Rank transition is Google’s method of confusing spammers as they adjust and readjust in the effort to obtain a good position for pages on their website. Google uses this to identify different techniques and create an algorithmic rule that appears to randomize rankings.
Google patent’s abstract
“A system determines a first rank associated with a document and determines a second rank associated with the document, where the second rank is different from the first rank. The system also changes, during a transition period that occurs during a transition from the first rank to the second rank, a transition rank associated with the document based on a rank transition function that varies the transition rank over time without any change in ranking factors associated with the document.”
How long does the rank transition last?
According to Google’s patent, “after a period of time, the document’s rank might rise to its new steady state (target) value. Like FIG. 6, the timeline shown in FIG. 7 may be represented in days in one implementation consistent with the principles of the invention. In other words, the document’s rank may decrease for a period of approximately 20 days before settling in on its new steady state (target) value (e.g., 1.0 in FIG. 7) in approximately 70 days after a positive change in its link-based information.”
When changes are made to pages on a website, a new ranking position is determined. Each page is assigned a position based on the algorithms defined in the patent and the positions appear random until a certain amount of time passes and no further changes to the pages were made.
In short, Google analyzes the changed page, determines the old rank, and then determines the new rank based on the changes made. The rank transition is then set and published, and if there are no more changes made during the transition period, the target rank is set. The transition period will reset if more changes are made before it is over.
Spamming techniques covered by the patent
Keyword stuff: Using a keyword repeatedly within a page to make it seem more relevant to the keyword being searched.
Invisible text: Placing words on a page in the same color as the background, rendering them invisible to the naked eye.
Tiny text: Using keywords in small text size on a page in an attempt to make the page appear more relevant for a wide range of searches, even if the content is not relevant.
Page redirects: A paragraph of code to automatically redirect a user to a second page that is not relevant to the search query. (A server-side redirect 301 or 302 is safe.)
Meta tags stuffing: Using a large set of unrelated keywords in the meta tags.
Link-based manipulation: This could include the creation or manipulation of a first document, or a set, to include a link, or several, to a second document in an attempt to increase rankings for the second document.