Ryan Jones Algorithm Chaos Pubcon 2013
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Ryan Jones Algorithm Chaos Pubcon 2013



Slides from my talk on algorithm chaos at Pubcon Las Vegas 2013

Slides from my talk on algorithm chaos at Pubcon Las Vegas 2013



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  • The new algorithm is dynamic. It’s not as simple as it was before.
  • The new algorithm is dynamic. It’s not as simple as it was before.

Ryan Jones Algorithm Chaos Pubcon 2013 Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Algorithm Chaos Manager, SEO & Analytics – SapientNitro www.RyanMJones.com
  • 2. How can we keep up with the ever-changing SEO algorithms? “We make over 500 changes to our algorithms [each] year” - Matt Cutts 2 @RyanJones
  • 3. Think Different. (about the algorithms) “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” - Albert Einstein 3 @RyanJones
  • 4. The Algorithm Has Evolved Everybody’s 2nd Favorite Formulas “al·go·rithm ˈ algəˈ Həm/ riT͟ noun noun: algorithm; plural noun: algorithms 1. a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, esp. by a computer. 4 @RyanJones
  • 5. Dynamic Weighting Algorithm Factors & weights are dependent upon the result set (corpus) 5 @RyanJones
  • 6. Dynamic Weighting When the corpus changes, so does the importance of various factors. 6 @RyanJones
  • 7. My Theory: It actually is brain science A Something to Think About: Neural networks Require Training Sets • Human Quality Raters • Panda • Penguin • Matt’s latest call for “good sites that should rank higher” - A “simple” neural network 7 @RyanJones
  • 8. There’s Two Theories of SEO @RyanJones
  • 9. Type 1: Storm chasers The Algorithm Chaser / Reverse Engineer. Analyze, Measure, Correlate, Examine, Interpret, & Follow top ranking sites. Try to figure out the factors that top sites have in common and emulate them. “This is how SEO used to be, many years ago. It used to work very well.” Sometimes The Tail wags the dog. 9 @RyanJones
  • 10. Type 2: Storm Predictors Pay attention to where the algorithm is heading “We sometimes call these SEOs Google fan-boys. ” 10 @RyanJones
  • 11. 10,000 foot view Focuses on “What” rather than “How” Google wants to rank Quality, Useful sites. Ok, how can I make my site more useful? 11 @RyanJones
  • 12. Let’s Talk About Hummingbird Hummingbird Changes The Algorithm Focus OLD: Show most popular results that actually contain “keyword” NEW: Show the most useful and popular results for “what the user means” @RyanJones 12 Source: soyunhamster.deviantart.com
  • 13. Algorithm Myths Let’s Change How We Think About Search Algorithms
  • 14. Myth 1: The Algorithm is a Static Formula It’s Not. Get Over It. Ranking Factors differ by query & corpus @RyanJones 14
  • 15. Myth 2: Google Has a Brand Bias Customers favor brands Google favors what customers favor. Source: google consumer surveys. Question : “where would you buy a flat screen TV” @RyanJones 15
  • 16. How do you determine if something is a brand? Hint: Not this way: (in_array($knownBrands,$URL))? $ranking++ : $ranking--; Google doesn’t check against a list of brands. Trust. Authority. Popularity Note: yeah, I know Google uses python, not PHP. Here’s python. Happy? ranking += 1 If url in brandarray else ranking -= 1 @RyanJones 16
  • 17. Myth 3: Altering vs. Ordering Some factors alter the SERP corpus. Others simply order it. Alter (included or not?) Order (ranking) Device Type Pagerank Location Page Speed Relevance (tf-idf?) Some factors may do both. E.G. personalization, QDF, manual penalties. @RyanJones 17
  • 18. Myth 4: Rankings changes only hurt people. For every site that loses rankings, another one gains. (although, to be fair, sometimes that “other” site is Google) @RyanJones 18
  • 19. Myth 5: Rankings dropped, I got penalized. If you just dropped a couple spots, you weren’t penalized. If you fall out of the search results completely, that’s a penalty. @RyanJones 19
  • 20. Myth 6: Social Signals Are Super Important Social Signals Are Important, But Not For Rankings Google has said they don’t use Facebook or Twitter signals in rankings, and are still evaluating plusses/likes. @RyanJones 20
  • 21. Let’s Talk About Correlation “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” - Inigo Montoya @RyanJones 21
  • 22. Some Fun Correlations Sometimes, the “hidden factor” is simply just Time. @RyanJones 22
  • 23. Example Correlations • Ice Cream Sales are highly correlated with crime. • Number of Facebook Users correlates to the national debt. Source: xkcd.com • In children under 3, vocabulary and shoe size have a correlation coefficient of 1.0 • One SEO study actually claimed having a keyword optimized title tag is highly correlated with manual webspam penalties Hidden Factors: • Heat / Weather • Time • Spammers do keyword research – more than the general web. @RyanJones 23
  • 24. SEO correlations have hidden factors too! • Plusses / Facebook likes are correlated to rankings • But people can’t plus/like what they can’t find. (e.g. rankings came first) • Let’s better understand correlation coefficients too! • Anything under .6/.7 is pretty scattered. Full Circle: Perhaps study values are so low because factors vary based on the result sets? @RyanJones 24
  • 25. Tips For Surviving Algorithm Changes • Don’t chase algorithms, chase the reasons for the algorithms. • Understand why the algorithm changes were made • Focus less on ranking factors and more on why they are factors. • Be a Brand. Do what brands do. Build Quality, Trust, Authority. Goal: If your site isn’t ranking, customers should think that Google is broken. • Don’t Ask: “how do I rank for ___” Ask: “What do people searching ___ want to see?” @RyanJones 25
  • 26. @RyanJones Manager, SEO & Analytics www.RyanMJones.com SapientNitro © 2013 SAPIENT CORPORATION | CONFIDENTIAL