There is a kind of link algorithm that isn’t widely discussed, not nearly enough. This article is meant as introduction to link and link distance ranking algorithms. It’s something that may play a role in how sites are ranked. In my opinion it’s important to be aware of this.
Does Google Use This?
While the algorithm under consideration is from a patent that was filed by Google, Google’s official statement about patents and research papers is that they produce many of them and that not all of them are used and sometimes they are used in a way that is different than what is described.
That said, the details of this algorithm appear to resemble the contours of what Google has officially said about how it handles links.
Complexity of Calculations
There are two sections of the patent (Producing a Ranking for Pages Using Distances in a Web-link Graph) that state how complex the calculations are:
“Unfortunately, this variation of PageRank requires solving the entire system for each seed separately. Hence, as the number of seed pages increases, the complexity of computation increases linearly, thereby limiting the number of seeds that can be practically used.”
Hence, what is needed is a method and an apparatus for producing a ranking for pages on the web using a large number of diversified seed pages…”
The above points to the difficulty of making these calculations web wide because of the large number of data points. It states that breaking these down by topic niches the calculations are easier to compute.
What’s interesting about that statement is that the original Penguin algorithm was calculated once a year or longer. Sites that were penalized pretty much stayed penalized until the next seemingly random date that Google recalculated the Penguin score.
At a certain point Google’s infrastructure must have improved. Google is constantly building it’s own infrastructure but apparently doesn’t announce it. The Caffeine web indexing system is one of the exceptions.
Real-time Penguin rolled out in the fall of 2016.
It is notable that these calculations are difficult. It points to the possibility that Google would do a periodic calculation for the entire web, then assign scores based on the distances from the trusted sites to all the rest of the sites. Thus, one gigantic calculation, done a year.
So when a SERP is calculated via PageRank, the distance scores are also calculated. This sounds a lot like the process we know as the Penguin Algorithm.
“The system then assigns lengths to the links based on properties of the links and properties of the pages attached to the links. The system next computes shortest distances from the set of seed pages to each page in the set of pages based on the lengths of the links between the pages. Next, the system determines a ranking score for each page in the set of pages based on the computed shortest distances.”
What is the System Doing?
The system creates a score that is based on the shortest distance between a seed set and the proposed ranked pages. The score is used to rank these pages.
So it’s basically an overlay on top of the PageRank score to help weed out manipulated links, based on the theory that manipulated links will naturally have a longer distance of link connections between the spam page and the trusted set.
Ranking a web page can be said to consist of three processes.
- Ranking Modification (usually related to personalization)
That’s an extreme reduction of the ranking process. There’s a lot more that goes on.
Interestingly, this distance ranking process happens during the ranking part of the process. Under this algorithm there’s no chance of ranking for meaningful phrases unless the page is associated with the seed set.
Here is what it says:
“One possible variation of PageRank that would reduce the effect of these techniques is to select a few “trusted” pages (also referred to as the seed pages) and discovers other pages which are likely to be good by following the links from the trusted pages.”
This is an important distinction, to know in what part of the ranking process the seed set calculation happens because it helps us formulate what our ranking strategy is going to be.
This is different from the Yahoo TrustRank thing. YTR was shown to be biased.
Majestic’s Topical TrustFlow can be said to be an improved version, similar to a research paper that demonstrated that by using a seed set that is organized by niche topics is more accurate. Research also showed that organizing a seed set algorithm by topic is several orders better than not doing so.
Thus, it makes sense that Google’s distance ranking algorithm also organizes it’s seed set by niche topic buckets.
As I understand this, this Google patent calculates distances between a seed set and assigns distance scores.
Reduced Link Graph
“In a variation on this embodiment, the links associated with the computed shortest distances constitute a reduced link-graph.”
What this means is that there’s a map of the Internet commonly known as the Link Graph and then there’s a smaller version the link graph populated by web pages that have had spam pages filtered out. Sites that primarily obtain links outside of the reduced link graph might never get inside. Dirty links thus get no traction.
What is a Reduced Link Graph?
I’ll keep this short and sweet. The link to the document follows below.
What you really need to know is this part:
“The early success of link-based ranking algorithms was predicated on the assumption that links imply merit of the target pages. However, today many links exist for purposes other than to confer authority. Such links bring noise into link analysis and harm the quality of retrieval.
In order to provide high quality search results, it is important to detect them and reduce their influence… With the help of a classifier, these noisy links are detected and dropped. After that, link analysis algorithms are performed on the reduced link graph.”
Read this PDF for more information about Reduced Link Graphs.
If you’re obtaining links from sites like news organizations, it may be fair to assume they are on the inside of the reduced link graph. But are they a part of the seed set? Maybe we should’t obsess over that.
Is This Why Google Says Negative SEO Doesn’t Exist?
“…the links associated with the computed shortest distances constitute a reduced link-graph”
A reduced link graph is different from a link graph. A link graph can be said to be a map of the entire Internet organized by the link relationships between sites, pages or even parts of pages.
Then there’s a reduced link graph, which is a map of everything minus certain sites that don’t meet specific criteria.
A reduced link graph can be a map of the web minus non-spam sites. The sites outside of the reduced link graph will have zero effect on the sites inside the link graph, because they’re on the outside.
That’s probably why a spam site linking to a normal site will not cause a negative effect on a non-spam site. Because the spam site is outside of the reduced link graph, it has no effect whatsoever. The link is ignored.
Could this be why Google is so confident that it’s catching link spam and that negative SEO does not exist?
Distance from Seed Set Equals Less Ranking Power?
I don’t think it’s necessary to try to map out what the seed set is. What’s more important, in my opinion, is to be aware of topical neighborhoods and how that relates to where you get your links.
At one time Google used to publicly display a PageRank score for every page, so I can remember what kinds of sites tended to have low scores. There are a class of sites that have low PageRank and low Moz DA, but they are closely linked to sites that in my opinion are likely a few clicks away from the seed set.
What Moz DA is measuring is an approximation of a site’s authority. It’s a good tool. However, what Moz DA is measuring may not be a distance from a seed set, which cannot be known because it’s a Google secret.
So I’m not putting down the Moz DA tool, keep using it. I’m just suggesting you may want to expand your criteria and definition of what a useful link may be.
What Does it Mean to be Close to a Seed Set?
From a Stanford university classroom document, page 17 asks, What is a good notion of proximity? The answers are:
- Multiple connections
- Quality of connection
- Direct & Indirect connections
- Length, Degree, Weight
That is an interesting consideration.
There are many people who are worried about anchor text ratios, DA/PA of inbound links, but I think those considerations are somewhat old.
The concern with DA/PA is a throwback to the hand-wringing about obtaining links from pages with a PageRank of 4 or more, which was a practice that began from a randomly chosen PageRank score, the number four.
When we talk about or think about when considering links in the context of ranking, it may be useful to consider distance ranking as a part of that conversation.
Read the patent here
Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author
Navigating a cookieless future – Search Engine Watch
- On September 16, Apple launched iOS 14, which is a major overhaul of the Apple operating system and would require users to authorize information known as (IDFA).
- This was followed by announcements from Google that they will be following a similar path for Google Chrome, effectively turning off tracking on Safari, which commands 90 percent usage on iPhones, and Chrome, which commands five percent.
- These moves towards user privacy and marketing compliance are effectively a pivot away from the traditional advertising and search marketing industry, which will impact later players like Facebook to national media agencies like GroupM.
- More details on how marketers can navigate in a cookieless world.
One of the most impactful changes to internet advertising and media has stayed mostly unspoken in agency and SEO chatter. However, like the switch from a desktop landscape to a mobile landscape, there is no reprieve from the coming cookieless world.
On September 16, Apple launched iOS 14, which is a major overhaul of the Apple operating system and would require users to authorize information known as (IDFA). IDFA is used to track user behavior for advertising.
This was followed by announcements from Google that they will be following a similar path for Google Chrome, effectively turning off tracking on Safari, which commands 90 percent usage on iPhones, and Chrome, which commands five percent.
These moves towards user privacy and marketing compliance are effectively a pivot away from the traditional advertising and search marketing industry, which will impact later players like Facebook to national media agencies like GroupM.
Content created in partnership with SherloQ™, Inc.
National TV advertisers and PPC advertisers are not waiting around
Once again led by the advertising and search category of injury law, due to the highly competitive and expensive nature, we are seeing a couple of key movers.
In both cases, the companies are working with and have implemented SherloQ™, powered by IBM Watson, to implement cookieless changes and compliance to market their websites.
A recent story from AdWeek quoted Andrew Casale about a cookieless future for publishers, who said it best,
“Publishers haven’t seen a recovery in their CPMs, and similar to Root, believes the focus of online media trading will be publishers’ first-party data as such a method of audience targeting will mean less personal information is traded between (comparatively) anonymous ad-tech players.”
The rapid move towards using first-party data and AI automation will not be limited to a single industry. Privacy is a big selling feature and while Apple has allowed an extension to IDFA, mostly due to the time needed for developers to employ these new frameworks, Apple and Google are not going to wait for the advertising industry’s input.
If your agency or enterprise wants to learn more about how SherloQ™, powered by IBM Watson, can help navigate a cookieless world, please download our white paper to learn more about our framework.
Synergized search is key to success in the new normal
- Given that consumers run billions of searches every day — with Google estimated to process 40,000 per second it’s clear marketers need a smart strategy to cut through the competition.
- The question is: Will they drive the highest traffic and performance with SEO or PPC?
- Head of Paid Media at Tug shares insight on how perfectly balancing these two facets can lead to success in the new normal.
Consumer activity online is at an all-time high. So, it’s no surprise many marketers are aiming to make the most of it by hooking their attention early, at the point of search. But deciding how best to do so isn’t necessarily easy.
Given that consumers run billions of searches every day — with Google estimated to process 40,000 per second — it’s clear marketers need a smart strategy to cut through the competition. The question is: will they drive the highest traffic and performance with search engine optimization (SEO) or pay per click (PPC)?
Both have their own advantages and drawbacks. PPC is a quick win, enabling businesses to rapidly reach consumers and boost visibility. But its lead generation power only lasts while the money flows and, depending on campaign scale and scope, those costs can run high. Meanwhile, SEO delivers more lasting rewards and higher click-through rates (CTRs), often for less investment. Yet marketers might have a long wait before organic searches pay off, and may still fall behind dominant digital marketplaces for certain keywords.
Ultimately, the smartest route lies neither one way nor the other, but in a combination of both. Blending PPC and SEO not only generates stronger results but also balances out their respective shortcomings, offering marketers the best chance of success in the new ever-changing normal.
Utilizing a combination of paid and organic search tactics isn’t new – but it’s never been clear how marketers can best do this, or a way to visualize the data for optimization. Leveraging PPC and SEO in conjunction with one another can be challenging, but creating the perfect synergy is possible if marketers focus on the following three factors:
Unify search operations
With consumers spending a quarter of their waking day online, marketers have plenty of chances to spark their interest through search. To outmanoeuvre rivals and capture eyeballs first, brands must make fast yet informed decisions about which approach will produce the ideal outcome.
Achieving this requires holistic insight which, in turn, calls for greater unity. Due to the general view of PPC and SEO as separate entities, teams often operate in silos, but this isolates valuable knowledge around consumer behaviour and the tactics that generate the biggest rewards. Simple as it sounds, removing divisions and encouraging teams to share their insight can significantly improve campaign execution and drive more efficient CPAs.
For example, information from the PPC teams on the best performing keywords and ad copy will help SEO teams to optimize meta descriptions and website content.
Sharing information on what keywords campaigns are covering will also prevent the doubling up of efforts – for example, as organic keyword positions improve, there might be an opportunity to pull back PPC activity and reallocate budget to other keywords to increase the overall coverage. Similarly, updates from the SEO team on keywords that are particularly competitive to rank in top positions are an opportunity for PPC to drive incremental conversions. And, on a more fundamental level, by sharing any new or emerging search terms with each other, both SEO and PPC teams can ensure they are up-to-date and reacting as quickly as possible to opportunities.
Select tech that drives collaboration
The next step is integrated technology. Implementing tools that collate and merge data from multiple sources — including PPC and SEO campaigns — will make collaboration easier. That’s not to mention generating a complete overview of collective search operations, performance, and opportunities for businesses.
A holistic and unified dashboard, for example, can provide visibility of combined search performance against KPIs and competitor activity. This enables PPC and SEO teams to identify where there are opportunities and how strategies can be adjusted to leverage them, without duplicating each other’s efforts. Marketers can understand where organic rankings are high, and competitor activity low, and vice versa, which means they know when to reduce PPC activity, as well as opportunities where it can drive incremental conversions over and above what SEO can deliver.
All of this, however, depends on accuracy and usability. Information needs to be reliable and actionable, which means simply joining up the data dots isn’t enough: in addition to robust cleansing, processing and storage, tools must offer accessible visualization.
Although frequently overlooked, clearly-presented data plays a huge part in enhancing everyday activity. Providing a streamlined picture of keywords and performance data is vital, but to ensure teams can pinpoint prime SERPs, accelerate traffic, and increase conversions, businesses also need tools that allow their teams to quickly find and activate key insights.
Don’t forget human checks
Dialing up tech use, however, does come with a word of warning – no matter how smart platforms may be, they can’t entirely replace human experience and expertise. On their own, sophisticated tools bring a range of benefits that go far beyond translating data into a more cohesive and user-friendly format. The most advanced boast immediate alerts that tell PPC teams where their competitors are bidding — or not — and use artificially intelligent (AI) analysis to deliver a cross-market, sector, and classification perspective on SEO activity.
Human knowledge is still paramount to steering search campaigns in the right direction and picking up on the nuances that machines miss. For instance, problem-solving machines might take the quickest path to objective completion for certain pages or messages, but seasoned search professionals may see the potential for longer-term uses that deliver higher incremental value.
As a result, organizations must avoid the perils of over-reliance on their marketing tools. By persistently applying manual reviews and checking automated conclusions against human knowledge, they can tap the best of tech and people power.
Today’s marketing leaders are grappling with multiple uncertainties, but when it comes to search, the way forward is clear. PPC and SEO are complementary forces; producing deeper insights and higher returns together, as well as minimizing risk. By connecting the two and taking a considered approach to data-driven search strategy, businesses can ensure campaigns are strong enough to succeed in the new normal and take on whatever tomorrow brings.
Asher Gordon is Head of Paid Media at Tug. He leads a multi-disciplined media team who plan, buy, and deliver integrated media plans for a diverse set of clients. With over 10 years experience working across multiple markets and brands at PHD and Wavemaker, Asher works with clients to better their marketing goals and drive their business forward.
Guide to using interactive 404s to boost your SEO
- Reducing bad user experience of 404 errors by branding and customizing them.
- Including links to 404s allow users to navigate the website even when they come across a potential dead end.
- Boost SEO by placing your sitemap, homepage tab, and search bar.
- Usage of conversational language along with attractive visuals reduces user’s contempt and frustration.
- Mention of blog on your customized 404 error page promotes your intellectual prowess for possible users who might be interested in your content.
- Amanda Jerelyn shares some amazing methods to improve the SEO of your site even through 404 pages.
- Lastly, some tips to help you avoid 404 errors wherever possible.
Bad user experience can lead to your website’s demise and can also adversely affect your website rankings. This is why 404 errors are considered deplorable when taking into their perspective regarding both user experience and the search engine rankings of your website.
However, there are ways through which you can use 404s to boost your SEO, as in some situations, it is not a broken link but an error by the user that can cause them.
A 404 can be generated when a user types in a faulty address, and this may result in an error being generated on their browser that may look bad, but you can definitely address the situation.
According to a recent study conducted by Gomez, a commercial platform that runs tests for web performance, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience.
In the light of this information, let us take a quick look at some of the ways you can use 404s to negate such inferences and strengthen your SEO.
1. Add links to them
Perhaps one of the best ways to make use of 404s is to design them so that it can link random internal pages from your website. This will allow you to get more website pages indexed through your 404 error pages. This can be achieved by running an algorithm that can help you to link out to a random number of internal pages.
Hence whenever a 404 page is generated, the links also change each time. According to Neil Patel’s own practice, he was able to boost TechCrunch search engine traffic by 9% in just a matter of 30 days. As far as search engines go, Google itself encourages developers to create custom 404 pages.
Since it is a standard HTML page, developers can customize it the way they want to, hence adding links to 404 pages shouldn’t be a big hassle.
2. Brand and customize them
The inconvenience user experiences when they run into a 404 can be quite infuriating; however, this is also a moment where you can use creativity to capture their attention. By branding and customizing your 404 pages, one can actually boost their website revenues and increase their conversions.
However, this might involve additional effort where a 404 page has to be properly designed and optimized in order to turn lost visitors into loyal customers. A standard 404 page doesn’t look good at all. In fact, it seems like coming for an era that was far less progressive. We understand that visuals play a huge role in attracting customers.
Several social media and marketing statistics proclaim the power of visuals, such as the fact that 96% of online shoppers watch a video about a product or a service before making a decision and that 88% of marketers prefer visuals in their published content.
So why refrain from using visuals and not branding your 404s? The answer is that you should definitely not only brand them but also customize them to make them even more appealing for your users.
3. Put in a search bar
Another great tactic to follow with your 404 pages is to add in a search bar. This is further reflected by the study published by the Search Engine Journal, where 81% of users think less of a brand if it’s outdated, and that 40% of users consider search box as the most important feature.
Therefore this should be plenty of reasons for you to make this change happen. A search bar added to your 404 is like sweet candy to a small kid who just dropped their ice-cream.
Surely it is not what they were expecting, but with the power of search in their hands, they can begin their adventure anew. Plus, a nice consolidating message to go along with it would also work wonders.
It is all about compensating for the error they just ran into. Hence you are covering damages and making it easier for your users to recover from them.
4. Include mentions of popular landing pages
Remember that your main goal is to create attention for your online users and direct them to your most profitable and viable landing pages. Hence even when your customers accidentally land themselves on a 404 error page, you can continue your efforts to divert their attention from the error and towards your most popular products and services. It is like a never-back down approach.
Sure, you would be offering them some comforting words to soften the impact created by the error. However, marketing is all about never quitting. Hence your 404 actually becomes like a landing page. It is true no one would actually land on a 404 with intention.
However, when they do, you will be prepared for them to divert the traffic to the most popular pages on your website. This can downright act out as a recommendation for your users. According to a recent report by McKinsey and Company, 35% of Amazon’s and 75% of Netflix’s revenues are generated by their recommendation engines, respectively.
5. Place your sitemap
If you are from the SEO side of things and adept in the knowledge that encircles the mastery of search engine rankings, then you know for sure that sitemaps can be extremely good for your websites. Since they are listed in search control, there is no doubt that Google does pay attention to them. Hence it would be great for your 404s to include a sitemap on them.
This will allow users to easily navigate through your website without leaving your website or going back to the SERPs (search engine result pages) to start their journey all over again. Hence you would be effectively reducing pogo-sticking. This will thus enhance your users’ dwell-time.
6. Use conversational language
It must be pretty obvious by now that a remedy for a 404 lies in offering users a human touch that softens their impact, and this can be further augmented with the use of conversational language.
You want your customers and website visitors to feel less infuriated, and in order to do that, you need to spread out some comfort for them so that they do not feel agitated.
This can be reflected by a recent study by Business 2 Community, where they emphasize the use of conversational marketing. According to the study, 79% of consumers are willing to use messaging apps for customer service, 82% consider immediate response as extremely important, and 36% of companies are actively using live chat for marketing and sales.
Hence the idea over here is to make your users feel as if you are directly speaking to them, and this can help break the ice and reduce the tension created.
7. Get to homepage tab
Probably one of the easiest get around for your 404 pages is to link back to the homepage. What you are doing is here is giving your customers the easiest route to start their search all over again without letting them go and trying to keep them on your domain.
8. Mention your blog
Blogs are considered a good choice for your audiences as well. While they may not be good for directly influencing their behavior, they can certainly create awareness that your domain does publish interesting content that users might find interesting to read.
It’s just a small nudge in the right direction. Obviously, customers who are looking to buy products or hire services would like to be directed to their requested pages, but mentioning your blog on a 404 is like saying, “hey there, we have more in store for you!”
Many students nowadays also go through blogs while they buy research papers online to increase their pool of knowledge relating to their field of study.
9. Avoiding the 404 Error
Lastly, I would like to share some guidelines with you to help you avoid 404s where you can possibly manage to reduce them. This will only make your user experience skyrocket and help negate dissonance from users. Here are some quick tips:
- Log into your Google Search Console account.
- Check the Coverage report to see how many URLs are returning error codes.
- Use the URL Inspection Tool to find more details about each error.
- A 301 redirect is considered a good option for rectifying a 404 status.
Why are we doing this after all of the discussion above? This is because having too many 404s can prove to be detrimental to your user’s experience. Hence if you are notified about their existence, you should resolve them.
The 404 error codes undoubtedly leave a negative impact on your users and visitors. However, there are various ways you can make them add value for your customers.
I hope this post was able to offer you some meaningful ways through which you can use 404s in an interactive manner to boost your website’s SEO. For more questions regarding the topic, please feel free to post your queries in the comment section below.
Amanda Jerelyn currently works as a Marketing Manager at Dissertation Assistance, a perfect place for students to buy academic writing services from expert dissertation writers UK. During her free time, she likes to practice mindful yoga to keep herself fit and healthy.
- Navigating a cookieless future – Search Engine Watch
- (Re)building Your Brand with Binge-Worthy Content—Chris Savage’s AMA Recap from INBOUND 2020
- Synergized search is key to success in the new normal
- Guide to using interactive 404s to boost your SEO
- Speed and performance of Web dev, SEO, and marketing agencies websites
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