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.