Back in October, Bing announced that it uses over 1,000 signals used to determine how to rank pages. Google has typically quoted using more than 200. Game on! I predicted Google would quickly find a way to match Bing’s figure. Yesterday, it did.
Google’s 200 Factors
For several years now, Google has said that it uses more than 200 signals to rank pages. The figure has been designed to explain the complexity of deciding what pages show up first, but never as some type of “bragging” rights of having a more complicated algorithm. Schmidt: Listing Google’s 200 Ranking Factors Would Reveal Business Secrets explains more about some of the signals used.
Bing’s 1,000 Factors
In October, Bing mentioned as part of its announcement to use Facebook data to create “Liked” results that it had 1,000 ranking signals:
In Bing, we look at more than 1000 signals to try and get you the best result.
Unleash The Ranking Signals War!
Make no mistake. Bing wouldn’t put out a figure like that, 5 times the figure that Google had been citing, accidentally. Suddenly, the number of ranking signals turned into a competitive issue.
I didn’t think Google would take long to respond, writing:
Google’s long claimed that over 200 factors are used to rank its search results. Today, Bing says it uses 1,000 signals. Expect Google’s claim to rise shortly.
Google’s 1,000 Ranking Signals
It took less than a month for Google to publicly “catch up” to Bing. Speaking at Pubcon yesterday, the head of Google’s spam fighting team Matt Cutts said that Google has over 200 signals and many of them have more than 50 variations within a single factor.
Again, there’s no accident here. Take 200 signals, multiply by 50, and you’ve got a claim to having 10,000 signals — and a way to say you just didn’t suddenly “up” the number but that there were always 10,000 factors. (Note: I dropped a zero in my math, originally saying this brought Google up to 1,000 signals, matching Bing. Instead, it’s potentially shooting for a 10X figure).
In fairness, Cutts’ statement came in response to a question that our own news editor, Barry Schwartz, asked about. So it wasn’t like he had a big talking point about how Google’s ranking factors outrank Bing’s. And he said that he didn’t want to get into a “numbers game” over the issue. But then again, he did toss out the figures :)
It Really Doesn’t Matter
It’s all more funny than anything else. I don’t doubt that Google has had variations. I don’t doubt that Bing has 1,000 factors of its own. But goodness, let’s not having anyone think just having more “signals” than your competitor somehow makes for a better search engine. That’s a terrible signal to use!