It's a no-brainer that changes on your webpages impact the position of your website on search engines, and this is a topic that we regularly "harp on" about. However, it's not so clear how search engines react to the changes on your site and what exactly causes the changes in the search results. A new search engine patent might have some answers.
Several search engine patents deal with the changes on your site
Google published a patent that described how the changes on your webpages influence the rankings of your site 6 years ago, and this patent was recently updated. Recently, Microsoft was also granted another patent that discusses the influence of webpage changes on search engine rankings.
This new patent shows which elements on your webpages might be monitored by search engines.
Which web page elements are monitored by search engines?
According to the new patent, changes of the following webpage elements can influence the position of the page in the search results:
- Keywords that are included in a webpage.
- Keywords that are associated with a webpage
- The anchor texts that are used in links on the page.
- The colours and the sizes of images on the page.
- The position of text or images on the page.
- The frequency of document changes over time.
- The amount of the webpage content that has been changed.
- Tags that are assigned to the page.
- Search queries that are used to find the page.
How exactly do changes in these elements influence the rankings of a page?
According to the patent, searches are classified into the two categories "informational" and "navigational". The effect of the webpage changes depends on the category of a search query.
A navigational query is a query that is used to find a particular site. For example, a search for "NZ Herald" will lead to the home page of the site. Examples for information queries are "how do I plaster gib?" or "who won the 2011 Grammy Awards"?
If the searcher is looking for information about a recent event (2011 Grammy Awards) then pages that recently added the keyword could be boosted in the search results.
For navigational queries, pages with static content might get a boost. This methods works fine with some type of sites but it could cause problems with home pages that update their contents regularly (for example NZ Herald).
What does this mean to your website?
This patent was granted to Microsoft but it's likely that Google uses similar methods. Search engines don't just look at the current version of your website.
They also remember how it was in the past. The changes on your website could indicate a change of ownership, they could indicate that you try to keep your website up-to-date, they could be a signal for spam and more.
When you change your webpages, consider which signal you might be sending to search engines.
When you optimise the pages of your website, do not optimise a page that already has high rankings for one of your keywords. Better to optimise another page of your site for the new keyword.
The more pages of your website you optimise, the better. Optimise different pages of your website for different but related keywords to show search engines that your website is relevant to a particular topic.
Keep some of the pages fresh and leave others as they are to offer search engines different kind of pages for different search queries.