The Constant Evolution of Google: What’s In, What’s Out

Google is constantly evolving, as the internet itself has evolved. Some of the many questions Google has asked to keep itself relevant include:

  • How are people searching?
  • How should results be formatted?
  • How many answers does the user want?
  • Are recommendations from friends helpful in this search?
  • Is this a local search?


Website Quality
Google just unveiled a Panda Update the SEO community is calling “Panda version 4.2”. While the update is just beginning a months-long rollout, it is likely to be looking at many of the same technical SEO issues as previous Panda updates. There are likely many more Website Quality criteria being evaluated by Google as well.

User Experience
Metrics such as Click-Through-Rate, Bounce Rate, and “Time On Site” all can give insight as to user experience on a site.  These can be influenced with videos, widgets, and marketing. Do the presence of these mean a high quality site? Not always, but it’s likely possible for Google to understand quite a bit – thanks to human “website quality raters”, big data from analytics, YouTube, so much more.

Inbound Links
Google has invested blood, sweat and tears into cleaning up the link ecosystem. Their previous policy of ignoring poor quality inbound links meant 10 years of quick-and-dirty link building. But in the last three years, link earning and content marketing have become the best way forward. Google isn’t about to abandon inbound links as a major ranking factor in their algorithm at this point: They have invested too much into it!

Recent comments from Googlers have included “I wouldn’t focus on link building just now” and “never ask for a link” are easily misinterpreted. Google treats good quality inbound links as a positive review, and would rather have these happen organically – instead of part of a campaign. Links should happen because of the quality of content, the helpfulness of the site: Seeking undeserved positive reviews, and inbound links without earning them, has been out for some time.

Google+ Less Important
Google+ is no longer required on YouTube. This ramping down of Google+ has been happening since last year, with zero user backlash. Google+ usage was too low to provide great social signals data. Many people were forced to get an account, so the numbers were impressive – but engagement was always horribly low. It always seemed to us that SEOs, and other marketers, used it begrudgingly.

Social signals
Twitter admitted 5% of it’s users are likely fake, with other source setting the number at 10% instead. That’s still pretty low. And if it’s easy for an independent audit to measure, Google can easily see and disregard that data.

In a user’s social feed, they are curating content to help their audience. Links send traffic, and could be a ranking signal at some point. It’s been two years since Google helped debunk a study showing social signals influenced rankings. The future is likely to have social signals as part of the formula for some audiences.

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