Will Critchlow's Posts

Google to Announce that Links are no Longer a Major Ranking Factor

Let’s be absolutely clear. They’ll be presenting a carefully-tailored PR play, and it won’t actually be true in the way it’ll be interpreted. But they’ll say it, or something like it, and people will lose their collective minds.

The statement in more detail will be something like:

Following the success of our machine-learning-based RankBrain experiments, we are rolling out more artificial intelligence into web search.

We have talked before about the large number of factors that have historically gone into determining which pages rank for specific queries. Anyone who has followed the history of Google knows that this has all been underpinned by the early breakthroughs in PageRank, which enabled us to use the hyperlink-based structure of the web to figure out which websites and pages were the right answers. This worked even for queries we had never seen before, and worked even better as the web scaled.

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A Beginner’s Guide to word2vec AKA What’s the Opposite of Canada?

The idea for writing this post came from a single line in the appendix to a presentation: “what’s the opposite of Canada?”. While this could be the set up for some pretty poor jokes, it’s actually the entrance to a rabbit warren of fascinating geeky distractions.

It turns out that while we can typically group similar or related words together - identifying that there is some connection between “Canada” and “snow” for example - we generally have a much weaker intuition for opposites. There are obviously a relatively small set of words where we’d likely have consensus on opposites - mainly adjectives like “dark”, “tall”, “cold” etc. - but in general, “oppositeness” is a less well-defined concept than “similarity”.

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Announcing our Optimization Delivery Network

There are two big problems with providing organic search consulting advice. The first is that it’s often exceptionally hard to get your recommendations implemented, and the second is that it’s often really hard to know how much of a difference your recommendations will make.

Today, I’d like to announce an early-stage product we are working on that is designed to alleviate both of these issues.

We are calling this type of platform an Optimization Delivery Network or ODN. It works like this:

  • It sits in your web stack like a content delivery network (or behind your content delivery network if you are using one).

  • It allows you to make arbitrary changes to the HTML (and HTTP headers) of any page or group of pages on your website - operating a little like a CMS over the output of your CMS and avoiding the need for a lengthy wait for your development backlog.

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How do Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) from Google Work?

You may well have already heard of Facebook Instant Articles, which allows publishers to host content within Facebook’s infrastructure in such a way that it will load much quicker than an equivalent web page in a standard mobile browser. Facebook’s technology is closed, but Google (and others) have created a more open framework with similar goals called the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project.

At its simplest, AMP HTML is a subset of HTML with only specific JavaScript “components” available. It’s designed for creating “reading” content, rather than anything interactive. It is already designed to have ad units included and is going to have a standardised way of including analytics code, but it drastically limits the use of JavaScript.

You can see all the technical details here. The guide to building an AMP page is particularly worth reading and there are some nice little easter eggs:

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5 Things that Make Me Suspicious of Morgan Stanley’s Report on Apps vs. Mobile Web

This all started as a 20-minute task to dig into a report on mobile web usage to summarise it for our monthly client report. It turned into a couple of hours of digging and a tweetstream.

This VentureBeat article was shared widely in the digital marketing space at the end of last week. It’s based on this Morgan Stanley report [PDF] which in turn is largely based on comScore data.

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