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Google Will Incorporate Human Votes Into Algorithm

by: on | Prominent Placement

This is going to be huge.  We're predicting a momentous change in Google's organic ranking algorithm based on the "votes" of searchers. Everyone knows that Google's algorithm relies heavily on the quantity and quality of inbound links when determining how to rank a particular web page for a particular search query.  While inbound links are a pretty good indicator of a site's quality, and should affect rankings, they're certainly not a perfect gauge.  The system can be gamed, and it's a somewhat indirect method of judging a site. Google has announced two changes to its results pages in the past three weeks which we believe signify a critical turning point in how organic rankings will be calculated in the future.

  • On March 10, Google announced that searchers can block sites that appear in the results if they feel they're irrelevant, offensive, or of low quality.  Currently, this works only for the searcher that places the block.  But according to Google, "we’ll look at the data and see whether it would be useful as we continue to evaluate and improve our search results in the future." (Source: Google's blog - link above)
  • On March 30, Google announced that searchers can recommend sites that appear in the results if they find them to be particularly relevant or useful.  The use of the new "+1" button is similar to Facebook's "Like" icon, but in addition to appearing on websites, it will also appear in both the organic and paid listings on Google's search results pages.  Similarly to the above, while +1 doesn't currently affect rankings, per Google, "we’ll look at it as a potential signal to improve search quality as well." (Source: Search Engine Land)
While we like to think we're smart cookies over here, it doesn't take a genius to put two and two together and see where Google's going.  Getting searchers to "vote" on the sites that appear in the organic rankings - either giving them a "thumbs down" by blocking them, or giving them a "thumbs up" by clicking on the +1 button - is a more direct way to evaluate sites than measuring inbound links. We don't mean to imply that Google will cease incorporating signals from inbound links in their algorithm - of course they won't.  But these searcher votes will certainly be added in as a factor over time, and likely a very important factor. Can blocks and +1s be gamed, just like links can?  Absolutely.  It won't be long before we see companies offering incentives for people to hit the +1 button.  And I'm sure we'll also be reading scandals about people blocking their competitors' sites too.  Hopefully Google will be able to address this noise to a certain degree in their algorithm. Marketers and their search marketing agencies definitely need to keep a close eye on this and work toward developing strategies to ensure that the +1s they garner outweigh the blocks they may receive. You read it here first, folks!

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