In the last 6 months Google has sent out hundreds of thousands of notices regarding unnatural links. They have released new updates to their algorithms, adjusted old ones, and turned the world of SEO upside down. Businesses have been made and businesses have been broken.
Did you, or someone you know, receive an unnatural link warning recently? Are you wondering how to respond to this link warning?
Most of us are still trying to understand exactly what these changes mean, and how they impact our online marketing campaigns.
This past week, a key piece of the puzzle was made public by the US Patent office.
On August 14th, Google was granted a patent with the following abstract:
A system determines a first rank associated with a document and determines a second rank associated with the document, where the second rank is different from the first rank. The system also changes, during a transition period that occurs during a transition from the first rank to the second rank, a transition rank associated with the document based on a rank transition function that varies the transition rank over time without any change in ranking factors associated with the document.
Source: United States Patents
The patent is related to a series of rank adjustments.
Step 1. System performs a computation = 1st rank for a keyword
Step 2. System changes ranking algorithm
Step 3. System recalculates a site’s ranking based on new ranking signals = 2nd rank
Step 4. System selects rank transition function. This is a series of ranking changes assigned randomly during the period of transition from rank 1 to rank 2 = transition rank
Step 5. System calculates, based on rank transition function, how the rank for the document changes during transition period
Step 6. System analyzes ranking factors to determine if there was rank-manipulations as a result of changes in rankings during the transition rank period.
Step 7. If rank-manipulation is detected, computing = 3rd rank, reducing rank based on indication of rank manipulation.
Rankings may change without any evidence of change in ranking factors
Additionally, in this patent, there is also the possibility of calculating a 2nd rank even if there are no changes in ranking factors.
According to another aspect, a method may include determining a first rank associated with a document; determining a second rank associated with the document, where the second rank is different from the first rank; and changing, during a transition period that occurs during a transition from the first rank to the second rank, a transition rank associated with the document based on a rank transition function that varies the transition rank over time without any change in ranking factors associated with the document.
So the system can be applied if there is a change in ranking factors. They ranking may go up or down during the transition period, and this ranking is not related to the changes in the ranking factors, they are simply a function of the transition period. Finally, how a webmaster responds to the transition rank indicates to the system whether or not there is rank-manipulation involved. If there is, rankings are reduced.
Below are 2 scenarios:
1. your site ranks # 5 for “widgets” (rank #1)
2. you publish an article on the NY times and generate 150 new links (change in ranking factors)
3. based on these new links, system determine your ranking for widgets will be #1 (rank #2)
4. system assigns a transitional rank, so you start ranking #8 for “widgets” (transitional rank).
5. you get scared and contact all 150 links and ask them to take the links ddown.
6. system believes you are engaged in rank manipulation
7. your rank is adjusted and you start ranking #8 for “widgets” (rank #3)
1. your site ranks #3 for widgets (rank #1)
2. nothing changes to your ranking factors, but google computes a 2nd rank and you are set to rank #1 for widgets
3. system assigns a transitional rank of # 6 for widgtes (transitional rank)
4. you react, and buy 100 links to your site
5. system assigns a new rank based on your manipulation and you rank #12 for widgets (rank #3)
Or as they say in the conclusion:
Implementations consistent with the principles of the invention may rank documents based on a rank transition function. The ranking based on the rank transition function may be used to identify documents that are subjected to rank-modifying spamming. The rank transition may provide confusing indications of the impact on rank in response to rank-modifying spamming activities. Implementations consistent with the principles of the invention may also observe spammers’ reactions to rank changes to identify documents that are actively being manipulated.
As internet marketers, what can we take away from this?
If you are monitoring your rankings and performing rank manipulations based on an increase or decrease, or responding to unnatural link warnings, you may be contributing to a decline in your site’s rankings. This decline can be applied at the page level, at the site level, or even at the host level.
Additionally, this is another way of Google throwing Webmasters off their trail, by adding in this extra stage of transitional ranks, they make it difficult for webmasters to reverse engineer what actually works to rank well in Google.
Bill Slawski wrote about this topic at SEObytheSea, stop by as he explains it very well.