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The Hilltop Algorithm
By: Developer Shed
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    The Hilltop Algorithm
    by Gord Collins

    Google.comhas recently improved its dominant leadership in the search engine marketshareto 40%, and 89% of searchers are calling it their primary search engine. So whyyou may ask is Google making so many drastic changes such as using keyword synonymsand disregarding links from Yahoo and its own Google directory?


    IfGoogle thought its results were good enough, there wouldn’t be manychanges, but it appears the company may feel their search results are not goodenough, or even faltering. Is this because they need to filter out the effectsof their close competitor, Yahoo? During the past 5 years, Yahoo has had a bigrole in Google’s search results. Yahoo was a huge human edited service thatcould validate the authenticity of Web sites.


    Itcould be Google wants to undermine their big competitor by factoring it’s influence right out of Google’s searchresults. But that leaves only the Open Directory project for credibilitychecking and ODP has been having trouble with quality control and stayingupdated. Recently, Google dropped the ODP-based Google directory link fromtheir home page. Many Yahoo listings are not visible in of backlinks of Websites. We’re left to wonder whether Google is going to drop themcompletely or just de-emphasize them. If they’re given the heave-ho, whatwill replace them?


    Google’slatest solution for credibility problem though could spell big trouble forcorporate Web sites that don’t utilize search engine optimizationinternally. And it is proving big misery for small Websites.


    Emergency Alarm Has Sounded


    ManySEOs have seen this coming and are advising their stodgy clients to begin buyingtext ads on topic-relevant, high PageRank sites to give their sites thenecessary link reputation they lack. Those thousands of links from personal Websites aren’t all that valuable anymore, and now they may actually need toget links from competitors! That doesn’t go over well in boardrooms andrather than adopt co-opetition, these companies will have to begin gettingtheir rank support from links on authority sites (buying links) or buildingnumerous new Web sites on company owned domains (domain spam). The only otherplace they can get the necessary link reputation is internally on their own primarycompany site (search engine optimization).


    Artificialmanipulation of search results is always an issue to Google yet the threats cancome from many different directions: Blogs, link farms, link exchanges, paidlinks, web site optimization, domain spam and technical coding tricks. With all this taking place, Google is looking for a way tostabilize their index with an anchor they can be sure of.


    Theirsolution is to create virtual anchors called authority sites. In the past, Yahoo and have been thetraditional big anchors. They provided a quality control factor that keptsearch results accurate. The big directories may not be considered reliable byGoogle anymore. So, if Google outright drops or de-emphasizes these bigdirectories, they will have to build another credibility establisherright into their search algorithm. Enter the Hilltop factor.


    Hilltopis the patented algorithm provided for Google’s use by its creators,Krishna Bharat and George A. Mihaila of the University of Toronto.It is an algorithm that finds so-called expertdocuments that appear to have authoritative value with respect toparticular keyword topics. These documents or Web sites then become “miniYahoo directories” of sorts, and Google emphasizes the outbound linkscontained on them.

    Hilltop emphasizes the voting power of these "authority" sites.They’re often sites/pages that have a high PageRank and a high linkreputation for a particular set of keywords. Because they have big credibility,any links that point out of these sites can determine who else’s site getsa top ten ranking in the search results.


    Theboost you got from Yahoo or ODP may diminish to replacedby countless other “authority sites.”  If this is happening, the Google indexwill be destabilized. That’s because these thousands of new authoritysites are hard to keep an eye on. The site owners can be manipulated oroutright bought. That means money determines relevancy, not the true topical valueof a site. Oddly, these new sites that provide link reputation and PageRankwill grow in stature not because of their inherent value, but because Web siteowners want to support the hand that feeds them. Sites selling their linksright now, stand to become some of the top sites onthe Web in coming years. Can Google tell which sites are selling links andpenalize them? No, Web site owners can work them into the pages so they lookperfectly normal. Hilltop trudges onward despite the obvious, that the chessmenin the game are not who they appear to be!


    How HilltopWorks


    Hilltopis a snap-on factor that feeds the best topic-specific sites into the fullGoogle algorithm equation. Some suggest that Hilltop is built right intoPageRank, actually affecting the PR of sites in the Google index.


    Therevised PageRank calculation is suggested here: {(1-d)+a(RS)} * {(1-e)+b (PR * fb)} * {(1-f)+c (LS)}.


    Hilltopwould seem to reward a closed loop circuit among Web sites, all revolvingaround key “expert documents” much like the planets revolve aroundthe Sun. This Web ring type system may be a dead end, since new sites wouldnever appear in the rankings unless they were “approved” by the ringleader.That would make Google’s index less democratic, which ironically, was thereason it gained its popularity.


    AlthoughHilltop may be a good solution to a faltering Google index quality, it focusesattention on Web sites making them the future target of index manipulators.


    Willsuch a new algorithm dredge up all the really good sites that are currentlydown in the range of 30 to 100 and put them where users can get them?I’ve done some dredging myself in those dark regions and I didn’tfind many gold nuggets. If Hilltop is supposed to improve the index quality, itseems much-a-do about nothing. I’ve noticed an increase in affiliate andlink spam dominated search results lately. There’s other forms of spamgetting in too (body tag redirects) and the only way this could be happening isthat some “authority site” must be linking to them.  Some of these spam pages have a zeroPageRank too. That backs up the supposition that Hilltop creates a closed,self-affirming network of high ranking sites which cast their“votes” in an irresponsible way.


    Froma general perspective, it would also encourage sinister-type collaborationamong corporations to dominate the Google index. If corporations don’town the expert documents themselves already, they can simply purchase them.Domain spam by corporations is a huge problem for Google right now.


    Soin some ways, Hilltop may be good medicine for Google while at the same time bepoison for its future.


    Expertdocuments are nothing new. Google has always had an authority site element inits overall ranking algorithm (link reputation), but could Hilltop go furtherto affect a site’s PageRank? It’s hard to say, but it does looklike PageRank is being correlated to the particular keywords used in searches. Thereare sites with a PR of 3, 4 or 5, that are in the topten for popular searches. That means link reputation is now perhaps the biggestfactor going and why it’s the hot topic in SEO forums.


    Manycorporations and mid sized businesses won’t allow search engineoptimization of their site because it interferes with the expectations ofcompany stakeholders. Webmasters don’t care about link reputation, andproduct managers only care about brand image, while copywriters don’twant keywords on the site.


    Tosurvive in this competitive era, search engine optimization appears to be themost inexpensive and reliable solution for big corporate Web sites.  Hilltop will ensure this true.

    Gord Collins
    SEO Specialist
    Bay Street SEO

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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