Hearing this is what makes my blood boil as a small startup. Small and new brands are walking on eggshells trying to balance self-promotion without pissing off Google. Meanwhile larger brands regularly practice black- or gray-hat SEO and survive because Google can't as easily remove a larger brand from their results. But if you're small, Google can and will kill you in an instant without recourse. The ramifications of this are bad for the internet -- it means higher barriers to entry for startups.
Google was willing to ban BMW for hidden text.
Also, the author does not substantiate the claim that ehow benefitted from this tactic.
"Self-promotion" means getting customers to like your site, not tricking search engines into thinking they already do.
That lasted, what was it, 48 hours? I have no interest in picking a fight, but for the benefit of other HNers because this really matters for their businesses: there is definitely a point in brand value where the rules change. A one-man operation who pulled a BMW would get terminated without a second thought and would find it very, very difficult to get their old rankings back. Google can't do that to BMW because if BMW can't rank for auto-related queries in Germany then Google looks stupid.
(Public sanction like the BMW thing is more a messaging tactic than anything else. I mean, case in point, we're talking about a single identifiable incident prominent enough to be mentioned in the mass media in a foreign country multiple years ago. Ditto the incident where Google Japan got wrist-slapped for buying reviews. What's the French phrase "to encourage the others"?)
In all seriousness, I liked the Google of 5 years ago that temporarily banned BMW better than the Google of today. I wish that the rules were applied for big and small brands in exactly the same way -- but it doesn't seem they are. When BMW was blacklisted I was impressed -- but this stiff punishment hasn't seemed to happen for JCPenny or Demand Media in the same way it has been applied to smaller businesses.
Another example: these are clearly paid links: http://techcrunch.com/2008/10/17/thank-you-techcrunch-sponso... - if small time bloggers try shit like this they get shut down, but this is TechCrunch, so it slides. I think this shows how there seem to be two sets of rules, one for the established and one for the startup.
"Revenue" is not a metric used to decide whether ranking changes launch. Period.
The official page for Google Checkout to this day states "Google Checkout users click on ads 10% more when the ad displays the Checkout badge, meaning more traffic to your site."
That is a pretty clear-cut example of Google tilting their "algorithm" toward promoting another Google product. And in an area where one of our small clients didn't use Google Checkout, that change simply priced him out of the ad auction. His profit margins after ad costs were roughly 10% & with that 10% cut in relative clickthrough rate he no longer had a place in Google's ad auction. He was forced to use another Google product if he wanted to be profitable with AdWords.
Of course one could say that the organic results are different than the paid results, but the Google editions ebooks ranked quickly in the US after the ebook store was launched, Google only rolled out universal search after they bought YouTube, maps & local results now come with tags that earn incremental revenues from the "organic" search results, etc.
Q4 Financials: http://investor.google.com/earnings/2010/Q4_google_earnings....
Lets see two quotes:
"GAAP net income in the fourth quarter of 2010 was $2.54 billion"
"Google's partner sites generated revenues, through AdSense programs, of $2.50 billion, or 30% of total revenues, in the fourth quarter of 2010."
If Google 'shut down all of Adsense' because they realized it compromised their search quality, they would have had only $40M in net revenue for the quarter last year. (Doing the simple math of removing AdSense revenue from the picture.)
So you think Sergey and Larry would put up with a 30% drop in revenue to take the high road? We're talking 2.5 billion dollars here, not mouse nuts even to Google.
Looks like more of the same to me...
Can you imagine a world where your attention was sold off based on how long you stayed on a page rather then how often you switched pages? If google wants to fix their search results, they should focus on fixing adsense. The technology to more accurately measure a viewer's exposure to an ad are there, it just needs a trustworthy player to bring it to market. Someone trusted by both users and advertisers.
Google made click/impression-based advertising appealing to both groups and it made them what they are now. It's time to get away from it.
I think ultimately, sites and pages ought to be ranked based on quality, and not on whether they are a content farm, or even spam and google should be as neutral as possibly in its determination of the algorithm, focusing instead on only ensuring the quality is what prevails, and of course relevance.
What possibly has happened is that google has been forced to act in a rush, under pressure, possibly stress, and so the final product is probably a knee jerk reaction which does not address the underlying problem.
You can not make 100 percent of people 100 percent happy 100 percent of the time. Moreover, if you are such a powerful force as google you ought not to respond to pressure groups, such as a vocal minority, and act in reaction to their specific demands, that only causes problems.
But maybe the question of search has now become so difficult that indeed it has turned into a political self interested game. Youtube is hardly a site I would want to appear in most of searches which are not about videos.
Unfortunately, that's very subjective - e.g. I consider almost all programming material on MSDN to be of very low quality, yet I expect results there when I search.
Furthermore, assuming an absolute content metric, having several sites with the same "quality" should give the original a high score, and the others essentially zero (unless the original cannot take the load). Algorithmically, you can figure out who the original is by noticing where updates appear first. But that's not a measure of "content quality" - it's a measure of "content farminess".
I can't (and won't) comment on the specifics of this change. In fact, my knowledge of them is pretty much what everyone else's is.
What I will say is that in the last few months there have been several stories about the quality of Google search results in the last few months (eg scraper sites rating higher than the original).
The problem I see with such criticism as leveled with those episodes (and this one too) is that there is the implicit premise that Google's search results and algorithm are static. This most recent change should be evidence of that.
So while Google's search is algorithmic the people who are in charge of it are not. To put it another way: if you try and game Google's system, it will possibly work for a time but at some point, when the problem is viewed as being of sufficient severity to warrant attention, that algorithm will change.
Search, as I see it, is an arms race. SEO, particularly black hat SEO, is on the other side of that. But this isn't as simple as SEO. The world changes over time too. New business models form. New memes come into existence (eg the idea of social search).
So let's assume for a second the OP's argument is sound and that Google has merely killed off Demand Media's competition. If true, there are now a lot less content farms on highly ranked pages than there used to be. Sounds like a win to me. Is it a perfect solution? No. But is it better? Absolutely.
Google's mission is to deliver quality content to it's users. The more people use our properties, the more money we make. We are very focused on the user experience. Gaming our system is, at best, a short term proposition as there are an awful lot of bright and talented people here constantly striving to defeat such attempts.
Search is not an arms race. If someone provides content of a better quality than others they ought to prevail. So if gaming the system is by producing better quality content, then fair enough.
If, however, gaming the system relies, as it does currently, on simplistic rules, such as keyword density, keyord in H1, and bold, and italic, and within the first few sentences, and all these other rules, then yes it does become an arms race and it proves really that those awfully talented people and bright aren't really much of either.
Rather than getting into an arms race which is damaging for everyone, google would do better to sit back, and ask a simple question, how can intrinsic quality be determined? Links are one way. Another way may be the language level which google has recently announced about websites. On that point, if google is able to determine the level of language a site uses, that is high level, medium or low, then surely google is able to determine the quality of the site?
Maybe, google is just too stuck in one paradigm and cant bring itself back and actually focus on the question that matters, how do you determine quality, rather than make some small tweaks which took the seo industry a grand one day to determine.
When I saw the Sistrix data I was surprised to see Wisegeek take a big hit, because I usually get some utility out of most of their content (even though it is now plastered with google ads), whereas eHow is almost always useless.
Sure, it's a "content farm" but if the advice is good and succinct, it sure beats trying to navigate through a particular State's LLC requirements.
Clearly there's a line that has been crossed by republishing existing content - but wouldn't old content be fair game?
I don't plan on doing this BTW - it seems to me the hosting costs would outweigh the incoming ad dollars.
Even worse, and not really performing a public service, is when it's republishing old content that someone else has already digitized, like the dozens of sites republishing Project Gutenberg books with no real value-add.
By the way, it seems that content farms are synonymous with blogspam. Examples: https://encrypted.google.com/search?hl=en&q=eHow+was+ori...
how about Wikipedia's "no original research" policy?
DemandMedia supposedly pays their authors for writing the pieces - which supposedly means original content.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not equaling current Wikipedia
and their overall great goal with DemandMedia. I'm just wondering - if the content farm hunt happened several years ago how would Wikipedia survived it.
>and slapping ads on it
well, i'm for one would like it if search engines rated lower any web pages with ads - more ads (like page real estate taken) - more scores taken out. It is like with Congressmen - more money in donations from Shell - less my trust that the Congressmen will support any anti-global warming efforts.
I think you're equivocating over 'original' here. On Wikipedia, it means that everything you write is either directly sourced to another work or basic connective prose and obvious trivial inferences; it's a matter of citations and verification. With DemandMedia it simply means that the prose hasn't appeared elsewhere.
Would that not then make Google the number 1 content farm in the world?
Nyuck nyuck nyuck.
After seeing the headlines of Google decimating companies when it finds they used evil black-hat SEO tactics, I wonder whether one could use evil black-hat SEO on a competitor, artificially increasing the sites rankings for a few months, and have the wrath of a Google ban-hammer upon your competitor o_O
Very evil. I wonder if there are companies doing this currently :P
Sorry if this has been discussed here previously. If so, links please :D
It's common practice for "grey hat" SEOs to test on a competitor site first, before using it on their own site.
I think that the recent high profile cases have been a tad more obvious since a bit of research can find that it was indeed that company (or their SEO company..) who built the links.
I'd imagine that in general, Google would aim to simply discount spammy backlinks for the reasons you mention.
Especially since tools like xRumer can build 100,000s of backlinks per day, and various other ones (ScrapeBox etc) can build 10,000s per day...