A little less than a month ago I posted an article describing how the new Google algorithm had filled the results page for a search of my name "Troy Philis" with irrelevant results . Here is a screenshot of what I was talking about:
The first listing is of my portfolio site. So far, so good. The second, however, is entitiled "Troy Philips Photography." This result is completely irrelevant because the word "Philis" is nowhere on the website. In addition, the page contains pictures of half-naked men in thong bathing suits. Not something I want to be associated with (not that there's anything wrong with that).
Take another search I entered today - for C & T Recycling. In Google, the term C & T Recycling does not appear on page one of the SERP:
I really wanted to find information on C & T Recycling though, so I decided to try Yahoo. The term shows up near the top of page 1:
Search Yahoo for my name, and it's all me:
So why would the biggest search engine serve up bad, irrelevant search results, when they are in the business of serving up good, relevant search results. To answer that question, I'll need to define the two most important variables in ordering search results: 1) Keyword Relevance and 2) Link Authority - or PageRank.
Keyword relevance is what we've been talking about, and is what Google is now lacking in its searches. How closely do the search results displayed match the search terms you typed in to the search box? How many times do those terms appear on different parts of the page? Do links pointing to that page include the search terms?
Link authority is determined by counting the links pointing to a particular page. Huge corporations have websites with many, many pages, all linked together through the navigation. Their websites are generally linked to by many other individuals, associates and companies. A small company's website may have relatively few pages, and even fewer pages from other websites linked to it. Link authority tells the seach engine if your website is a big fish or a little fish.
It is possible to roughly check link authority, or PageRank, as Google calls it, using the Google Toolbar. In checking the examples of irrelevant search results described above, I found that the intruding irrelevant result always had a higher link authority than the relevant results that it pushed down the results page.
Conclusion: Google appears to have made a decision to let link authority trump relevance under certain circumstances. If you are like me, and would like to see results related to the search terms you typed in the box, rather than results Google is telling you are more important, than you will switch to Yahoo for your search needs too!
What does this mean to a small business trying to get some free advertising on Google? It's going to b e more difficult - get your website established as early as possible, work consistently on search engine promotion and optimization, and don't count on quick and easy results.
UPDATE: Another factor in the appearance of irrelevant search results could be a result of Google's apparent attempt to push searchers to more "popular" SERPS where more expensive Adwords advertisements are displayed.