It seems like every few days there is a new search engine patent out there. Just yesterday a Yahoo! patent was discovered which appears to indicate they have some sort of semantic algorithm they are or soon will be using, in addition to other new ranking factors. Now I haven’t read the whole document yet but the abstract seems to indicate that.
What recently occurred to me, however, is a section of the now famous Google patent which was published at the end of March this year. There was a section in it that I read back then that kinda settled in my brain for a couple weeks until a light bulb went on and I realized what the implications of it could be. If you don’t already know, that patent looks at many factors when determining rank including age (of both pages and links) how much churn there is in relation to the other sites around yours and so on.
The section is as follows:
“15. The method of claim 1, wherein the one or more types of history data includes information relating to how often the document is selected when the document is included in a set of search results; and wherein the generating a score includes: determining an extent to which the document is selected over time when the document is included in a set of search results, and scoring the document based, at least in part, on the extent to which the document is selected over time when the document is included in the set of search results.”
It seems like a mouthful but there are some key points to bring out. Essentially, it says that Google may use, as part of the ranking algorithms, a piece of history data that knows how often the page is chosen in search results over time. In other words, Google may begin to lower a ranking page, over time, if it doesn’t get sufficient clicks when compared to other sites.
So what does that mean to site owners? Well one thing that occurred to me is how using rank checking software like WebPosition Gold can potentially negatively affect your rankings.
Think about it this way: You perform a search for your keywords on a daily, weekly or monthly basis (hopefully the later, as there isn’t much fluctuation on a daily or even weekly basis). Yet when you search, you don’t choose a search result.
Now let’s say you do perform this search weekly, and say your top competitors also perform the same searches weekly. Can you imagine how many times that phrase is queried for but no results selected? There could be the potential for some, or even all of the top ranking sites to start dropping because it appears that they aren’t generating enough traffic.
Look at it from Google’s point of view – they are seeing all these searches for phrases but no clicks. Granted in the grand scheme they probably don’t amount to much but taken over a period of time (as the section states based on history data) there is the potential for sites to begin to slip from the top because they aren’t being selected.
In other words, the use of automated rank checking tools could have a negative impact on your sites rankings.
Of course the next thought you are probably having is this: Well if NOT clicking can negatively impact my rankings, what if my friends and I begin clicking on my listings. Will that help move it up?
The answer could be yes, because the very next section of the patent reads:
“16. The method of claim 15, wherein the scoring the document includes assigning a higher score to the document when the document is selected more often than other documents in the set of search results over a time period.”
In other words, when a document is selected more often, it could get a higher score over time, thereby moving it up in the rankings.
So if your pages begin to slide and you are using an automated rank checker, it is possible that it could be the cause of that slide.
One must remember, however, that these results will be based on some form of aggregated, or industry specific data. In other words, if all the automated checking queries result in, say, 5% of total queries, then you are probably safe. If however the queries account for 65% of the searches then there’s a good chance that the use of this software will have a negative impact. (One side note – don’t quote me on these numbers – I’m just pulling them from the air).
Conversely, if your clicks begin to rise more than normal – that is when comparing clicks in a certain time frame to clicks in a similar time frame the engine finds that there seems to be an unusual growth – then the site could get penalized.
Really, this is no different than how AdWords works. With AdWords, when a site doesn’t generate the traffic it should, it begins to lose ground regardless of what the advertiser is paying.
Similarly, a site which seems to get higher traffic than the competition can move up. It is all about Google attempting to serve better, more relevant results to searchers.
So the next time you load up your rank checking program, perhaps you should take a moment to think of the long term impact. Maybe you could cut down the number of keywords you are reporting on, or use the program less often? Because in the end you could be harming the rankings you’ve worked so hard to achieve.