Aha, here’s an official blog of Google’s that I didn’t know about, and should have: Inside Search. Most of it is information on using Google’s tools, but occasionally, they reveal information about algorithm changes.
This Monday, they posted Ten Recent Algorithm Changes.
Sometimes, the changes that Google tells us about are not actually the ranking factors that determine how highly a page gets listed in search results, but rather, display factors. Do you see the difference?
Ranking factors determine, “will Google show this link on page one of search results?” while display factors determine, “And how will it look, when Google shows it?” People click on a link or not depending on what’s displayed. However, a page has to get listed in search results where people will see it, before they start deciding whether to click it.
I’m a little tired to be deciphering Googlespeak. In Google’s post, I’m having trouble distinguishing which announced algorithm changes are “ranking factors” and which are “display factors.” For example:
Better page titles in search results by de-duplicating boilerplate anchors: We look at a number of signals when generating a page’s title. One signal is the anchor text in links pointing to the page. We found that boilerplate links with duplicated anchor text are not as relevant, so we are putting less emphasis on these. The result is more relevant titles that are specific to the page’s content.
So, wait. On the surface, Google is talking about how it displays page titles in search results. That’s a display factor. But then it says “links with duplicated anchor text are not as relevant.” That sounds like a ranking factor, and it makes sense: people who build backlinks for their own pages, tend to use their self-chosen keywords, whereas an impartial outsider who links to an interesting site is less likely to use that page’s primary keywords in the anchor text.
So does this mean Google is starting to deprecate backlinks with keyword-optimized anchor text? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did; Google’s avowed definition of webspam is any practice which attempts to manipulate search engines into sending more traffic. But I’m not sure.
Some of the other “algorithm changes” in the aforementioned post are similarly ambiguous.