Google: Different Algorithms Can Apply To Different Sites At Different Times

Oct 26, 2010 • 9:03 am | comments (8) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

A Google Webmaster Help thread has a very revealing, at least to me, post from a Googler about how the Google Algorithm works.

Many people feel the Google Algorithm is a single, but large algorithm. But those who have been doing this for a while know that Google has many algorithms. When I covered the SEO 101 session, which is kinda funny, but I wanted to listen to Bruce Clay, it can be refreshing. I fed Bruce a question, that I knew he'd love to answer, about the Google algorithm. In short, I said Bing said they have over 1000 ranking factors, but Google said about 200 - what's up with that. Bruce answered it like the pro he is and explained that "for a specific query, Google may use 200 or so factors, but they likely have thousands. but they use different algorithms for different search intent." (paraphrasing)

That is spot on. For the first time that I've seen Google comment specifically about this.

JohnMu said in the Google Webmaster Help thread:

Various parts of our algorithms can apply to sites at different times, depending on what our algorithms find. While we initially rolled out this change earlier this year, the web changes, sites change, and with that, our algorithms will continually adapt to the current state on the web, on those sites. While it might be confusing to see these changes at the same time as this issue, they really aren't related, nor is this a general algorithm change (so if other sites have seen changes recently, it probably doesn't apply to them as well).

This was in response to why one webmaster was complaining he was hit by the May Day search quality algorithm change. John explained that when it first launched, the algorithm likely didn't apply to his site, but as sites change, the algorithm will go out looking for matches and when it does, you might get a special look by that algorithm.

Again, this is likely not new to many seniored SEOs but it is always gravy to find this in the forums by a Googler.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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10/26/2010 06:49 pm

gravy...ah, yup!!! this kind of confirmation is just that....BIG slurpy full-0-flavour gravy!!! where's the bread to do some dippin, eh? :-) Jim

Michael Martinez

10/26/2010 08:48 pm

Interesting how John seemed to associate that one site with the MayDay Update (even though its issues began long after May). It would be nice to know what changed on that site to trigger the MayDay Effect.


10/26/2010 09:15 pm

I just go about my day knowing that the Google Algorithm is like Dark Matter...we know its there but we do not understand it!


10/27/2010 07:45 am

"Various parts of our algorithms can apply to sites at different times, depending on what our algorithms find. " Hmmm...looks like the algo has been looking in batches and not specific sites, a lot of people are having major traffic yo-yos this week.

neil davies

10/27/2010 09:37 am

We had a site ranking really high for 1.5 years across all main terms. We got through the May update, then made changes (due to client) to about 50% of site, and structure. We 301'd and updated XML map, but have never since got back to page one for main term. That was end July we made the update... May day indeed.

No Name

10/27/2010 10:00 am

I believe that Google is now placing more emphasis than ever on content. There have been a few updates recently and it seems as though content has been one of the major changes with Google's algorithm

neil davies

10/27/2010 12:28 pm

yes I think so too. We had a lot of well refined content which was re-written. We also had a lot of semi repetitive content which seems to have been devalued in some cases. I think after the updates in May any site changes reflect the other algos which G is using, so you could have a robust site which later gets penalised when content changes. Keep it unique, keep it useful and don't stuff keywords in!

Bill Sebald

10/27/2010 05:37 pm

I try to explain to clients that Google's ranking mechanisms are like rope, made up of different fibers (ie, tied up algos). On top of that, different ropes (with different fibers) are used for different verticals and intent. Seems to get the point across most of the time :)

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