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.
The term “keyword relevance” has to do with how important or relevant a specific keyword, keyword phrase or search term is to the content on a particular web page. 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? Keyword relevancy is what the search engines use to figure out what the content is about. And that is how the search engines decide which keywords your web page will rank for when someone is searching online.
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, and other internal linking. Their websites are generally linked to by the websites of 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 search 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.
What does this mean to a small business trying to get some free advertising on Google? It's going to be 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.