December 22, 2013

Two updates on SEO and Google’s search capabilities

1. Well, if you as a blogger, have regularly been watching the growth of your Google PageRank, you might have noticed that it remained constant or even dipped by a notch [in case it had 3 or higher PR] in the last 9-10 months. We have seen this happening with many blogs in our database. So, reports that Google has started giving PR a lesser importance in search results seem to be true. A report recently appeared that Google has updated the PR in December. Chances are that if your posting and linking habits have remained constant, your blog might have shown a lower ranking.

But, isn’t that a piece of good news for bloggers who concentrate on sharing good content rather than on link-building and excessive SEO?

2. We did a bit of experimentation to check how useful and powerful Google’s much touted new contextual, conversational search feature is. Just to recall, after some earlier refinement, including the latest Hummingbird update, Google claims to better understand what you want to find through web-search. We searched for phrases with adverbs and other subjective expressions [e.g. ‘very nice’] and Google churned out pathetic results. In most cases of complex search terms with multiple words, Google read the words separately, resulting in absurd results. It also did not fare too well in picking up similar expressions and synonyms. It, however, gave passable results when we typed ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and other expressions that clearly asked for factual details, time, location, reasoning, etc related to the key subject. 

We also checked whether for the same relevance, Google was displaying on top the content with higher [and relevant] linking, PR and relevance. No, it wasn't. Sometimes the top rated content on a particular subject was not even in the first page. 

We checked whether blogs showed up high when the word ‘blog’ was included in the search term; no, that was not the case. 

In some cases, we found that the entries coming high on the search pages had become obsolete and irrelevant but had come on top probably because the search term was there in title, URL or description. In converse, Google's initiative to reward 'in-depth' content seemed to be working. In many cases, articles from authoritative websites and individual authoritative articles came up high in search pages. 

By the way, some directory-based search engines gave better results, though the limitation of updation, number of entries etc in such search showed up. When it comes to number of search result entries, we believe that searchers in most situations are happier with only a few but highly relevant results rather than 'About 100,000,000 results (0.38 seconds)' given by Google. Google knows it too well, but something stops it from becoming that extra relevant.

Instead of flogging Google for not being able to read context behind search queries, we’d like to appreciate it for trying to improve search results. Its use of knowledge graph, for example, is quite useful, at least in some cases.