Back in February, Aaron Wall wrote about a “minor” Google algorithm change that Todd Malicoat labeled the Big Brand Bailout. After a bit of controversy, Matt Cutts issued a video response to a question and labeled the change Vince after the engineer who worked on the change.
While the above conversations were interesting and create a significant amount of chatter, none of them shed any light on what ingredient Vince added to the secret sauce that produced these limited by quite stunning changes in some very, very competitive results.
SEO Book provides the answer this week, courtesy of insight by UK SEO Guru Patrick Altoft. Aaron ads some compelling evidence to Patrick’s theory that Google has incorporated user query refinement to boost rankings for sites. This is a subtle trick to reduce the noise inherent in user behavior because unlike click tracking, query refinement requires an overt action by the user from which the search engine can infer intent. It also aims to reduce the likelihood that the user will need to refine their query, which is appears to be one definition of relevance.
It isn’t clear that this explanation provides any competitive exploits. The obvious take away is to make sure that your company is a thought leader that gets included in articles about your niche and to maximize your exposure in the consideration set at the top of the search results (Organic and Paid results above the fold). Those recommendations haven’t changed in five years.