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Google’s Site Quality Algorithm Patent



A Google patent describes a method of classifying sites as low quality by ranking the links. The algorithm patent is called, Classifying Sites as Low Quality Sites.  The patent names specific factors for identifying low quality sites.

It’s worthwhile to learn these factors and consider them. There’s no way to know if they are in use. But the factors themselves can help improve SEO practices, regardless if Google is using the algorithm or not.

An Obscure Link Algorithm

This patent dates from 2012 to 2015. It corresponds to the time that Penguin was first released.

There have only been a few discussions of this algorithm. It has, in my opinion, not been discussed in the detail offered below. As a consequence, it seems that many people may not be aware of it.

I believe this is an important algorithm to understand. If any parts of it are in use, then it could impact the SEO process.

Just Because it’s Patented…

What must be noted in any discussions of patents or research papers is that just because it’s patented does not mean it’s in use. I would also like to point out that this patent dates from 2012 to 2015. This corresponds to the time period of the Penguin Algorithm.

There is no evidence that this is a part of the Penguin Algorithm. But it is interesting because it is one of the few link ranking algorithms we know about from Google. Not a site ranking algorithm, a link ranking algorithm. That quality makes this particular algorithm especially interesting.

Although this algorithm may or may not be use, I believe that it is worthwhile to understand what is possible. Knowing what is possible can help you better understand what is not possible or likely. And once you know that you are better able to spot bad SEO information.

How the Algorithm Ranks Links

The algorithm is called Classifying Sites as Low Quality. It works by ranking links, not the content itself. The underlying principle can be said to be that if the links to a site are low quality then the site itself must be low quality.

This algorithm may be resistant to spammy scraper links because it only comes into play after the ranking algorithm has done it’s work. It’s the ranking algorithm that includes Penguin and other link related algorithms. So once the ranking engine has ranked sites, the link data that this algorithm uses will likely be filtered and represent a reduced link graph. A reduced link graph is a map of the links to and from sites that have had all the spam connections removed.

The algorithm ranks the links according to three ranking scores. The patent calls these scores, “quality groups.”

The scores are named Vital, Good, and Bad.

Obviously, the Vital score is the highest, Good is medium and Bad is not good (so to speak!).

The algorithm will then take all the scores and compute a total score. If this score falls below a certain threshold then the site or page itself is deemed low quality.

That’s my plain English translation of the patent.

Here is how the the patent itself describes itself:

“The system assigns the resources to resource quality groups (310). Each resource quality group is defined by a range of resource quality scores. The ranges can be non-overlapping. The system assigns each resource to the resource quality group defined by the range encompassing the resource quality score for the resource. In some implementations, the system assigns each resource to one of three groups, vital, good, and bad. Vital resources have the highest resource quality scores, good resource have medium resource quality scores, and bad resources have the lowest resource quality scores.”

Implied Links

The patent also describes something called an Implied Link. The concept of implied links must be explained before we proceed further.

There is an idea in the SEO community that Implied Links are unlinked citations. An unlinked citation is a URL that is not a link, a URL that cannot be clicked to visit the site. However, there are other definitions of an Implied Link.

A non-Google researcher named Ryan Rossi describes a Latent Link as a sort of virtual link. Latent means something that is hidden or can’t be readily seen. The paper is called, Discovering Latent Graphs with Positive and Negative Links to Eliminate Spam in Adversarial Information Retrieval

A latent link happens when site A links to Site B, and Site C links to Site A. So you have this: Site A > Site B > Site C. The implied link exists between Site A and Site C.

An illustration showing nodes interlinking to each otherThis is an illustration showing the link relationships that create a latent (or implied) link. The nodes labeled S represent spam sites. The nodes labeled N represent normal sites. The dotted lines are implied links. What’s notable is that there are no links from the normal sites to the spam sites.

Here’s what the non-Google research paper says:

“Latent relationships between sites are discovered based on the structure of the normal and spam communities.

… Automatic ranking of links where latent links are discovered… between the spam sites {S1, S2} and normal sites {N1, N2,N3} based on the fundamental structure of the two communities.

…The results provide significant evidence that our Latent Graph strongly favors normal sites while essentially eliminating spam sites and communities through the suppression of their links.”

The takeaway from the above is the concept of Latent Links, which can correspond with the concept of Implied Links.

Here is what the Google Patent says about Implied Links:

“A link can be an express link or an implied link. An express link exists where a resource explicitly refers to the site. An implied link exists where there is some other relationship between a resource and the site.”

If the Google patent author meant to say that the link was an unlinked URL, it’s not unreasonable to assume they would have said so. Instead, the author states that there is “some other relationship” between the “resource” (the linking site) and the website (the site that’s being linked to implicitly).

It’s my opinion that a likely candidate for an Implied Link is similar to what Ryan Rossi described as a Latent Link.

Link Quality Factors

Here are the quality factors that the patent named. Google does not generally say whether or not a patent or research is actually in use or how. And what is actually in use could possibly go beyond. Nevertheless, it’s useful to know that these factors were named in the patent and to then think about these link ranking factors when creating a link strategy.

Diversity Filtering

Diversity filtering is the process of identifying that a site has multiple incoming links from a single site. This algorithm will discard all the links from the linking site and use just one.

“Diversity filtering is a process for discarding resources that provide essentially redundant information to the link quality engine.

…the link quality engine can discard one of those resources and select a representative resource quality score for both of them. For example, the link quality engine can receive resource quality scores for both resources and discard the lower resource quality Score.”

The patent also goes on to say that it could also use a Site Quality Score to rank the link.

Boilerplate Links

The patent says that it has the option to not use what it calls “boilerplate” links. It uses navigational links as an example.

That appears to say that links from the navigation and possibly from a sidebar or footer that are repeated across the entire site will optionally not be counted. They may be discarded entirely.

This makes a lot of sense. A link is a vote for another site. In general a link that has a context and meaning is what is counted because they say something about the site they are linking to. There is no such semantic context in a sitewide link.

Links That Are Related

It’s not unusual for groups of sites within a niche to link to each other. This part of the patent describes a group of sites that seem to be linking to similar sites. This could be a statistical number that represents an unnatural amount of similar outbound links to the same sites.

The research paper doesn’t go into further detail. But this is, in my opinion a typical way of identifying related links and unraveling a spam network.

“…the system can determine that a group of candidate resources all belong to a same different site, e.g., by determining that the group of candidate resources are associated with the same domain name or the same Internet Protocol (IP) address, or that each of the candidate resources in the group links to a minimum number of the same sites.”

Links from Sites with Similar Content Context

This is an interesting example. If the links share the context of the content, the algorithm will discard it:

“In another example, the system can determine that a group of candidate resources share a same content context.”

…The system can then select one candidate resource from the group, e.g., the candidate resource having the highest resource quality score, to represent the group.”

Overview and Takeaways

This algorithm is described as “for enhancing search results.” This means that the ranking engine does it thing and then this algorithm steps in to rank the inbound links and lower the ranking scores of sites that have low quality scores.

An interesting feature is that this belongs to a class of algorithms that ranks links, not sites.

Classifying Sites as Low Quality Sites

Read the entire patent here.  And download the PDF version of the patent here.

More Resources

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Screenshots by Author, Modified by Author

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New site Hotspot Law like ZocDoc for lawyers



Local search is probably more visible than it has ever been since the advent of Google Maps. Yet, paradoxically, there’s almost no consumer-facing innovation taking place. There’s Google, Yelp, Facebook (somewhat) and a range of specialized vertical apps and sites, some of which have simply survived but aren’t thriving.

Little or no ‘horizontal’ innovation. Part of the lack of “horizontal” innovation in local is likely the result of venture capital not wanting to fund anything that goes up directly against Google. The company may appear to many investors now like an insurmountable juggernaut in local/mobile search.

Any new local-consumer startups, therefore, are likely to appear in specific industries or otherwise offer specialized use cases. Such is the case with Hotspot Law, a new legal search site that hopes to bring ZocDoc-style appointment scheduling to the legal profession. It also seeks to provide a more reliable and cost-effective flow of leads to consumer attorneys.

The legal vertical has a quite a few competitors, including Avvo (Internet Brands), LegalZoom, FindLaw and several others. Despite this, Hotspot Law founder Felix Shipkevich believes he’s solving two unsolved problems in the legal vertical.

“The legal market is in dire need of an upgrade,” argues Shipkevich.

Making direct connections with lawyers. “Once you’ve finished searching online, you have to start calling,” he said. “You don’t get to speak directly to attorneys, you typically talk to a gatekeeper.” He points out that this process of getting to a lawyer is time consuming for people who need legal help. “None of these [completing] platforms directly connect the consumer with an attorney.”

Shipkevich, who is an attorney and faculty member at Hofstra Law School, said he was inspired by ZocDoc and the way it enables direct connections between doctors and patients. Similarly, he wanted to remove the friction in lawyer-consumer matchmaking. Shipkevich explained that also sees Hotspot Law as a way to make “justice” more accessible to consumers.

Why you should care. Legal lead-gen is costly. Shipkevich believes that existing legal sites and ad solutions don’t serve lawyers particularly well either. “PPC advertising can be extremely expensive; in New York it can be $60 to $80 per click.” He adds that “Yelp is expensive. Sometimes it takes $2,000 to $4,000 to bring in a case.”

He wants to solve that problem with simplified reasonable pricing for lawyers who may be struggling to find clients. But he also sees Hotspot Law evolving into a platform to help attorneys manage existing clients. Currently the site only operates in New York, with plans to expand geographic coverage in the coming months.

For the time being Shipkevich will need to rely on SEO for discovery but over time he hopes to build a branded consumer destination. It will be very challenging given the current structure of local SERPs. One has to admire the ambition and chutzpah.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking



About one year ago, everything changed for me and for our community.

A tragedy that struck home so hard it shook us to our core.

A suicide.

A dear friend, brilliant mind, adored father, respected colleague … the list goes on, left us in a way that hits straight to the heart and wakes you up like very few other events can.

I certainly woke up that day. That alarm screamed as loud as it could and I still hear it to this day.

I know I wasn’t alone. So many of my peers experienced similar emotions, sensations, and reactions.

We Could No Longer Ignore the Problem

Sadly, this wasn’t the first tragedy we’d encountered that year – we lost other friends and colleagues as well.

But we knew we couldn’t stand to lose any more amazing people.

We couldn’t look away. We couldn’t just carry on anymore.

So we started talking.

I have been blown away by our internet marketing community. Many of us have never even met face to face and yet the comradery, the friendship, the support among us run rampant!

Never before have I seen a group of people come together so quickly and so openly as when we were forced to face this tragedy.

Groups were formed. Calls were made. Texts were sent. Face-to-face get-togethers were had. Columns like this one were created.

And the best part of it all? It didn’t stop!

We saw the need to stay connected. We recognized that we are a family that needs to support each other. And, perhaps most of all, we saw that we were not alone in our struggles.

It has been amazing to see the openness and honesty that has become so commonplace over the past year. I have seen people that once felt they couldn’t risk being seen without their mask on break down and lay themselves out in the most vulnerable ways.

I include myself in that list. I have become more able to reveal myself to the world around me. That has only been made possible by others sharing in that journey with me.

In leading up to this piece, I knew that I wanted to really find a way to focus on the positive changes that our community has seen because of Jordan Kasteler.

I wanted to honor him in a way that really brought some form of good to this incredible loss that we all experienced due to his passing.

Where Are We Now? Thoughts from Our Community

I reached out and asked a few people in our community if they would share some words of how they have been changed for the better as well as how they have seen our community as whole making changes to support each other over the past year.

Here is what they had to say:

Alexandra Tachalova:

“Working days, nights, and weekends was normal for me a few years ago. However, at that time I couldn’t say that I was really happy. I didn’t understand at the time that my work-life balance was completely off, and I now know that that could have developed into something truly horrifying.

I eventually reached such an emotionally unstable point that I hit a time where one week I was super productive, but the following week I felt hugely demotivated and absolutely miserable. (I know this is a familiar story with many others as well, I hear people telling similar stories and sharing similar experiences regularly.)

Over the past while, I have been working diligently to save myself from this emotional trap. This new focus has led me to investing more time into things that are not related to work and putting more time into the things that help to create a happier life for myself.

I can see that more people in our community are becoming more aware of the need to make this sort of a switch to their schedules and priorities as well, which is brilliant to see!”

Melissa Fach:

“In the past year, I have noticed a massive shift in our community not being ashamed to reach out and ask for help, advice, or just a kind word. I feel like masks have been dropped, and people are not embarrassed to discuss what make them “real”; I love it!

I think many people used to feel they had to have public persona that was acceptable, and now they know we all have issues and it is OK to talk about.

I have a picture of Jordan out that I see every day. I moved past the guilt and the pain when I looked at it, and he is now a daily reminder to stay present with my friends as much as I can.

And, it is a reminder to me to stay focused on my well-being as well. I tend to overwork and do too much for everyone and end up exhausted. I take steps now to take care of me more than ever before.”

Steve Wiideman:

“Though I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m still a somewhat newer member of the SEO community. Call it fear of rejection, social anxiety, whatever, I’ve always been nervous to put myself in a position to be judged by my peers.

It really wasn’t until I was invited to an amazing Facebook group made up of a small close-knit group of industry peers focusing on supporting each other through the day-to-day struggles that I realized that nearly everyone shared the same fears, anxieties and experiences that I have.

What a relief it is to know there is a place where we share what we are feeling and have so much empathy! Finally I have a place I can turn to where people understand me.

Even if I don’t share as much as others, I have peace of mind knowing there are people there ready and willing to listen and help, where there’s no judgement, just open arms.”

Danny Goodwin:

“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year as a community. However, if I’m being completely honest, we still have a long way to go. I’m still hearing about issues of bullying. I’m seeing people piling on people they disagree with on Twitter.

While, thankfully, these are in the minority, the polarization and black-and-white thinking needs to stop. The judging and assuming needs to stop. The trolling and “mob mentality” needs to stop.

We need to stop fighting each other and start lifting each other up – treating everyone like human beings. Nobody is perfect, but I hope we will continue to see more people be able to let go of their hate and negativity to accept love and positivity into their lives. I know that will continue to be our aim with Friday Focus – to remind everyone that they are not alone in their struggles.

Ultimately, though, I am so happy to be a part of something so positive in our community – and it’s great to see so many others jumping onboard, too.”

Kim Krause Berg:

“It’s easy to assume that your peers are generally doing better than you, making more money than you, and are super successful in every way. It is only in the past few years that I realized this is baloney.

I respect people who remove their masks and show who they really are. We are people with lives and struggles, heartache, depression, and pain.

In the past year I have opened up more and made new friendships as a result. We have more in common with each other than we might think.”

Dave Davies:

“Over the past year I’ve seen an incredible shift in our community.

Social media itself breeds an environment where we see only the best of our peers and post the best of ourselves and being in marketing, needing to be on social media, needing to market ourselves on social media and seeing only the best version of those trained in presenting the best version of themselves – one can feel very alone in difficult times. Compounding that we face an often isolated profession where even sitting beside someone, we are focused on a screen and all they contain.

Sadly, we all know too well what that leads to, and over the past year we collectively recognized that we are human. That those around us are human. That others need support and perhaps most importantly, that we do too.

We finally heard the words spoken all too often after those tragic events, “If only they had asked for help.” And we took it upon ourselves to do so.

We finally knew to listen, to watch and to find out how those around us were doing, lest we face the loss of another friend who we would have dropped everything for, ‘If only they had asked for help.’

The community has grown it’s heart and soul over the past year.

There is still a lot to do. There are still many who don’t know where to turn. Many who don’t know who to talk to. But each time we reach out and each time we talk about challenges openly, share our own and listen to theirs … each time we do that, the community grows it’s heart a little more.

It has been a incredible year of change. While we will forever mourn the spark, the now burning fire keeps us all warmer.”

Jeremy Knauff:

“One thing that has changed dramatically in our industry over the last year, is that as individuals, we’ve become a lot more vocal about asking for help when we need it.

I think most people are more than willing to help each other. They just have to know that someone needs help. Now that people are starting to open up more about their personal struggles, the community is able to better support them.”

Thank You!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – whether I know you in person, whether I know you online, even if I don’t know you at all –- thank you for being here.

Thank you for caring and sharing and being a part of the positive change that we are all working so hard at creating.

Keep being a force for good in our community.

Together we will make a difference.

Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking  


This piece is written in memory, honor, recognition, and gratitude of Jordan Kasteler. For all that he gave us, shared with us, taught us and left us with. We are eternally grateful.


***PLEASE DO NOT STRUGGLE ALONE! Reach out, ask for help and know that you are valued.
CLICK HERE for a list of phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines around the world.***

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20190718 SEL Brief



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