Equivalent Girls

There’s a very real chance the next big algorithm change at Google will roll out within the next 12 months – and it’ll be a game changer for SEO providers and businesses who rely on organic search rankings globally. We’re flagging that change as the ‘Equivalency Score’ algorithm change.

So what is Equivalency Score?

Equivalency Score works in a similar fashion to Google’s Adwords ‘Quality Score’ but with a different goal.

To better explain how the equivalency score will work, we need to take a closer look at a number of other factors to see how we got to the point where Google would consider rolling out the ‘Equivalency Score’ change.

First take a look at how quality score works in Google Adwords;

Based on 3 criteria, you get a quality score out of 10 for each of your keywords. The criteria that ultimately determine your quality score are;

  • Expected Click Through Rate (of your ads)
  • Ad Relevance (how your ad relates to the search phrase and user expectations)
  • Landing Page Experience (the user experience and relevance of your page to the search phrase)

Your final quality score is then used in conjunction with your ad bid price, to ultimately determine where you’ll show in the sponsored ads section when your keyword phrase is searched.

So in essence; the higher your quality score, the easier it is for you to appear as the first result shown in the sponsored ads.

So what about Organic Rankings?

With the organic search results, Google has a different method of determining who should rank first.

Ultimately it boils down to 2 factors – your on-page factors and your off-page factors.

On page factors are those things you control. They could include things like;

  • Your written content
  • Images & alt tags
  • Videos
  • Audio
  • Advertising and placement
  • Navigation
  • URL structure
  • Your code
  • Website speed
  • Your domain age
  • Your meta data

It could be argued some of the above aren’t relevant or barely relevant. The point is, these are factors you control.

Your off-page factors are often those that go beyond your control. Google have made it clear in 2012 that they do not want you manipulating other websites to create or generate links. So for most business websites that follow Google’s guide you’ll find natural links to their websites like;

  • Popular directory links (like Yellow Pages)
  • Industry association links
  • Awards links
  • Social sharing links
  • Fans & followers link
  • Bloggers links
  • Advertisement links
  • Plus many others.

The Age Of Search Engine Maturity

SEO Trends

SEO_Trends

Since 2010, SEO seems to have peaked in popularity as you can see from this Google Trends graphic. It’s the realisation over the last few years where many businesses have started to focus on SEO as a viable way for their business to gain exposure and win new business.

What this means is more and more businesses have addressed their on-page factors of their website. Many have added great content, fixed their structure, improved their loading speeds, added their meta data etc…

But ultimately only 1 business can rank #1 on Google.

This lead some businesses and SEO consultants to abuse the two factors above, but more heavily, the off-page factors of link building.

So this year, in 2012, Google rolled out the Penguin update. Penguin killed a lot of organic search manipulation by making some off-page factors (such as fabricated links) redundant.

So where does that leave us?

Consider Google’s goals with their search engine;

  1. Provide the most relevant search results to the user.
  2. Generate income from advertisers.

Now, I’m going to give Google the benefit of the doubt here and order the above in the way I still think Google operates. However many readers might reverse the order of these 2.

But given what you’ve just read – how many businesses are providing great user experiences on their websites and are very similar to each other in many respects?

So the question remains; why should 1 business dominate the #1 position on the organic search results?

Importantly, how much revenue is Google generating from the #1, #2 and #3 organic position holder through paid Adwords advertising?

Where Equivalency Scores will enter the equation

Equivalency Score Definition: “If all things are relatively equal (equivalent) between resulting pages for commercial search terms the organic results will display the equivalent businesses randomly.”

EG: If the top 4 commercial search results are equivalent in nature (On-page factors and to a lesser extent, off-page factors), Google will show them in a different order each time the results appear. So no one business will have a monopoly at position #1.

Based on this one algorithm change Google will effectively distribute visitors to more businesses through organic search results instead of favouring 1 business due to its off-page ranking factors.

Why will Google do that?

If your business suddenly drops from the #1 search result in the organic listings (possibly reducing your website visitors by 25%), what will you do? The answer for most business owners is; Start Advertising on Google Adwords.

After all, you know there is business to be found on the search engines right?

So if you were to lose your monopoly on the #1 spot, you’ll increase revenue for Google. However, because the search results are still highly relevant for the end user, Google has a Win – Win scenario. More revenue and happy users (Or should that be the other way around?).

Because the search engines are maturing, it’s important for Google to stay ahead of the curve and the adoption of an ‘Equivalency Score’ will do exactly that. Search results would remain relevant for users but there will likely be an increase in advertising spending on the Search giant.

So here’s the question – If Google does roll out such a change in 2013, will your business be ready and would an SEO consultant still be able to provide a positive return on investment?

Let us know in your comments below.


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8 Responses to "Will The Google ‘Equivalency Score’ Algorithm Change Kill Your Business?"
  1. Nick Pateman says:

    Fascinating insight on this potential update, and it was a great read; but for me this will never happen.
    What you’ve called ‘equivalency score’ is another term for Google’s failure to interpret the web. There are too many other things that are being integrated into Google’s algo for them to suddenly give up and start randomising the top few spots.
    For example, websites will vary massively in their engagement metrics – currently this isn’t playing much of a part in SEO but it’s only going to get stronger; the same goes for social media, authorship and content quality.
    You may find similarish link metrics between companies (I would argue that they’re never ‘equivalent’), but the rest of this stuff that Google is attempting to incorporate makes clear distinctions between what should and shouldn’t rank top.
    Equivalency score is just giving up. Google doesn’t plan to do that.

    • Thanks for your comments Nick.
      I think ES would translate as Google’s successful interpretation of the web.
      It will require a significant investment to assess strong commercial terms and all ranking factors and some kind of ‘normalisation’ algorithm to achieve it.
      As a result, end users are still happy and Google will drive more revenue.

    • Thanks for your comments Nick.
      I think ES would translate as Google’s successful interpretation of the web. It will require a significant investment to assess strong commercial terms and all ranking factors and some kind of ‘normalisation’ algorithm to achieve it.
      As a result, end users are still happy and Google will drive more revenue.

  2. Sean Si says:

    I think the equivalency score as a quality score is pretty much what we have now on SEO – it was just renamed.
    As of the fluctuations on the first page of the results, I think that’s pretty much targeted towards having business owners going for adwords. It’s going to be a rough ride next year if this happens. SEO will be less in-demand and SEM will rise. More for Google. Less for us SEO consultants. This doesn’t bode well in general – but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. That’s our job.

    • Excellent insight Sean. I started writing this article with a full comparison between Adwords Quality Score and the SEO equivalent being Equivalency – but it got so complex I thought a lot of readers would switch off.

  3. munazanjum says:

    With the advent of web 2.0 and social media, people had similar guess about the possible death of SEO industry. However, SEO is resilient to any such innovations. As for ES change, I don’t see such thing will likely to happen because the focus of Google is on mobile and to launch a vertical search engine. SEO is a 60 billion industry which is a feed to Google goose (AdWords) to lay golden eggs! Surviving a goose without feeding it would be almost impossible.Hope, all must agree with me here!

    • I agree that SEO won’t die – so long as there is a popular search engine it’s still going to attract interest. However SEO practitioners only might find a lot of businesses begin to cease investing if they can’t see a positive return on their investment. However, because the user base is so large on Google – businesses will want a presence there. Which is why Adwords should start to grow over the next 12 months and SEO will diminish slightly as businesses change their mindset.

      • munazanjum says:

        Steve, with all respect, i disagree with you because the whole SEO industry is expected to grow further. As for ROI, its is the first channel that generates positive ROI among others including but not limited to AdWords, Social Media, Affiliates,email, etc. With cost data, its possible to showcase such ROI which was not quite possible until yesterday. Every business wants to be on the top of Google but they care for organic listings, as adwords is these too costly to afford. Google, can never give space beyond a limit on SERP. Also, Google is expected to roll out vertical search and thereby the scope for SEO will increase beyond its current spectrum. SEO is not just confided within desktop. The popularity of responsive design across all devices is what determines the fate of SEO. In my opinion, responsive SEO will always be there and Google has to respond to any search query responsively. I have already written my opinion on the same. Pls, check here http://goo.gl/6joF8. Hope, this clarifies you. If you have still any question, It would be an interesting discussion thread.

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