PageRank Revealed with a Superficial Glance

December 24, 2016

I read “19 Confirmed Google Ranking Factors.” The table below comes from my 2004 monograph The Google Legacy. You will be able to view a seven minute summary on December 20, 2016. The table in The Google Legacy table consists of more than 100 factors used in the Google relevance system. Each of the PageRank elements was extracted from open source information; for example, journal articles, Google technical papers which were once easily available from Google, patents, various speeches, and blog posts. We estimated that the factors are tuned and modified to deal with hacks, tricks, and new developments. Here is an extract from the tables in The Google Legacy:


Imagine my surprise when I worked through the 19 factors in the article “19 Confirmed Google Ranking Factors.” My research suggested that by 2004, Google had layered on and inserted many factors which the company did not document. These adjustments have continued since 2004 when production of The Google Legacy began and changes could not longer be made to the book text.

The idea that one can influence PageRank by paying attention to a handful of content, format, update, and technical requirements is interesting for two reasons:

  1. It continues the simplification of the way people think about Google and its methods
  2. Google faces “inertia” when it comes to making changes in its core relevance methods; that is, it is easier for Google to “wrap” the core with new features than it is to make certain changes. That’s the reason there is an index for mobile search and an index for desktop search.

Here’s an example of the current thinking about Google’s relevance ranking methods from the article cited in this blog post: Links. Yep, PageRank relies on links. Think about IBM Almaden Clever and you get a good idea how this works. What Google has added were methods which pay attention to less crude signals. Google also pays attention to signals which “deduct” or “down check” a page or site. Transgressions include duplicate content and crude tricks to fool Google’s algorithms; for example, you click on a link that says “White House” and you see porn. This issue and thousands of others have been “fixed” by Google engineers. My 2004 listing of 100 factors is a fraction of the elements the Google relevance systems process.

Another example of relevance simplification appears in “10 Google Search Ranking Factors Content Marketers Should Prioritize (And 3 You Shouldn’t).” Yep, almost 20 years of relevance tweaks boil down to a dozen rules. Hey, if these worked, why isn’t everyone in the SEO game generating oodles of traffic? Answer: The Google system is a bit more slippery and requires methods with more rubber studs on the SEO gym shoe.l

The problem with boiling down Google’s method to a handful of checkpoints is that the simplification can impart false confidence. Do this and the traffic does NOT materialize. What happened? The answer is that a misstep has been introduced while doing the “obvious” search engine optimization tweak. To give one example, consider making changes to one’s site. Google notes frequency and type of changes to a Web site. How about those frequent and radical redesigns. How does Mother Google interpret that information?

Manipulating relevance in order to boost a site’s ranking in a results list can have some interesting consequences. Over the years, I have stated repeatedly that if a webmaster wants traffic, buy AdWords. The other path is to concentrate on producing content which other people want to read. Shortcuts and tricks can lead to some fascinating consequences and, of course, work for the so called search engine optimization experts.

Matt, Matt, where are you now? Oh, that’s right…

Stephen E Arnold, December 24, 2016

SEO Craziness: Design Is the Most Important Ranking Factor

December 3, 2016

I love the search engine optimization “experts.” The concepts, the ideas, the confections—Amazing. I read “Design: The Top SEO Ranking Factor.” The main idea is that arts and crafts are more important than accuracy, useful information, clear presentation, and the other factors identified by Google itself.

I learned:

The only way to sustain organic search ranking is to offer an experience that users engage with after landing on it.

I love statements containing the word “only.” The idea is that there is one, unique, remarkable, go-to thing to do to pump up a result is a list of results or in an app designed to provide search even though the user does not know he/she is performing a search. The write up explains:

User-centered design of organic search landing experiences is pretty simple: provide clearly scannable [sic], relevant, compelling text above the fold. Anything that distracts from that mission defeats the purpose.

Cart before horse and ready-fire-aim are essential tools for this approach to providing useful and usable information.

Stephen E Arnold, December 3, 2016

Black-Hat SEO Tactics Google Hates

November 16, 2016

The article on Search Engine Watch titled Guide to Black Hat SEO: Which Practices Will Earn You a Manual Penalty? follows up on a prior article that listed some of the sob stories of companies caught by Google using black-hat practices. Google does not take kindly to such activities, strangely enough. This article goes through some of those practices, which are meant to “falsely manipulate a website’s search position.”

Any kind of scheme where links are bought and sold is frowned upon, however money doesn’t necessarily have to change hands… Be aware of anyone asking to swap links, particularly if both sites operate in completely different niches. Also stay away from any automated software that creates links to your site. If you have guest bloggers on your site, it’s good idea to automatically Nofollow any links in their blog signature, as this can be seen as a ‘link trade’.

Other practices that earned a place on the list include automatically generated content, cloaking and irrelevant redirects, and hidden text and links. Doorway pages are multiple pages for a key phrase that lead visitors to the same end destination. If you think these activities don’t sound so terrible, you are in great company. Mozilla, BMW, and the BBC have all been caught and punished by Google for such tactics. Good or bad? You decide.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 16, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Biases: Real, Hoped For, or Imagined?

November 10, 2016

I don’t have a dog in this fight. Here at Beyond Search we point to open source documents and offer comments designed to separate the giblets from the goose feathers. Yep, that’s humor, gentle reader. Like it or not.

The write up “Opinion: Google Is Biased Toward Reputation-Damaging Content” pokes into an interesting subject. When I read the article, I thought, “Is this person a user of Proton Mail?”

The main point of the write up is that the Google relevance ranking method responds in an active manner to content which the “smart” software determines is negative. But people wrote the software, right? What’s up, people writing relevance ranking modules?

The write up states:

Google has worked very hard to interpret user intent when searches are conducted. It’s not easy to fathom what people may be seeking when they submit a keyword or a keyword phrase.

Yep, Google did take this approach prior to its initial public offering in 2004. Since then, I ask, “What changes did Google implement in relevance in the post IPO era?” I ask, “Did Google include some of the common procedures which have known weaknesses with regard to what lights the fires of the algorithms’ interests?”

The write up tells me:

Since Google cannot always divine a specific intention when a user submits a search query, it’s evolved to using something of a scattergun approach — it tries to provide a variety of the most likely sorts of things that people are generally seeking when submitting those keywords. When this is the name of a business or a person, Google commonly returns things like the official website of the subject, resumes, directory pages, profiles, business reviews and social media profiles. Part of the search results variety Google tries to present includes fresh content — newly published things like news articles, videos, images, blog posts and so on. [Emphasis added.]

Perhaps “fresh” content triggers the following relevance components? For example, fresh content signals change and change may mean that the “owner” of the Web page may be interested in buying AdWords. A boost for “new stuff” means that when a search result drifts lower over a span of a week or two, the willingness to buy AdWords goes up? I think about this question because it suggests that tuning certain methods provides a signal to the AdWords’ subsystems of people and code. I have described how such internal “janitors” within Google modules perform certain chores. Is this a “new” chore designed to create a pool of AdWords’ prospects? Alas, the write up does not explore this matter.

The write up points to a Googler’s public explanation of some of the relevance ranking methods in use today. That’s good information. But with the public presentations of Google systems and methods with which I am familiar, what’s revealed is like touching an elephant when one is blind. There is quite a bit more of the animal to explore and understand. In fact “understand” is pretty tough unless one is a Googler with access to other Googlers, the company’s internal database system, and the semi clear guidelines from whoever seems to be in charge at a particular time.

I highlighted this passage from the original write up as interesting:

I’ve worked on a number of cases in which all my research indicates my clients’ names have extremely low volumes of searches.  The negative materials are likely to receive no more clicks than the positive materials, according to my information, and, in many cases, they have fewer links.

Okay, so there’s no problem? If so, why is the write up headed down the Google distorts results path? My hunch is that the assurance is a way to keep Googzilla at bay. The author may want to work at the GOOG someday. Why be too feisty and remind the reader of the European Commission’s view of Google’s control of search results?

The write up concludes with a hope that Google says more about how it handles relevance. Yep, that’s a common request from the search engine optimization crowd.

My view from rural Kentucky is that there are a number of ways to have an impact on what Google presents in search results. Some of these methods exploit weaknesses in the most common algorithms used for basic functions within the Google construct. Other methods are available as well, but these are identified by trial and error by SEO wizards who flail for a way to make their clients’ content appear in the optimum place for one of the clients’ favorite keywords.

Three observations:

  • The current crop of search mavens at Google are in the business of working with what is already there. Think in terms of using a large, frequently modified, and increasingly inefficient system for determining relevance. That’s what the new hires confront. Fun stuff.
  • The present climate for relevance at Google is focused on dealing with the need to win in mobile search. The dominant market share in desktop search is not a given in the mobile world. Google is fragmenting its index for a reason. The old desktop model looks a bit like a 1990s Corvette. Interesting. Powerful. Old.
  • The need for revenue is putting more and more pressure on Google to make up for the mobile user behavior and the desktop user behavior in terms of search. Google is powerful, but different methods are needed to get closer to that $100 billion in revenue Eric Schmidt referenced in 2006. Relevance may be an opportunity.

My view is that Google is more than 15 years down the search road. Relevance is no longer defined by precision and recall. What’s important is reducing costs, increasing revenue, and dealing with the problems posed by Amazon, Facebook, Snapchat, et al.

Relevance is not high on the list of to dos in some search centric companies. Poking Google about relevance may produce some reactions. But not from me. I love the Google. Proton Mail is back in the index because Google allegedly made a “fix.” See. Smart algorithms need some human attention. If you buy a lot of AdWords, I would wager that some human Googlers will pay attention to you. Smart software isn’t everything once it alerts a Googler to activate the sensitivity function in the wetware.

Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2016

Web Marketers: Get Ready for the Google Disruption

October 28, 2016

The GOOG is shifting from desktop search to mobile search. The transition will take time and make life exciting for the Web marketers who have to [a] justify their budgets, [b] generate traffic, [c] keep their jobs. The search engine optimization wizards will be looking a McMansions and BMW convertibles. Business is likely to boom for the purveyors of fairy dust and jargon.

Navigate to “50+ Web Measurement KPIs – Analytics Demystified.” The write up presents four dozen ways to accomplish your objectives. The write up groups the analytics some folks view like the Rosetta Stone. The principal categories are:

  • Key Performance Indicators to Measure Return on Investment
  • KPIs to Measure Lead Generation Campaigns
  • KPIs to Measure Intent to Purchase
  • KPIs to Measure Website Engagement

I worked through the long write up, complete with mini MBA comments and screenshots of the magic data. The thought I had was that some folks are reaching for straws to build their career. The number that matters is the revenue produced by a digital marketing program.

Intent? Probably to sell consulting.

Stephen E Arnold, October 28, 2016

Singularity 1on1: Fund Raising Event

September 22, 2016

Editor’s note: To donate to Singularity 1on1, click this link[.

In a conversation with Nikola Danaylov, the engaging entrepreneur behind Singularity 1 on 1, has tallied more than four million downloads. When I first met him, he referenced Socrates, the Athenian philosopher. Danaylov’s approach to information is based on questions. My thought is that he is the modern counterpart to the individuals who learn and cause others to learn via rigorous questioning. The remarkable video interview series has been featured on BBC, ArteTV, and TV Japan, among other high impact outlets.


The service, available at this link, is a conversation about exponential growth, accelerating change, artificial intelligence and ethics – because technology is not enough.

The main idea is that we are not experiencing a shift in technology but rather a shift in humanity.  So everything that we know for certain is certainly going to change if we are to survive the 21st century; for example, political processes, economics, law, religion, and the very meaning of what it means to be human.

Danaylov told me:

The blog is not meant to provide definitive answers, but rather, to ask the tough questions in an attempt to generate discussion, provoke thought and stir the imagination. It aims to spark a conversation about the impact of technology, exponential growth and artificial intelligence where everyone’s opinions and participation are greatly encouraged.

He added:

So while I do not shy to provide my opinion but place no claim on its superiority because the goal is to get the audience actively involved in the ever-evolving conversation about the future of humanity.

From my vantage point, Singularity Weblog’s value may be not so much in the answers it provides, but in the Questions it raises — the kind that everybody could or should be asking.

In addition to the video interviews, Singularity Weblog:

  • Publishes relevant articles by Socrates and his friends.
  • Posts interviews with the best scientists, writers, entrepreneurs, film-makers, journalists, philosophers and artists.
  • Brings attention to relevant news stories, films, media and scientific developments.
  • Provides an online discussion forum where readers and supporters can start a conversation on issues important to them.
  • Gives people a platform to write and share your own great content.

Danaylov is deeply in love with learning but keenly aware that his personal knowledge is always going to be dwarfed by his ignorance: a man who knows that he doesn’t know; a man with many questions and few answers of his own… Thus Singularity Weblog is, and will always remain to be, an open and collaborative work in progress. And Nikola is, and will remain to be, a student and a host, rather than a teacher or an owner.

Yet, I learned that Danaylov is of the strong belief that we can attain profound insights by asking challenging questions in the company of good people, gathered within an open, informal and interactive symposium. Danaylov hopes to be the midwife, and Singularity Weblog – the setting, where you come to examine the questions, search for your answers, challenge, be challenged and, ultimately, give birth to your own ideas.

It is for this reason that, having spent the past six years producing over 900 articles and interviewing more than 190 of the world’s best known experts, Danaylov has made his treasure trove of information available without charge.

He has a crowd funding campaign underway. Beyond Search readers can support his work at

I asked him what’s next for Singularity 1on1 and the Web log. He replied:

After doing 200 interviews I have learned that it is perhaps best to keep those secret until they are totally recorded, edited and ready for publishing. So you will have to subscribe to the Singularity 1on1 podcast to find out.

As part of my support for Danaylov’s information service, I noted this statement from Darian Wawer:

“There are probably only three things that have impacted my life to such an extent. Carl Sagan with his love for science, Elon Musk and his dedication to improving the quality of the world we live in and finally, the third person would be… Nikola Danaylov with his website Singularity Weblog. Obviously, there are a thousand people whose work I deeply appreciate (Kurzweil, Natasha-More, and so forth) but you are the hub that allows us to stay connected. You have also committed and sacrificed a lot to do so. You are the real deal.”

For more information about Danaylov’s impact, see

Stephen E Arnold, September 22, 2016

SEO Is a Dirty Web Trick

August 17, 2016

Search engine optimization is the bane of Web experts.  Why?  If you know how to use it you can increase your rankings in search engines and drive more traffic to your pages, but if you are a novice at SEO you are screwed.  Search Engine Land shares some bad SEO stories in “SEO Is As Dirty As Ever.”

SEO has a bad reputation in many people’s eyes, because it is viewed as a surreptitious way to increase traffic.  However, if used correctly SEO is not only a nifty trick, but is a good tool.  As with anything, however, it can go wrong.  One bad SEO practice is using outdated techniques like keyword stuffing, copying and pasting text, and hidden text.  Another common mistake is not having a noindex tag, blocking robots, JavaScript frameworks not being indexed.

Do not forget other shady techniques like the always famous shady sales, removing links, paid links, spam, link networks, removing links, building another Web site on a different domain, abusing review sites, and reusing content.  One thing to remember is that:

“It’s not just local or niche companies that are doing bad things; in fact, enterprise and large websites can get away with murder compared to smaller sites. This encourages some of the worst practices I’ve ever seen, and some of these companies do practically everything search engines tell them not to do.”

Ugh! The pot is identifying another pot and complaining about its color and cleanliness.


Whitney Grace, August 17, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link:


Does It Matter Who Writes an Article? Probably Not

June 27, 2016

I read “Google Has Stopped Using Authorship Completely, Even for In-Depth Articles.” The write up points out that “authorship is officially and completely dead.” What an outstanding development, assuming, of course, that the article is spot on.

Google seems to be able to figure out who wrote something from the text alone. The innovation should put to rest the question about Shakespeare’s plays. Also, when anonymous information appears on a pastesite, the Alphabet Google thing will “know” who wrote the upload, right?

As wonderful as the world’s largest derivative of GoTo / Overture technology is, I am not 100 percent confident in the authorship function. I am reasonably certain that the Googler making the pronouncement was speaking to the search engine optimization crowd which believes many things in my experience.

For those in the law enforcement and intelligence business, perhaps the best way to determine Google’s capability in authorship is to probe the pastesite content. Wouldn’t that make clear what Google can and cannot do with “authorship.”

My best guess is that Google’s technology might fall short of the mark for some real world applications. For now, knowing who wrote what remains a semi useful factoid. By the way, who writes those Google patents? The named individuals or a flock of legal eagles? If authorship is irrelevant, why do some Google patent applications present the names of numerous Alphabet Google wizards?

Oh, right, I forgot that authorship only applies to marketing type content for the purpose of objective, on point results for the purpose of selling ads. Got it. Students will have to know who wrote “Foresight and Understanding: An Inquiry into the Aims of Science” or “Go Add Value Someplace Else: A Dilbert Book.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 27, 2016

Mastering SEO Is Mastering the Internet

May 5, 2016

Search engine optimization, better known as SEO, is one of the prime tools Web site owners must master in order for their site to appear in search results.   A common predicament most site owners find themselves in is that they may have a fantastic page, but if a search engine has not crawled it, the site might as well not exist.  There are many aspects to mastering SEO and it can be daunting to attempt to make a site SEO friendly.  While there are many guides that explain SEO, we recommend Mattias Geniar’s “A Technical Guide To SEO.”

Some SEO guides get too much into technical jargon, but Geniar’s approach uses plain speak so even if you have the most novice SEO skills it will be helpful.  Here is how Geniar explains it:

“If you’re the owner or maintainer of a website, you know SEO matters. A lot. This guide is meant to be an accurate list of all technical aspects of search engine optimisation.  There’s a lot more to being “SEO friendly” than just the technical part. Content is, as always, still king. It doesn’t matter how technically OK your site is, if the content isn’t up to snuff, it won’t do you much good.”

Understanding the code behind SEO can be challenging, but thank goodness content remains the most important aspect part of being picked up by Web crawlers.  These tricks will only augment your content so it is picked up quicker and you will receive more hits on your site.


Whitney Grace, May 5, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Hummingbird Revealed by a Person Not Working for Google

April 7, 2016

Another wizard has scrutinized the Google and figured out how to make sure your site becomes number one with a bullet.

To get the wisdom, navigate to “Hummingbird – Mastering the art of Conversational Search.” The problem for the GOOG is that it costs a lot of money to index Web sites no one visits. Advertisers want traffic. That means the GOOG has to find a way to reduce costs and sell either more ads or fewer ads at a higher price.

The write up pays scant attention to the realities of the Google. But you will learn the tips necessary to work traffic magic. Okay, I don’t get too excited about info about Google from folks who are not working at the company or who have worked at the company. Sorry. Looking at the Google and reading tea leaves does not work for me.

But what works, according to the write up, are these sure fire tips. Here we go:

  1. Bone up on latent semantic indexing. Let’s see. That method has been around for 30, maybe 40 years. Get a move on, gentle reader.
  2. Make your Web site mobile friendly. Unfortunately mobile Web sites don’t get more traffic than a regular Web site which does not get much traffic. Sorry. The majority of clicks flow to a small percentage of the accessible Web sites.
  3. Forget the keyword thing. Well, I usually use words to write my articles and Web sites. I worry about focusing on a small number of topics and using the words necessary to get my point across. Keywords, in my opinion, are derivatives of information. Forgetting keywords is easy. I never used them before.
  4. Make your write ups accurate. Okay, that’s a start. What does one do with “real” news from certain sources. The info is baloney, but everyone pretends it is accurate. What’s up with that? The accuracy angle is part of Google’s scoring methods. Each has to deal with what’s correct in his or her own way. Footnotes and links are helpful. What happens when someone disagrees. Is this “accurate”? Oh, well.
  5. “Be bold and broad.” In my experience, not much content is bold and broad.

Now you understand Google Hummingbird. Will your mobile Web site generate hundreds of thousands of uniques if you adhere to this road map? Nah. Why not follow Google’s guidelines from the Google itself?

Stephen E Arnold, April 7, 2016

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