30 Oct 2015

RankBrain and Artificial Intelligence: Weekly Forum Update

seochat-wmw-cre8asite-threadwatch-roundupRankBrain is the big news this week. The “third most important ranking factor” kind of snuck up on everyone, so it’s natural that our communities have been trying to figure it out ever since.

If you haven’t heard, RankBrain is an artificial intelligence. It uses machine learning to to process searches that people make and attempts to show pages that contain words related to, but not necessarily included in, the query. There’s other news too, of course.

Bing has achieved profitability, John Brown dropped by WebmasterWorld to talk with webmasters about his new position as Google’s head of publisher outreach, and on Cre8asiteforums users are talking about comment sections and bandwidth hogging ads. You won’t want to miss a single link – this week’s update is jam-packed.

Google: Not Too Late to Get Ready for Penguin

Let’s start off slow with some news about Penguin. Gary Illyes responded on Twitter to a user who wanted to know, “Is it too late to clean up my backlinks? Can I be ready for Penguin?”

Is it too late to clean up my backlinks? Can I be ready for Penguin?Click To Tweet

Illyes answered that it’s certainly not too late – but his answer brings up new questions. The next Penguin update is predicted to make Penguin “real-time,” meaning that it would never be too late. Does Illyes’s answer mean that “real-time” might have a different definition to Google than the one we understand?

Give Bing a Chance!

Microsoft was tooting its horn earlier this week – Bing is finally profitable!

A Threadwatch reporter has gathered some news articles and a discussion on SEO Chat where webmasters consider increasing their investments. Bing converts higher, and is rising – and with Windows 10, the number of users with Bing has risen considerably.

Ad revenue grew 29% according to a report from Search Engine Land. Maybe it’s time to start taking Bing more seriously.

Google Search Powered by AI – RankBrain

Folks on WebmasterWorld are discussing what RankBrain means for the future of search. It’s seeing a mixed reception. Writes user ogletree,

“I have been seeing this and I’m sick of it…I think all it does is take a zillion searches and boil it down to a much smaller number of searches. The only problem is some of us know what we are searching for and don’t want Google to rewrite our search.”

Other users have also noticed that specific searches are returning lower quality results. A huge shake-up for longtail is predicted – whether that will be positive or negative depends on the individual, and the direction RankBrain will take in the future.

“This to me sort of suggests targeting long tail search terms may become less effective,” writes user gazzahk. Dr. Marie writes, “I am wondering if this is perhaps why we did not see a rerun of Panda or Penguin for so long… I also wonder if RankBrain will impact Panda. I feel that in the past, a HUGE component of Panda involved technical site issues,” but, she continues, RankBrain could add more data to Panda and make it more about promoting high quality sites than small technical changes.

For a third perspective, try Cre8asiteforums where users are discussing Bill Slawski’s RankBrain investigation.

Kim Krause-Berg worries that as Google becomes more focused on AI, it will undermine Google’s “intent towards giving us search results we desire as opposed to those they think we should get based on who paid the most or how its machines decide what we see, or not.”

User iamlost writes, “Never forget that Google is an ad network and their search is their main ad server.”

Still, they continue, RankBrain is called an AI, but it is nowhere near a true AI. To conclude, EGOL adds

“I don’t think that anybody is going to make any money trying to do things that fit the pattern of RankBrain.”

And who knows, maybe that’s a good thing – it will leave all of us more time to focus on quality, useful content!

An Interview and Conversation With Google’s New Head of Publisher Outreach

John Brown, Google’s new Head of Publisher Policy Communications, was kind enough to drop in a WebmasterWorld thread for a brief conversation. Users there were discussing an interview between Brown and Brent Csutoras in Search Engine Land.

The main concern of webmasters is whether increased transparency and communication will bolster failing Adsense revenues. Writes user MrSavage,

“It’s like a gold necklace. I’m always careful with it because losing it would be costly. However, the one made of silver? That’s how concerned I am about policy. I care, but this is not keeping me up at night any more.”

Consolidating Content and Ranking Factors

There comes a time after performing a site audit that you sit down and tell yourself, “It’s time to cut the fat.” It’s not always about getting rid of pages, but sometimes it’s about putting content together in new ways to make it more easily delivered to your users.

User LTParis is a welcome site on SEO Chat – this time, he writes “I think in total I would be shedding about 12-13% of the total pages on my site…” and wonders how to preserve his rankings. 301 redirects are the commonly suggested solution, but as fathom replies: “301 redirects do nothing if there are no incoming external links to the pages being redirected… Just losing pages (numbers) isn’t a positive nor negative thing… losing unique phrases become one issue and losing depth of topic becomes the other.”

A Useful New Tool from a Senior SEO Chat Member!

SEO Chat user Chedders has been with us since 2011, and he’s come to us this week with a neat little tool of his own design. It’s a simple page explorer for analyzing onsite attributes, and more features are being added as time permits.

Give it a spin and let him know what you think! Your suggestions could help add to something that’s already pretty great.

Not Sharing Articles Because Comments Are Rude

Sharing articles on Twitter and Facebook is great in one way because it can open up avenues for enlightening discussions. But in another way, it can be very stressful. There’s an astonishing amount of negativity on the web.

Kim Krause-Berg writes,

“Is it me or have social sites like Facebook become a wasteland of negativity?”

Have social sites like Facebook become a wasteland of negativity?Click To Tweet

Users on Cre8asiteforums are discussing how to find positivity in your online discussions. Bill Slawski has some great advice for sharing conversation and photos.  Politics and religion, as always, seem to be the things you definitely want to avoid! What has your experience been with online discussion as we approach the second decade of the 21st century?

The Sneakiest, Bandwidth Hogging Weasel Ads

Have you ever gone to one of your favorite sites, browsed happily for fifteen minutes, only to watch as your browser lags and freezes up all of a sudden? It could be because of their ads.

“These ads,” writes EGOL on Cre8asiteforums, “appear as a mundane static image, but then, often minutes later, they start pulling in video and sound. They play for a few seconds and then go back to a mundane static image.”

These sneaky little ads can suck the life out of your bandwidth without you realizing it. Other ads will invite their friends to join them if you stay on a page for too long, flooding your browser with junk. What’s your experience with ads like this? Cre8asiteforums users are particularly interested in hearing how they function on mobile devices!

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