Jump to the: [content for this page][navigation menu.]

Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - September 2008

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, covering news and trends in online and search engine marketing that can have an impact on your business.

Google continues to dominate the search market in many ways and this month's newsletter continues to reflect this with more coverage of Google developments and stories. Firstly we look at Google's PageRank algorithm and what information this provides to web marketers and how much attention this should be given. Next we review a series of recent blog postings from Google that begin to expose the search quality processes that are undertaken by the company to monitor and improve their natural search listings. Finally we look at the latest quarterly figures for online advertising spend in Australia, published by the IAB, which shows search marketing spend continuing to grow and dominate the market.

Read more about these stories below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subjects covered.

On to this month's edition...

Understanding Google's PageRank

One of the most heated debates in the search engine marketing sector can be generated by Google's PageRank and specifically the green PageRank indicator shown on the Google Toolbar - is this really a useful indicator of how Google views each web page, or should it be completely ignored as an irrelevant distraction? The question is also raised as to what purpose this indicator serves for most web users and why Google even bothers to display this.

Google's trademarked 'PageRank' algorithm and underlying technology is one of the main foundations of the search engine developed by Sergey Brin and Larry Page and was also a core factor that enabled Google's search results quality to stand out from existing search engines when it first launched in the late 1990's. Google's own corporate pages describe PageRank as follows:

PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results. PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value. We have always taken a pragmatic approach to help improve search quality and create useful products, and our technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page's importance.

The underlying PageRank algorithm is a complex mathematical formula, which is then simplified by the short indicator bar on the Google Toolbar, where the green colour filling the bar indicates the PageRank 'score' between 0/10 and 10/10. New sites will start with a completely clear bar with no score and then develop a higher PageRank as the site gets indexed and starts attracting links from other domains.

The PageRank score on the Toolbar is a snapshot and an occasionally updated figure - Google's Matt Cutts recently alerted people in his blog that a new update was being posted and back in 2006 had provided more information about the Toolbar indicator with answers to some readers' questions. It's clear that it would be wrong to place too much emphasis on this Toolbar figure for each website and web page, but it's also short-sighted to dismiss it completely when it does provide some degree of information from Google's perspective.

So the Google Toolbar shouldn't be a figure of primary concern but a useful indicator of relative performance and potential development. It does give website marketers a view of their own and competitors' web pages and how pages within a site hold different PageRank scores. It shouldn't be a core driver of an SEO strategy but perhaps confirmation of how the search marketing support for a site is developing its potential performance on Google.

If you'd like to know more about Google's PageRank system or the Google Toolbar, please contact us for more information.


Google's search quality processes revealed

Over the past few months the 'Official Google Blog' has been posting an occasional series of articles about search quality, explaining what the team at Google do and how they develop and maintain the quality of their search rankings. Of course they aren't revealing the inner secrets of Google's algorithm, but there is some more openness being shown to explain to users what some of the main issues are that Google considers important.

The first post back in May provided a background to the search quality team at Google and explained what they do. It introduces the series of blog posts that will help to explain more about the process and outlines the factors behind the ways of determining ranking position and trying to relate a user's search query with the correct set of results. It explains how different parts of the search team work on developing and evaluating the ranking process, adding new features and fighting 'webspam'.

The second post appeared over a month later at the start of July and explained more about the process of Google's ranking system. This is based on 3 basic principles that are outlined in some more detail - namely that the best locally relevant results are served globally, the ranking system is kept as simple as possible, and that there should be no manual intervention.

The next blog post was a more technical look at the issue of Information Retrieval and how this technology is used to determine results based on understanding pages, search queries and user intent. The most recent post earlier this month describes the developments in the search experience and how Google has tried to enhance the ways that results are presented to users, including spelling corrections, the presentation of results and text 'snippets' to enable users to assess the listings, and also query refinements or suggestions.

Google will be continuing this series in the future and although this is very much a PR exercise, there are some useful insights in these articles to explain how the search engine works. If you'd like to find out more about Google's search quality blogs and the implications for your online business then please contact us for more details.


Online advertising growth in Australia slows

The latest quarterly figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau in Australia has been published, showing that the rate of growth in the online advertising sector has slowed again, although the overall increase in spend continues to outpace all other forms of media.

The new data from the IAB covers the period to the end of June 2008 and has again been compiled by Pricewaterhouse Coopers. It shows that spending on Internet advertising in Australia increased by 27% year on year to the end of June, breaking the $1.5 billion mark. Previous annual growth rates were reported around the 54% mark but as the underlying base of spend has grown, the annual rate of increase was expected to fall back. Threats of a slowing economy may also be having an effect on company spending.

Search advertising saw the biggest increase over the past 12 months, up 34%, compared to a 23% growth in the spending on general display / banner advertising and 21% in the classifieds sector. Spend on search also took just over 45% of the total online advertising share for the quarter, compared to an similar share for display and classifieds around the 27% mark. It therefore remains clear that many companies are still moving advertising spend to the online market and that search advertising, such as Google AdWords, remains a popular and cost-effective solution for many Internet businesses.

To find out more about these figures and what they mean for your online marketing, contact us now.


Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench

The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:


We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.