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5 Predictions for the Google algorithm in 2011

Seems like a common thing to do, so I thought I’d lay down some predictions for 2011. One may argue that my predictions are based on optimism more than anything else. I believe December 2009 – June 2010 was a good period for the Google algorithm, but the second half of 2010 was disappointing.

Google made changes to page on a domain it ranked for a search query. For instance, Google started to display a more relevant deep page if it was the home page on the domain that was ranking. Unfortunately it seems it also did the reverse. In financial UK SERPs the home page of insurance websites appeared in search results when it was actually the deep page ranking. This had a few consequences.

Many in the SEO community took the backlink profiles of the ranking pages and were amazed when the sites ranking had natural link profiles, mainly composing of brand inbound link anchor text. It was proclaimed that Google had made great strides in web spam, and now capitalising on brand was important. Alas not. It was the deep pages with spammy back link profiles providing the rankings.

This brief discussion of 2010 helps provides the context to which my predictions for 2011 are made. I’ll let other people judge if they are realistic or just hopeful.

1) There will be a significant update to the Google algorithm in January

Common to previous years, Google have made few changes to the algorithm leading up to Christmas and usually rolls out a large change in January. An absence of notable updates in December ’10 leads me to think that it will be the same case in 2011 and we’ll see a significant update in January.

2) Efforts to combat web spam will step up in 2011

Matt Cutts at Pubcon stated that web spam resources had been taken away and deployed elsewhere in 2010. Especially towards the end of 2010 it showed too. Take a look through the back link profiles of those in the UK insurance verticals and you will struggle to find a clean, natural profile. However for certain competitive commercial keywords, sites are ranking with horrific back links. Usually such sites don’t tend to hang around on page one long, but recently such link building tactics are proving successful. The good news is that Matt Cutts has said that the resources have been restored to tacking web spam, and accordingly I expect there to be  big strides taken early in 2011. Maybe we’ll even see an update to the way spam is reported.

3) There will be another Toolbar PageRank update

There was only one major update to the Toolbar PageRank in 2010. I’m sure while implementing the May Day update, and Instant exporting PageRank to the toolbar was the least of their concerns. Some are questioning whether it will be updated ever again. If not, I’d like to see Google completely remove it rather than leave this legacy of an out of date metric. With more resources, I predict an update in the first half of 2011.

4) 2011 is not the year of social signals

It’s been confirmed that the open graph is now working alongside the link graph by Google. In 2010 Bing struck a deal with Facebook however, with both of these things in mind I still don’t believe 2011 is the year for social being used as an important ranking signal. Some individuals have demonstrated that you can get indexed from social platforms, and even rank for terms. However the weighting of social signals versus the link graph I assume are minute, and so for those operating in competitive keywords won’t see much of an impact.

5) Brand will continue to grow in importance

Ever since the Vince update brand has played a significant role in the algorithm, and I predict that this will continue in 2011. This will be best demonstrated in relevancy derived from anchor text being reduced. To take the example of the insurance vertical again, little or no people link with generic targeted anchor text to insurance providers naturally. They are far more likely to with brand. Therefore as a reference point, the algorithm should devalue relevancy derived anchor text and increase the value of authority from genuine brand links. I believe this is logical progression for the algorithm and although long over due, will happen finally in 2011.

So that forms my predictions for 2011. They’re more specific than many other people’s predictions, but I’m fed up of reading how ambiguous aspects such as ‘local’ and ‘mobile’ will become more important. I’ll leave readers with the ever true comment of Matt Cutts, who at Pubcon emphasised the importance of not chasing the algorithm, but instead predicting where it is going to go. It’s this that gives me the hope that 2011 will feature sites with natural back link profiles, and relevant results useful to users.


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So, what do you think ?