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The past is a foreign country

5th November 2011

Google has decided (blog post, 3 Nov) to make a new set of major changes to the ranking algorithm of its search engine.

Recent events, 'hot topics' and 'trending' topics will work slightly differently from now, in that if the search giant identifies a set of keywords as belonging to one of those categories, a search will bring up more recently edited web pages relating to those keywords.

This is bad news for someone who is ranked No. 1 for "fishing tackle", for example, if "fishing tackle" suddenly becomes a new ultra-conservative political group making demands of the US president.  Until the issue is no longer hot, your ranking will suffer as a result, and it may be time to open up your wallet a little and fork out for those google adwords you've been avoiding.

The problem here is that, while fairly advanced search tools are on offer, search engines know that people don't want to use them.  Why give you the dashboard of a Dreamliner jet when you can have a pedal and a steering wheel?  Through a fantastic process of natural selection, users have put the burden on search engines to provide them with as simple a solution as possible and to anticpate their needs where possible, as opposed to educating them on how to use a more complex tool.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that there are opportunities to 'hijack' popular/trending/newsworthy keywords and phrases in order to appear higher up the rankings. The equivalent of adding misleading meta-keywords to your web pages in order to attract traffic consisting of people who didn't search for you, and which of course will have the same effect - disgust and censure.

So this probably only works in favour of (some) users, rather than any website owners, which of course is the intention.

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