When Google’s Panda and Penguin began their excursions through the Web, everyone involved in content creation knew about it. These were major algorithm changes that altered the world of SEO irretrievably, much of it for the good. We knew about these changes not only because they were palpable (sometimes painfully so, in the form of massive drops in rankings), but because Google also announced them, albeit often after the event. But that’s almost certainly not the way things are going to be from now on.
According to SEO and content marketing expert Nate Dame, Google’s huge investment in artificial intelligence (AI) is already enabling its engineers to tweak algorithms more or less continuously beneath the radar, so that we barely notice them.
Writing in SearchEngineLand.com this week, Dame analysed data from Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History. Year by year, we see relatively low-level algorithm changes between 2006 and 2008, followed by increasingly large step rises between 2009-2011, climbing to a crescendo in 2012, then steadily tailing down again to 2014. Intriguingly, Dame thinks 2015 will be characterised by virtually zero detectable changes.
The emphasis, I hasten to add, is on “detectable.” Changes there will be, but Dame believes that Google’s forays into AI have already delivered algorithms that learn (he cites the recent “DQN” algorithm which is learning and mastering Atari games unassisted, without input from engineers). And given that webmasters and SERP-trackers only saw some minor shifts in search results last month, which Google has so far failed to confirm, Dame’s hunch is that they went unannounced because Google didn’t intend for us to notice. AI is allowing the search giant to make small, imperceptible updates on a more or less continual basis.
As he puts it:
“Is it possible that the reason we have only seen one major update so far in 2015 (and an unnamed update at that) is that Google no longer needs to launch major algorithm changes? If its AI bots are busily making small, under-the-radar updates every minute of the day, Google might never have to launch (and therefore announce) another update ever again.”
Dame’s advice to marketers is to integrate user intent into keyword usage, ensure they produce high-quality content and ditch silos in favour of blending SEO into broader marketing efforts.