Over the past few months it seems like Google might be experimenting with having multiple search algorithms in the field at once. We're all well aware (or should be) of the A/B practice that Google has implemented for years. Google dances, when a major algorithm update goes live, are a normal part of SEO life.
But what if that changed?
What if Google decided to have 3 or even up to 5 search algorithms in the field at the same time. That's what I've been seeing lately, though they seem to have stopped in the last week or so.
In a given hour I would see at least 3 different search results for terms related to my used books blog and those related to a number of my clients. (And yes, I had personal search off.) I'm now kicking myself for not documenting these very different search results.
This could simply indicate an accelerated testing framework for the algorithm or it could be an attempt to thwart web spam and those that try to 'game' the algorithm. Think about it. If there was no one dominant algorithm in the field at any given time it would become difficult to 'game' Google.
You might find a weakness to exploit in one algorithm but do you scale a program if it only represents 30% of the search traffic? Could Matt Cutts have found a creative way to prevent web spam?
As always there's little concrete evidence of what is actually going on under the hood at Google. And the silo driven nature of Google's workplace ensures that most at Google wouldn't know either. I do find it interesting that during the same time period many search tools became inoperable. SEO Chat has the following message for a number of their tools.
Even if Google is not going to field multiple search algorithms, it seems clear that their testing mechanisms have evolved. The speed in which the algorithm evolves might be accelerating. As such, it makes it more difficult to determine when a true algorithm change has occurred.
If Google does implement a multiple algorithm strategy it would help encourage sites to focus on basic SEO principles which would wind up being good for search engines and users alike.