The wheel in the sky keeps on turning… all the while Google continues to circle their wagons, tightening the noose on the precious marketing spending of corporate America. Considering Google is constantly tweaking their algorithm, one aspect has, and will most likely remain the same: the dependence on human involvement to validate websites and their content. This involvement insures the quality of the top ranked sites in search results. The foundation of Google’s better search results lies in the human factor: links. Links which are placed manually by website owners, editors and webmasters, linking one website to another. The premise was and remains, that if you could be bothered to place a link, there must be value at the links destination. So Google measured each website’s link popularity (total inbound link quantity) and ranked websites accordingly. There was a time when the website with the most links equaled top rankings for the sites relevant market phrases. Those days passed, and Google next factored in elements of relevance of the originating website and anchor text of the link itself as a guide to better search results. This worked exceptionally well until unscrupulous webmasters began gaming the system and building links at an astronomical pace to push low quality websites, with not so relevant content to the top results. Enter Google’s Penguin update which, among other things, changed the valuation of links to websites.
Any search engine optimizer practicing for more than a decade will remember the high value once placed on being listed in DMOZ and Yahoo’s directories. A listing in both would fuel almost any website to higher rankings. What these two directories shared in common was that they were administered by humans; no automated computer placements here. Every website listed was manually reviewed by site editors who guaranteed the quality and relevance of each listing. Google even added DMOZ (for a period) as its own manual directory. Years have passed and times have changed. DMOZ has been withering on the vine for the better part of a decade. Yahoo, which was once a free submission, then became a $299 annual subscription, paid in advance with no guarantee of getting listed. This all seems but a distant memory. Today some still extol the value of listings in these two mega directories, but their heyday has certainly passed.
What does this have to do with rankings and Google and the fore-mentioned wheel, you ask? Well, the void once filled by links and directories in the human factor portion of search engines algorithms has been nicely filled by social media. Today search engines’ need for real live editors is being filled by the many facets of social media like mentions, likes, shares, connections, checkins and reviews. If there is social buzz then there must be merit, credibility and interest in a given subject. Measured properly and factored in correctly, social media’s impact on the rankings of websites has major impact. The impact is not only as high listings of relevant posts in search results, but also power to websites linked to, and mentioned in the wave of social chatter, simply deciphered by an algorithm.
Authorship and author rank are two more efforts to bring the human element back to search rankings. Google wants you to put a name and face to your content by linking your website to your Google plus account. “Why”, you ask? Because any self respecting person willing to show his face with his website listings in Google’s search results, wouldn’t publish spam, of course. In a recent video Matt Cutts, head of Google Spam team, noted that they are getting better at detecting who is the authority behind each website for each given subject, and then attempting to rank their sites more highly.
So long as Google is an automated computerized service, spammers will be exploiting the latest holes exposed in their algorithm, and Google will be looking for new methods that bring a human component into their rankings. Human validation will continue to impact search rankings. Participants on social channels may not be in the buying mode while perusing their daily feed; however, their social activities can impact a company’s website and post rankings in search engine results. They will then be positioned for the moment humans are ready to spend.
By John Oppenheimer