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The Other External Factors That May Influence Google’s Algorithms

Posted on the 21 September 2012 by Onlinere @onretailblog

The Other External Factors That May Influence Google's Algorithms

In SEO, that the algorithm’s changed is always going to be important, no matter how white a hat we wear, we still approach each new press release about the latest change to Panda or Penguin, or whatever, with the trepidation appropriate to anything that has the potential to make our jobs a lot harder.

But when it comes to the actual changes themselves, the maths of the thing, we find ourselves more and more lost. If we go back to the earliest algorithm updates, back in the day before they were animal themed international news events, then it was often much more straightforward to figure out exactly what was being done and how.

These days it isn’t nearly so clear. We argue for weeks about exactly what is happening, and then splinter off into tribes based on whose experiments that we happen to believe, or to take a more cynical view, which set of results seem more convenient. Increasingly it’s becoming clear that the algorithms themselves are so complex, context specific, and multi-factorial, that even those at Google will admit that any one person would be hard pressed to tell you exactly what is going on in a specific picture.

Credit where credit is due

Google have some of the best minds in the world, and they have a lot of resources and shiny new toys at their disposal.

The question that doesn’t get ask often enough is not why or how Google are clamping down on a particular piece of Black hat chicanery, but in a lot of cases why they haven’t. There are a lot of SEO techniques that seem to still be working when they probably shouldn’t be, that would seem to be relatively straightforward for Google to target, that the fact that they haven’t yet would seem to beg some very important questions.

There are, of course, mundane explanations for all of this. As Google’s algorithms get more complicated, then it’s probably harder for them to integrate more factors into the thing without testing thoroughly for unexpected outcomes, to make sure that innocent web users don’t get swept up as false positives in “The war against the Spam”.


But hard as it might sometimes be for our collective ego’s to acknowledge, SEO isn’t the only thing that Google has to worry about. By its very nature Google has acquired a staggering amount of knowledge, influence, and so inevitably power. Like it or not Google is playing the Game of Thrones right now, and as HBO has been keen to inform us, this is a risky game to play.

Caught in a seemingly endless sparring match with regulators and governments the world over, the last thing that Google wants to do right now is make waves in an online market place that could destabilise other massive corporations, most of who come with their own deep pockets and legal muscle.

More than anything else Google needs to fear sudden movement, over a slow, and carefully telegraphed trajectory in the direction that it wants to go, signalling to the SEO industry which way it wants them to go, and then occasionally picking off the stragglers.

Google will deal with the favorite tricks of the current crop of black hatters; it is inevitable, although how the spammers will respond in turn remains much less clear, but Google is deliberately being profligate with the warnings, it wants slow moving SEO contractors to get the blame, not search engine tyranny.

I would suggest that, in making decisions about which techniques to invest in or abandon, we need to spend a lot more time considering what they intend to do, and the political and market realities that might determine the timetable over which this is likely to occur, and a lot less time speculating about technical approaches to problems that have most likely already been solved.

This is a guest post, as such the author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of

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With thanks to Jane and

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