?
    I would like to think there was a conspiracy going down, after all everyone likes a good conspiracy. I especially like: “Xmas is the perfect time for Google to roll out stuff Couldnt be a business decision to help inflate PPC prices? ” Yes it certainly could, but is anyone actually suffering?

    As for some of the other stuff:
    I think CTR has been involved in ranking algorithms for a while, Googles’ SERP’s have Java measuring CTR.. but as you rightly say, getting cleverer all the time, I think we could well see a high bounce rate damaging a site in the SERP’s more than a high CTR increases rank?!
    (shussshhh, i think your right about keyword density.) Although there is no magical density, you can control the way pages are ranked through paying attention to it.

  19. AndreSC says:

    LOL, yea, I’ve seen some of my sites/pages drop all the way to PR0 while climbing into the top10 for their target keywords, methinks PR has become something of a placebo, maybe even decoy (the blue pill – the one filled with toilet duck?:)

  20. Kumar says:

    Basic of SEO will remain same, H1, Internal Link Building, Link along with Anchor Text and all, but issue is that people ignore this small things and that’s why they dont rank for long run. Thanks for the post and clearing the cloud.

  21. Noelia Trojanowski says:

    Yes, if we want a long-term success, we need to create good content reguarly and get the traffic and external links natrually.

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