Google Search Algorithm Updates

Today's NY Times has a descriptive article on how Google continually updates its search algorithm. 36% of Transparent's traffic comes from Google search, a percentage that likely mirrors other real estate weblogs.

For real estate professionals who want to show up on Google's top page, here are a few ways Google has improved its algorithm to provide more relevant, localized search results that connect agents with consumers:

Promoting relevant local information:
In 2005, Bill Brougher, a Google product manager, complained that typing the phrase “teak patio Palo Alto” didn’t return a local store called the Teak Patio. So Mr. Singhal ("master of its ranking algorithm")  fired up one of Google’s prized and closely guarded internal programs, called Debug, which shows how its computers evaluate each query and each Web page. He discovered that did not show up because Google’s formulas were not giving enough importance to links from other sites about Palo Alto.

It was also a clue to a bigger problem. Finding local businesses is important to users, but Google often has to rely on only a handful of sites for clues about which businesses are best. Within two months of Mr. Brougher’s complaint, Mr. Singhal’s group had written a new mathematical formula to handle queries for hometown shops.

Google "signals" direct user to more relevant search results. A user that "signals" interest in real estate will be directed to real estate related search results.

Mr. Singhal has developed a far more elaborate system for ranking pages, which involves more than 200 types of information, or what Google calls “signals.” PageRank is but one signal. Some signals are on Web pages — like words, links, images and so on. Some are drawn from the history of how pages have changed over time. Some signals are data patterns uncovered in the trillions of searches that Google has handled over the years. [...]

Increasingly, Google is using signals that come from its history of what individual users have searched for in the past, in order to offer results that reflect each person’s interests. For example, a search for “dolphins” will return different results for a user who is a Miami football fan than for a user who is a marine biologist. This works only for users who sign into one of Google’s services, like Gmail. [...]

Once Google corrals its myriad signals, it feeds them into formulas it calls classifiers that try to infer useful information about the type of search, in order to send the user to the most helpful pages. Classifiers can tell, for example, whether someone is searching for a product to buy, or for information about a place, a company or a person. Google recently developed a new classifier to identify names of people who aren’t famous. Another identifies brand names.

"Diversity" of information the website provides helps to get it placed higher. This is an intriguing point I hadn't seen before about the algorithm... it behooves real estate blog authors to write about a variety of topics - local, national, economy, technology - to establish the content breadth the algorithm prizes:
The sites with the 10 highest scores win the coveted spots on the first search page, unless a final check shows that there is not enough “diversity” in the results. “If you have a lot of different perspectives on one page, often that is more helpful than if the page is dominated by one perspective,” Mr. Cutts says. “If someone types a product, for example, maybe you want a blog review of it, a manufacturer’s page, a place to buy it or a comparison shopping site.”
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  • 6/4/2007 7:09 AM John Schroeder - Waunakee RE/MAX Preferred Realtor wrote:
    This is another validation that a blogger who posts relevant and useful material on his/her site that encompasses a wide variety of categories will be rewarded. Conversely a site that just has a bunch of keywords added to the bottom of the page will not do as well.

    Reply to this

  • 6/4/2007 12:03 PM April wrote:
    You know, you always have great information. That's why I love coming here. The "Palo Alto" scenario was especially insightful.

    Thanks Pat!
    Reply to this
    1. 6/4/2007 12:45 PM Pat Kitano wrote:
      Thanks April, you made my day!

      Reply to this

  • 6/8/2007 5:48 AM Ron wrote:
    I am not sure whether this is scary for newcomers or a blessing as it will make it harder to rank high on google, but the rewards can be great to those who hang on long enough and have a chance of toping current authority sites.

    Still learning how to build a proper website, a lot harder than i ever imagined

    All the best,
    Reply to this

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