Bad Karma Chameleon

"Google is your friend" - that's generally the mantra of the SEO people of the world. After all, if you follow the rules, do good quality, ethical SEO with a focus on relevance on trust, then Google will deliver. Most of the time

"Google is your friend" - that's generally the mantra of the SEO people of the world. After all, if you follow the rules, do good quality, ethical SEO with a focus on relevance on trust, then Google will deliver.

Most of the time.

However, it is the case that, of late, Google has got into the habit of heavily experimenting with what appears in the natural search results. You will have noticed this happening:

  • Results from Google News
  • Local business results (with a big ol' map)
  • Video results from YouTube
  • Shopping results

You can't blame Google for trying this -most of these opportunities make money for them in some form or another. However, the changes don't stop there and they can occasionally be a bit irrelevant...

Talking about the "Chameleon"

The principle of Chameleon is that it analyses your search query and, should it believe you may have got it slightly wrong, will offer you an alternative result set. Discussed on Googler Matt Cutts' blog, Chameleon teams up with Spellmeleon to tweak the output results based on what Google believes has a propensity to be right.

Of course, from a user perspective, the idea seems reasonable and doesn't really cause too much heartache to you the user. After all, if the result Chameleon gives you is inaccurate, you just keep on scrolling. However, for site owners and search optimisers it can put a hefty spanner in the works.

Imagine if you had worked hard to get your site well optimised and you had invested time, effort and a bit of cash getting your site up the rankings for the terms relevant to your site. You had a reasonable average position 5 for these key terms. Then all of a sudden, the chameleon comes along and changes the goalposts....

However, it's not all doom and gloom.

Chameleon is still being tested and, whilst it's likely to stay, it's being user tested. What Google chooses to chameleon-match to terms will be verified by those who choose to click THOSE links over the original results and, if the suggested alternative isn't working, we expect them to disappear in time. That's not to say Google won't keep experimenting with new ways of presenting results. After all, they might be feeling a bit of pressure from Bing.

But we'll save that for another time!