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Photo by Erin Nekervis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/theeerin/145287882/)
Photo by Erin Nekervis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/theeerin/145287882/)

Implications of Google’s Release of Their Search Guidelines

Google’s been giving a lot away this year. First, they transformed into Alphabet and restructured their holdings to fall under one umbrella, secreting away their more risky and experimental ideas out of their search-engine-Youtube-powered-adsense wings.

Then, they open sourced their Tensorflow AI algorithm. Everyone must be realizing that withholding wasn’t going to work in the long run, because shortly after Google released TensorFlow, Facebook dumped their AI hardware into public domain as well.

This transparency sheds some light on releasing their Search Guidelines to the public for the first time. This isn’t the first time the public has seen them, either through data leaks or previous releases, but as a deliberate act to release the entire guidelines officially, it’s a big deal.
And who is it a bigger deal for other than companies that exists because of that gray area? Companies that try to bridge that gap between information and knowledge like Moz, who has a write up on the guideline release here.

While the guidelines aren’t clear or explicit enough to put Moz and other companies (Ahrefs for example) out of business, it does mark a clear opportunity to utilize the knowledge to empower their market positions. These SEO companies might have a better chance of verifying the accuracy of their own Domain Authority next to PageRank, without having to work so hard to try and reverse-engineer Google’s own code. And it isn’t easy: every search engine does something different. Google favors different methods over Bing, but these are large generalizations.

One of the biggest things from the official release is a confirmation regarding Google has quality content raters review websites based on usability, spammy appearance or use, and importantly, if they are “YMYF” pages. “Your Money or Your Life,” these are pages that can have a negative impact on user’s “happiness, health, or wealth”. This was an idea introduced from the leaked guidelines, but making sure it was concrete was helpful. If you want your site to be viewed favorably by Google’s search engine, it’s important that if it involves financial information, health information, or anything that can affect an individual beyond simple web browsing, that it is doesn’t come across as sinister or scammy. Creating content rich pages for websites has always been a key priority, and with some extra tuning, can help prevent webmasters from finding their sites being devalued.

Another big deal was the clarification behind E-A-T sites, or, Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness. These all fall under a pretty basic umbrella: is the site trying to trick the user? Does the site have actual authority on the topic it’s focused on? Does it appear scammy?

The other factors that have been known about but clarified: is a site abandoned? Is a site mobile-friendly (this is huge, since mobile device searches outranked desktop searches for the first time in 2015), is the content duplicated elsewhere, and finally, is there some sneaky keyword stuffing going on?

Finally, quality raters were asked if the site they were reviewing met their needs, or in other words, how useful was the site? This likely means a lot: if a site is useful, people are more likely to reference it to other people, reference it themselves in the future, and simply use it. That’s ideal. Updated content and light monetization affect the ‘meets needs’ metric in their own ways. Obviously sites that do fulfill a need but haven’t been updated in a long time are only narrowly useful. Their content might only remain useful for a certain amount of time, and neglected sites have a habit of vanishing after some time, too, at least if they are standalone and not hosted on wordpress, angelfire, or blogger.

If you’re starting to build your own website or looking to overhaul your current one, it’s a good idea to take a look either at the guidelines themselves, or Moz’s write up. It might not tell you exactly what you should do, but it could help guide your hand in the right direction.

Google’s release of their TensorFlow AI and Search Guidelines aren’t arbitrary. If Google wants to maintain its foothold and position of power, it has to be willing to make strategic moves that might appear risky on the outset. Professor Rajshree Agarwal of the University of Maryland writes that “…critical resources (tangible and intangible assets), capabilities, routines and other processes… affect an organization’s ability to succeed in the future.”

Releasing their TensorFlow AI alone could have been viewed as disastrous, but it likely can only help them. They still retain control and knowledge over their massive amounts of data they’ve collected. And without data, AI, neural networking and machine learning are nearly useless.

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