‘Relevancy is King’ Says Google VP at SMX London

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In his opening keynote at SMX London, Amit Singhal, VP and Google Fellow, who rewrote the original Google algorithm upon his hire in 2000, said today that “Relevancy is King”. He added that Google looks at a combination of three signals (links, social, user actions) and how those signals support each other to build the organic result set.

While declining to “whiteboard the algorithm for you” Singhal did give hints of where Google is going and what they look for with the current algorithm.

Everything came back to “relevancy”. Google wants to always serve the user the most relevant result to the individual. And they will use whatever data sources they can to determine that.

Here are 5 points I found interesting from Sinhal’s talk.

1. Author Rank

Singhal mentioned that the author of a page influencing rankings. This may seem common knowledge, but it’s not something I had heard confirmed.

But keep in mind, Google looks at all signals in combination, not just one signal by itself.

2. Aberrations in Ranking Signals

The algorithm looks closely at aberrations in all signals. So buying that 1000 tweet package for $10 probably isn’t the best bet.

3. Search Plus Your World Redesign Holding Up International Releases

Singhal disclosed that Search Plus Your World was getting a bit of an overhaul in design and that until that was complete it would not be rolling out internationally.

4. Google uses human quality raters extensively in testing algorithm changes

Singhal discussed how Google tests new algorithm improvements, and one part I thought was interesting is that once an engineer writes an improvement, it first goes out for A/B testing to Google human quality raters before coming back to Google to potentially run live, real Google search traffic tests of the change.

5. Google’s new direct answers results in more searches

A webmaster in the audience asked a question “why even give Google our content if you’re just going to provide answers to users without sending them to our websites?” Amit replied that they found an increase in searches by users that get served a Google answer set (ie, what is the capital of Oregon?) and thus actually send out more traffic to websites because users have more time to dig deeper with more advanced queries once their initial basic query answer is found. (ie, why isn’t Portland the capital of Oregon?)

While this direct answer feature hasn’t been widely rolled out yet, it’s coming soon according to a recent WSJ article on the topic. And apparently this feature will actually result in more searches and more traffic to organic result sites. I’ll believe that this will really drive more traffic when I see it in analytics.

Scott Krager
Scott Krager is the founder of SERPs.com. SERPs is a daily SEO Dashboard that helps SEOs prove their work to clients and bosses.
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  • scottkrager

    As an update, Google has since launched the “knowledge graph” as of today: http://searchengineland.com/google-launches-knowledge-graph-121585

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks for the link -I’m a visual person so it was nice to SEE this!

      And I have to say I have mixed feelings about the “direct answer” feature. I do agree that if today a person asks a basic question and he clicks on a site, he isn’t likely to stay at that one site very long if he is only looking for one fact. But, as a web owner, at least I have a chance to get that person to my site if I rank well for the search question. Now, will the searcher get the answer and actually “dig deeper”? Will that person really want more information? I guess only time will tell. It will be interesting to see this work over time.

  • Scott McKirahan

    I’d have to agree. I’m a bit concerned about the Google Answers thing. I’ve already seen it in action, myself. I used to sometimes have to search a bit to find the sales tax rate for a given county in Florida but now when I search for, say, “kissimmee fl county” It hits me in the face in big, bold type, right at the top of the page. Good for me, bad for someone who was hoping I’d click on an ad on his website.

  • Bobby

    Hey Scott,

    In your mind, could these “aberrations” be any sudden changes on site? For example, could changing a Title Tag too much in a short amount of time or changing a lot of content on a page all at once be considered an aberration?

    Amit probably didn’t go into this much detail, but I wanted to get your thoughts. Thanks!

    • scottkrager

      Amit did a bit actually explain how they look at aberrations. A change in title tag wouldn’t be the type of aberrations he referred too. He said they look for aberrations that aren’t supported by other signals. A huge spike in links for example but no social signals. A big news event in 2012 would have both a spike in social signals (likes/tweets/+1’s etc) as well as link spikes. Hope that helps.