Ranking Documents Patent to fool spammers?

Andreas Voniatis, 2012-08-24

- UPDATED 29th August 2012-

Here it is, a patent has been filed called “Ranking Documents” of which the premise is to introduce some kind of time delay and a boost in rankings as revealed by Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea here.

The diagram shows how “rank modifying spam” may manipulate a search engines ranking results. The patent proposes:

So it looks like the search engines are looking to confuse and deceive spammers that check rankings regularly by perhaps introducing an rankings boost in response to a change in link building and other onsite changes.  Once the link spamming and other manipulative measures have stopped, the system will further adjust the rankings to it’s natural equilibrium or where Google thinks the true ranking lies. To be clear using Bill’s comments:

Google is not saying that all SEOs are spammers, or that all website changes will be construed as attempted spam.  Instead, the patent lays out a framework to investigate and monitor spam attempts based upon an automated response to changes to pages (whether on page or link-based).  If during a transition rank period, someone makes reasonable and legitimate changes to a page that don’t constitute the mal-practices Google highlights in its webmaster guidelines as potential problem areas, thus the “legitimate” webmaster need not worry.

Further detail is provided on how the patent is proposing the system works ironing out any common areas for misinterpretation:

Google already calculated a “target rank” under the method described in the patent, so any suggestion that Google may shift the rankings of your site, in what appears to be a random manner, before Google settles on a target rank is incorrect.  The shifts in ranking are in a transition period that happens while moving from the old rank to the already calculated target rank.

A “target” rank is one that is an improved ranking so any misinterpretation that Google then randomises with some guile intent for a while before sending your site down to the target rank is also incorrect.  You can’t descend to an improved ranking position. When Google sees changes on a website that would “improve” a ranking for a page, the “old rank” (the technical term given in the patent) is the previous rank for the page. The “target rank” is where the page would move up to if Google didn’t put the page (or site, or many sites that might be affiliated in some way) through a transition rank function period first.

If the person responsible for the page, whether spammer, site owner, designer, developer, or SEO makes changes during the transition rank function period that Google clearly identifies as web spam (hidden or tiny text, keyword stuffing, misleading redirects, etc.), the site may never make it to the improved “target” rank.

Thus the premise is to make the search engine ranking results much harder for SEOs to establish cause and effect or indeed produce sham SEO correlation studies that get published every year.

In terms of the Ranking Documents potentially already being at work, the observation comes from Dr Pete:

“One of my biggest takeaways from studying ranking fluctuations over the past 6 months or so is that the amount of 24-hour change is shockingly high. Something like 80% of the Top 10 SERPs we measure change every night, to some degree. Some of this is algo updates (500+/year), and some is SEO/content (including QDF factors), but it’s hard to believe that rankings are that dynamic unless they’re actually being coded to change on purpose. I can’t prove that, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that some amount of noise is being injected into the system.”

Of course, the conspiracy theorists will go mad on this if they haven’t already thinking Google is out to get webmasters.  No they are out to get SEOs not genuine publishers that actually have something valuable to say.  You see whilst I agree that Google needs quality publishers whom are now moving content behind paywalls and that people are starting to turn to other search engines such as Amazon’s that doesn’t mean the death of content on the web.  Do we need blogs?  I don’t think so – just ask any journalist or Matt Cutts even.  Why do we need all these voices adding their opinions if they have no authority to speak on a given subject.  People can voice their 2 pennies on Twitter or Facebook otherwise they have no real business operating a blog.  I’m not saying nobody is entitled to an opinion – far from it.  I will defend the right for anyone to voice their opinions.  But do it on a proper forum like Facebook, Twitter, Quora.  Where people are being paid to write mush content for links that add no real value and that the any person of average intelligence would see right through it.  How about content that people learn from, or content are challenged?

The internet does not exist for SEOs or amateur writers to pollute the web to earn revenue off skimlinks or whatever affiliate program they are on.  The links that are worth promoting are those where content adds value, that educates.  In the futre, the SEO community may finally realise that good content doesn’t need multiple voices, just multiple authorities and publishers will just need to get smarter about monetising the free traffic they get instead of sticking it behind paywalls.

Back to ranking documents, this is a nice step forward to rewarding publishers that focus on content quality and quantity.

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