Google is keeping SEO folks on their toes and turning some hairs grey, as news circulates around the industry of a potential Google patent filing. The patent document specifies how Google intends on making rank changes to its search engine results pages (SERPs). Instead of allowing the algorithm to use its ranking factors to decide how documents (or pages) are ranked, Google will randomly initiate a “transition” period between when a rank change happens.

Here’s an example of how it might work:
Let’s say you build links to a site in hopes that it will improve rankings. Google will notice that there has been “rank modifying” techniques implemented and instead of making the actual algorithmic change, Google will arbitrarily change the rank of the page during its “transition” period. Google will then observe what you do in response (like undoing any “rank modifying” techniques). After an “unknown amount of time” Google will let the algorithm make the organic change based on its actual ranking factors. It’s kind of a way to throw spammers off the trail, really.

Here is Google’s description within its patent:
When a spammer tries to positively influence a document’s rank through rank-modifying spamming, the spammer may be perplexed by the rank assigned by a rank transition function consistent with the principles of the invention, such as the ones described above. For example, the initial response to the spammer’s changes may cause the document’s rank to be negatively influenced rather than positively influenced. Unexpected results are bound to elicit a response from a spammer, particularly if their client is upset with the results. In response to negative results, the spammer may remove the changes and, thereby render the long-term impact on the document’s rank zero. Alternatively or additionally, it may take an unknown (possibly variable) amount of time to see positive (or expected) results in response to the spammer’s changes. In response to delayed results, the spammer may perform additional changes in an attempt to positively (or more positively) influence the document’s rank. In either event, these further spammer-initiated changes may assist in identifying signs of rank-modifying spamming.”

One of the most challenging aspects of SEO is staying on top of testing techniques and knowing exactly the impact of things like this. The “transition” ranking is just another curveball in an industry full of interesting twists and turns. Part of my job as an SEO professional is to stay on top of them. Knowledge is power.

While some industry people view Google as a powerful enemy always trying to foil their best-laid plans, other SEO professionals believe that Google is just trying to encourage websites to produce more quality content. Although this does add complications to the work I do, I do not believe Google is ‘out to get us.’ In fact, the whole idea behind the patent is to identify and prevent spam. Google’s not attempting to attack SEO companies, or at least, not the GOOD ones. The people who should really be worried are the spammers. My hope is that the patent will lead to a lot less black hat SEO and a lot more authentic content marketing and high-quality SEO.

On a side note, I’ve got to hand it to Google! From a business perspective, it makes sense to apply these types of updates into their algorithm – in many ways it forces internet marketers to use Adwords and other marketing avenues.