Direct Line Blog

Is Google's latest algorithm update better for big brands, worse for new ones?

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Late last week, Google said it has tweaked its search ranking algorithm “to reduce rankings for low-quality sites — sites that are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites, or sites that are just not very useful.” According to Google, the change will only affect the rankings of 11.8% of search queries.

While the change mainly targets content farms that bank on churning out content for the sole purpose of driving traffic as opposed to, you know, information, I imagine a potential side effect could be the weighing down of rankings for newer websites that don't yet have the strong domain authority of a site that's been around since the days of Netscape.

Google keeps the specifics of its algorithm under wraps, but a few folks have begun to wade into the new algorithm's impact. Search Engine Land has posted tables from SEO consultant Sistrix that look at the visibility loss for various websites. As it happens, the top five losers were all content farms, and the top five winners were SEO stalwarts like Facebook, eBay and YouTube (hmm, convenient).

What I take from those findings is that this algorithm will, in fact, separate big brands from up-and-coming, mom-and-pop types that have only recently started to delve into search marketing. I don't yet have any hard data to back up that theory, but The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal and co. performed some technological wizardry that helps my hypothesis.

Madrigal and his team “did two searches for the phrase ‘drywall dust,' figuring it was just random enough. One we executed in the standard way, presumably using the new algorithm, and the other we routed through a proxy server that made it look like were coming from India, presumably using the old algorithm.”

Click through for the full results, but the digest version is that of the 10 "old algorithm" results, six were content farms. Of the 10 "new algorithm" results, there was only one content farm and the shopping site that ranked ninth in the former was bumped to sixth in the latter.

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