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Google – Testing, testing 1,2,3

Alex Christie

12 June 2009

As a regular user of most of Google’s online services (with the exception of AdWords ;-), I often find myself thinking about the huge technical challenges they must face whilst developing their online services. Recently however my attention has been turning to how Google test their products and in particular their flagship product “Google Search”.

Over the course of the past week we have seen major fluctuations in Google search engine ranking positions (SERPS) across a wide variety of search terms and market sectors. In addition to these ranking changes we have also noticed numerous instances of US based sites appearing in the results for UK based searches.

So what if any testing does Google do prior to rolling out changes to the algorithm? It seems the answer to this is as varied as the search results we are seeing. Historically, Google have rolled some of their updates out to specific data centers for testing, prior to doing a global release, whilst on other occasions (as seems to have happened this time) the algorithm has gone out in one hit.

Personally I feel that neither of these approaches is satisfactory. Google search is the primary source of traffic for a lot of websites, and ranking drops (even short term ones) caused by algorithm changes can have a very real impact on the revenue streams and profitability of SME’s.

There is nothing wrong with Google adjusting the algorithm to help improve the quality and relevance of search results for the benefit of it’s end users, however in my opinion, Google needs to give some thought to the impact that changes will have on the livelihoods of web site owners, and the only way it can do this is by testing changes on a far smaller scale than what we are seeing.

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