How Might Google Rank Your Blog?

Bill Slawski found a new patent on ranking blog documents that should be of interest to anyone with a blog. As you would expect Bill has given his usual overview of the patent, explaining things and making simple for the rest of us. Bill was also nice enough to highlight some of the main factors that might affect blog ranking in this Cre8asite thread.

The gist is that Google’s blog search will show results based on a combination of relevance and quality scores. The relevance scores are typical on-page factors, such as how often the search phrase appears in the document or where it might appear as in the title or page headings. The new factors covered by the patent are what might make up the quality score.

Bill does a good job of detailing the positive and negative indicators of blog quality and I’d urge you to read his post. I would like to touch on a few of the positive and negative indicators as given in the Cre8asite thread.

Positive Indicators of Quality

First the positive.

  • How many RSS subscriptions there are to the blog
  • How often people click on a link to the post in search results
  • How many blogrolls the blog is in
  • How many “high quality” blogrolls the blog is in
  • If the blog offers visitors the chance to tag posts, whether people are tagging them
  • References to the blog by sources other than blogs
  • Pagerank

Most of the above you’d probably expect. It makes sense that the more blogrolls your blog is on, especially the more quality blogrolls the more likely your blog is also of quality. It should also be expected that the more references by sources to the blog, ie. links, the higher your quality score will be. I wish Google would mention pagerank less since I’m sure just seeing it on the list will give people yet another reason to over focus on it.

The Cre8asite thread raises a question about the number of subscribers to the RSS feed of the blog. The assumption is that Google will only know about the number of Google Reader subscribers and not how many people have subscribed through Bloglines or any other reader. True enough, though I’m not sure this would be an issue. It’s likely that your readers would use Google Reader in similar proportion to the readers of the other blogs in your industry and while you can try to nudge your readers to specifically use Reader I think most people will choose their RSS reader independent of your recommendation.

The implications of the above are pretty clear though. Get readers to subscribe to your blog, get on the blogrolls of other blogs, get links to your blog from a variety of sources and write good page titles and descriptions so when your pages do appear in results people click on the links.

Negative Indicators of Quality

I think the negative factors are actually more interesting.

  • If new posts appear in short bursts or at predictable intervals
  • If the content of the posts doesn’t match the content of feeds from the posts
  • If the content includes a lot of spam related keywords
  • If a lot of content is duplicated in multiple posts from a blog
  • Whether posts are the same size, or roughly the same size,
  • Link distribution of the blog
  • If posts primarily link to one page or site

Most blog posts are published regularly. Once a day, twice a day, once a week. My guess is the predictable intervals is more a way to match a spam footprint such as posting too frequently or too regularly. For example I generally post once each night, but I doubt I’m publishing at the exact same time each night. Even if you do publish at precisely the same times my guess is this would set more of a flag to check against other factors and not something that would automatically cause your posts not to rank.

Post content not matching feed content is interesting and I wonder how realistic it is as a factor of quality. Is Google saying they prefer full feeds over partial feeds? Wouldn’t publishing a partial feed be significantly different than what’s offered in the post itself? Is there anything inherently wrong with publishing a partial feed or even a descriptive snippet instead of the full feed? And what about blogs that provide extra ‘feed only’ content to entice people to subscribe? I can understand the intent here as a way to uncover cloaking through RSS feeds, but I think there are still valid reasons to present different content in feeds and posts.

Having posts the same or roughly the same size reminds me when I asked if there was an ideal length for blog posts. While my view was that a post is done when it’s done I did surmise that a mix of post lengths might be best. Of course I was thinking in terms of real people, but perhaps the mix of lengths would be best. A mixed post length would be more natural and I would think if you just write naturally then you won’t have anything to worry about here.

The last two items above are another indication that you need to watch where you link. This doesn’t sound like a linking to ‘bad neighborhood’ type of thing, but rather linking out specifically to manipulate how well another page or site ranks. Again if you link out when it makes sense to this probably won’t be an issue.

There is one further item Bill mentioned in his post that isn’t specifically mentioned in the forum thread and hence in the list above. And that’s the number of ads appearing on the blog. Most likely this is meant as a reaction to MFA sites, but it seems somewhat hypocritical for Google to encourage everyone to use AdSense and then rank sites not using them a little better. Again this is probably similar to the other factors in that it shouldn’t be seen in isolation. But it’s interesting to note that less ads may be a better option to bring search traffic to your blog. Less ads might even be preferred to keep that traffic on your blog, but that’s another issue.

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that just because something appears in a patent doesn’t mean it’s currently being used or ever will be used. Think of it more as an indication of things that have been considered at Google and an indication of things they can do. Whether or not they choose to do any of the above is something different.

Some of what’s contained in the patent and the lists above will likely be used when it comes to ranking blog posts. Some, however, may not. It’s probably wise though, to consider how each of the above might affect ranking and consider the implications for your blog.

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2 comments

  1. I’m not sure how you missed that ads in the forum. I knew I’d seen you mention them and then I looked up at the list and it wasn’t there. I need to get over to cre8asite too and get involved in the thread. As for the ads my guess is that would be part of Google’s attempt to clean out some MFA sites from the SERPs.

    Glad you liked my analysis. When I was thinking about the full and partial feeds I couldn’t help but think of Aaron Wall. Aaron publishes a one or two sentence description of what the post is about. According to the patent that would be an indication that SEO Book isn’t a quality blog. I think you’ll agree Aaron has one of the higher quality blogs on seo.

    My though about all the factors as with all ranking factors for the general search algorithm is you can never look at any of them in isolation as something that will automatically help or hurt. I think search engines have long since advanced beyond the point where they need to look at any factor alone and would sooner be looking at them in conjunction with other factors. So if you publish too regularly it might only be a problem if you also have very different feed and post content and maybe too many ads. Having any one of the above probably doesn’t change things too much one way or the other.

    And like you said Google probably isn’t telling us everything. I suspect they know a little more how we’re all going to react to things than we might think and sometimes give out limited information to manipulate us a little.

  2. How did I miss the ads in the forum thread?

    The negative factors are more interesting than the positive ones, and I suspect that the folks who wrote this probably didn’t give away all of their secrets, and didn’t tell us everything that they look for. They may have even provided some of the weaker factors. Nice analysis. Full versus partial RSS feeds? Good question.

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