Saturday, November 17, 2007

Playing favorites

If you are a search engine, and your goal is to return the most relevant content to your users, what do you do when many, many equally good websites are returned? You might say the only fair thing to do is rotate those top, equally good and equally relevant websites. That would be fair. What Google chose to do, however, was to extend their criteria—lengthen their list of things they feel make one site “better” than another similar site, more relevant, somehow, than another similar site.

Now, the searcher doesn’t really care, or think about, all this rating foolishness. If they are presented with a dozen or so sites that seem to meet their search criteria, they are happy. They choose one of the very good and relevant sites that Google presents to them, and visit a few of those sites. Fine. But they seldom visit number 312 or number 869, which might have really been the best sites for them to visit.

So Google’s list of virtuous things webmasters ought to be doing got longer. And one of the things they came up with was links. That’s right, links. Google reasoned that if many other websites linked to this one website, it must really be good. It must be better than websites who had fewer links to their sites. It must be incredibly better than websites who had no links coming in to them at all.


Why would that be true?

Why would the most popular websites necessarily be “better” or “more relevant” to the searcher’s question than less popular websites?

To be continued.

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