For weeks, the search industry is puzzled about which change in the Google algorithm will be the next to surprise the world.
Yesterday Google let the cat out of the bag. Since midnight, the Parrot Update has been rolled out – starting on the US market. After the usual test phase, the update will be spread to all Google markets worldwide, including Canada. This algorithm update is like no other one before: Google have managed to give his search engine human eyes.
In the future, Google will be seeing websites like a human. And Google will respond to good or bad websites as humans do. In an interview with Matt Cutts on YouTube, Ben Gomes,VP Search Engineering at Google, explains how the Parrot Update is to make the world a better place, modestly understating the tremendous impact of the update:
“If you are the owner of a high quality website in terms of structure and content, but with rose background and beige font colour, not a single user will bother to search after the content. Very sensitive persons may even suffer from health problems when being faced with certain colour combinations. For example, websites with black background and a high contrast font colour can suffer from flickering in the eyes and headaches. Parrot will protect these people from being harmed.”
The Parrot Update is about colouring and design of websites. The crucial question is: Does the colour match the content?
With Parrot, Googles artificial intelligence research has definitely moved into the next level. After the comprehension and evaluation of content – primarily text – Google began to rate the relation between text and image and other design elements. And for some time now, Google is able to read the identify the content of images and videos. Thus it was a logical step to relate the colouring and design of a website to its content.
The Parrot update can be considered as the beginning of a new era of organic search. The algorithms used are now able to evaluate if a website contains an appropriate amount of content on a certain topic and if colour and design are adequate for the kind of content. The user is to be addressed designwise. Casually speaking: The brain’s got a heart now.
“So far we have developed a coarse grid which helps us to rate Websites according to the Parrot Score”, Gomes explains. “The lowest rating we call ‘Norwegian Blue’”, Gomes says, smiling whimsically.
Inherent to the system as the rating itself, the different levels of the Parrot Score seem to underlie an arbitrary classification. All levels are named after parrots or parrotlike birds.
- Norwegian Blue – poor
- Scarlet Macaw – quite ok
- Red-masked Parakeets – very good
- Pink Cocatoo – kick-ass
The Norwegian Blue will serve as rating for Websites, for which the coloring in relation to the content is very poor or – quite honestly – wrong. Example: A funeral parlour with green-yellow-black as border colours and black font in yellow boxes with rotating logos. Banner advertisements should also be used with caution.
Thus, the Parrot Score is not about promoting brightly coloured websites or boring light grey font on white background. The color scheme should be appropriate to the content.
For example, the design of a website that sells carnival costumes may be “Red-masked Parakeets” or even “Pink Cockatoo” if it has a striped background and candy coloured garlands on it. The design of a funeral parlour website, however, could fit the occasion if there is black font on light-grey background.
The best websites will be rated with the premium score “Pink-Cockatoo”. This bird mainly lives in New Zealand and is regarded as the most beautiful of all cockatoos by many people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_cockatoo). Google is consequently planning to introduce a corresponding certification with a logo, which will be provided free of cost within the Webmaster Tools Account of “Pink Cockatoo” websites.
Between these two poles lie the intermediate ratings Scarlet Macaw and Red-masked Parakeets.
Part of the Google Masterplan is also, to show the quality ratings of the Parrot Score directly in the SERPs. This is to inspire webmasters to transform a “Norwegian Blue” into a “Scarlett Macaw”. It is thought, that this public system is more motivating than only warnings within the Google Webmaster Tools. By the way, for the time being, Google will not conduct manual penalties and ranking losses for websites with low Parrot Score are very unlikely. “It is a matter of taste”, Gomes admits.
In summary, it can be said that Google has managed with its Parrot Update to translate taste and feelings for machines. This is an important bridging of digital and real world.
Update 04/02/2014: As the smartest of you have probably noticed, Parrot is only a figment of our imagination! Although we believe at iProspect that design has an undeniable role in digital performance, the colors do not (yet) have an impact on search engine’s rankings. Happy April’s Fool!