I recently stumbled upon a very insightful and intelligent analysis by Randfish on SEOmozBlog. It was a blog post of his opinion on how Google’s key factors in rankings algorithm have evolved throughout the years. Randfish discusses four different ranking criteria that has been a key factor in SEO since the dawning of the Google: Domain Trust/Authority, Anchor Text in External Links, On-Page Keyword Usage, and Raw PageRank/Link Juice. According to Randfish, Domain Trust/Authority became very significant to SEOs after the Florida Update in November of 2003. Even Google’s “Brand” update seems to point in this direction, as does the collection of user-data and metrics that could potentially be leveraged in the future for this purpose.
The example given by Randfish is the recent re-ranking of authority sites like Technorati on almost every SERP they target. Anchor text in external links seems to be the Chipper Jones of SEO. It is still a powerful tactic, but no where near what it was in 2004. Randfish’s belief is that anchor text has become regarded much as PageRank was after its dominance of the algorithm - a technique so diluted that its only value comes from its conjunction with other positive tactics. Google is evolving their algorithm even further towards that mentality.
When the SEO wheel was invented, even Google was suckered in by keyword stuffing. This helped fuel the myth of keyword density as a major ranking factor. To this day, keyword density still holds some influence, but it is essential to understand that “more keywords” doesn’t necessarily mean “better rankings”. PageRank used to be king. Get a few high PageRank links, and you have exploited the system. Then Google got smarter and PageRank has been in steady decline every since.
Randfish believes that PageRank can still make a difference, but it’s much more of a determining factor for Google’s index and used to catch duplicate content. Search engine optimization, just like any industry, has it’s growing pains. Randfish presented excellent research and a beautiful graph to illustrate how Google is getting more social and focusing on human behaviors. One take-away from this post is that if you want to build trust with search engines, you must first build trust with your visitors. The only way to that is with a white hat and a passionate smile.
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