Come on, Google! Admit it… it is a bug!

Google made 39 updates to their algorithm in May. At the begining of June I noticed some significant drops in rankings for terms that one of the travel websites I follow quite closely used to rank very high. The site is only two years old with very high quality, sharable content so I started checking which websites gained on that update (I was sure that it is not any kind of penalisation- there is just no seo on-page/off-page ‘dodginess’ there).

I searched for a ‘Riad Kniza’ (a very popular riad in Marrakech and one of the terms the website dropped for) and here were the findings – the amount of Trip Advisor results was really high. I received 2 results TripAdvisor on the 1st page, 3 results on the 2nd page and… this is how the 3rd and 4th page looked on the 13th of June (Trip Advisor is almost everywhere):

Google bug- Trip Advisor 3rd page

Google bug- Trip Advisor 3rd page

Google bug- Trip Advisor 4th page

Google bug- Trip Advisor 4th page

It looks like Google gave too much weight to one of the factors within the algorithm that Trip Advisor fulfils incomparably more than any other site. So what could that be? I went through all updates and there are 4 which I think could be the reason behind this madness.

1) Smoother ranking functions for freshness- This change replaces a number of thresholds used for identifying fresh documents with more continuous functions.
2) Better detection of searches looking for fresh content- This change introduces a brand new classifier to help detect searches that are likely looking for fresh content.
3) Freshness algorithm simplifications- This month we rolled out a simplification to our freshness algorithms, which will make it easier to understand bugs and tune signals.
4) Performance optimizations in our ranking algorithm- This launch significantly improves the efficiency of our scoring infrastructure with minimal impact on the quality of our results.

So, is one of this updates causing this bug or maybe it’s something else?
Interesting thing is that in the same time Matt Cutts publishes his first video on multiple listing, have a look a let me know what you think 🙂

In my opinion it is useful for some branded searches, but what about their universal search results?
I think that the TripAdvisor’s results don’t make sense in that case at all.
There is also another blog post on that, have a look:
http://www.tnooz.com/2012/06/22/news/madness-of-search-engine-results-in-travel-the-bali-edition/

So what do you think bug or not a bug (please ignore the title of this post :)?

Mags Sikora

I'm Mags, an SEO Consultant, London

  • angelina Dom

    Great post i like the way you just describe this all and spend time to get on this. Thanks for sharing this with us.