Why Negative Pages Rank: Link Neighborhood Diversity

by Brett Borders

Google’s PageRank – the algorithm that decides which pages show up when someone searches for your name – is an incredibly complex and nuanced algorithm. Every time you hit the “Google search” button – it runs millions of possible result pages through a detailed mathematical equation and displays the highest-ranking results on the first page.

Google takes over 200 factors into account before deciding where a page should rank in the search results. You certainly can’t just “whip up 20 new pages” and expect that they’ll rank overnight. Google takes into account when the page / and or domain was first discovered, as well as a few hundred other quality controls that make it very difficult to game or “whitewash.” It appears to semantically analyze both the content of the page, and the content and tone of the different sites that link to it – to determine where it should rank in the index.

Say you do a search for Abraham Lincoln. All the results in the top ten are being propped up by links from schools, government websites and historical information sites. But one day a new domain is registered called “AbrahamLincolnConspiracy.com” and it starts to accumulate links from an entirely different and diverse set of link neighborhoods — skeptic sites, historical revisionism sites, and conspiracy theory forums. These aren’t junk sites or spam – they’re real, popular sites where people publish controversial opinions. Google wants to offer a diverse mixture of information to the end users and may well try and boost the visibility of this page in the search results.

Here’s a more common, business-oriented ORM example: Say you do a search for “Joe’s Auto Repair.” You see 9 positive results and one negative one on the first page. There are over 15 pages that mention his shop, but they’re mostly linked to by low quality automotive-themed sites and local business directories in Joe’s state. Then Joe has registered 5 blogs on different topics (he didn’t know Google can tell who registered them and where they’re located) – and he linked these to his positive pages to repair his online reputation. But that one darn consumer complaint site domain has over 50,000 links from other consumer watchdog sites, and the negative review page on it about Joe’s shop has links from an angry lawyer’s blog who claimed Joe ripped him off. Google will probably discount Joe’s domains and automotive-theme links, push some of them aside and make space one the one negative page appears to be different and unique – because it has links from a quality legal-themed blog, and none from the usual auto sites and directories.

Note: this is not a scientific fact (Google does not share the details of their algorithm) but merely my personal opinion based on observations made when working intensively with search results.

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