When Google skipped their June search quality highlights, many SEOs didn’t know whether to consider it a good or a bad thing. Now that they’ve released a list of 86 changes, a lot of them dealing with updates the their indexing algorithm, we can see some webmaster’s should expect a slight shake in their rankings.
The most surprising aspect of the update announcement, was the glaring omission of what has been dubbed the Pirate Penalty (also known as the Emanuel Update). A new algorithm update which will look to target websites which are often accused of copyright infringement.
A new ranking function has been added to the algorithm, which will combine several existing key ranking factors which order top results more effectively. This will help “official” pages rank higher than affiliated ones and cluster web results from the same site more logically.
There will be an increased focus on the quality and uniqueness of the content returned in the results, from more trusted sources.
This includes an upgrade of the existing Panda algorithm.
• Website and sitelink titles will be changed from their usual boilerplate structure to text which is considered more accurate to the content of the page and more concise and useful to the user.
• The ranking of sitelinks will also being made more hierarchal so as to bring more important pages on the domain to the top.
• Web results description snippets for article pages have been tweaked to better demonstrate the subject matter.
Google has improved the interaction between these updated search components to focus on improved results for fresh and relevant content.
Of course, this will only be the focus if freshness should be considered a factor for the search query. They’ve added a bug fix so that this freshness factor doesn’t affect all the results.
The Pirate Penalty
This wasn’t included in the Google’s official announcement but it was nonetheless, widely publicised. Google have been removing pages from the results for infringing against the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for a while.
It requires that the copyright holders making an infringement claim submit a takedown request for offending the page, which is reviewed by Google and then judged. Page owners have the option of submitting a counter notice to get it reinstated, if the judgements was unfair.
Now though, they will be introducing the number of complaints made against certain pages as a ranking signal for the entire website.
This won’t be the number of upheld complaints, just how many were submitted. There also won’t be any type of recourse available to recover from this ranking penalty.
Many have complained that the metrics Google uses to assess copyright infringement can’t be considered as accurate as a judicial body (who themselves have often unfairly targeted people for such infringements). After all, Google’s judgements have no real legal validity.
There is also the strong possibility of negative SEO, as websites may just submit takedown requests about certain pages to Google to push their competing sites’ rank down.
Not Everyone Affected
Critics have claimed that the move is just Google’s way of pandering to the entertainment industry to achieve more success in their recent move towards content distribution with Google Play, the Android equivalent for the iStore, although it may also end up improving the delay for release to commercial availability, in this industry’s distribution channels.
What surprised many though was that Google said a lot of websites such as, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, IMDb and other popular content rich sites which receive many copyright complaints, while not immune, aren’t expected to be affected at all by the update.
Google hasn’t been all that clear as to why this is but one can assume it has to do with their popularity and how little control these sites have over the user-generated content. That said though, plenty of other sites without control over user behaviour have suffered, albeit not at the hands of Google, for copyright infringement.