I was going to stay away from the news for today’s post, but I find myself unable to resist the urge to hit on a few of the latest bits of news coming from the world of Google.
Drying up the Ground for Content Farmers
Out with the excessive, in with the relevant. First of all, last Thursday Google announced they had changed a key function of their search algorithm to help weed out sites that offer “low quality” content.
In terms of changes it’s a dramatic one for the world’s largest search engine as it’s no secret the company makes regular tweaks that typically go un-noticed by the mainstream user. But in this latest adjustment Google predicts nearly 12% of all search queries will be affected. It appears that the hardest hit sites will be so called content farms like eHow.com or Wise Geek, that generate adverse amounts of content every day to maintain top positions, but that inconsistently provide anything very meaningful.
Some SEO experts have predicted the changes could sink the page ranking for many ecommerce and coupon sites, which provides an interesting segway to the second installation of news.
Smacking the Hand of an eCommerce Site
Google also delivered a shot to local ecommerce big boy Overstock.com when it was discovered that the online retailer had apparently been monetizing links from .edu sites by offering discounts to faculty and students. Of course Google’s PageRank is based on the idea that the more links there are pointing to a site the better ranking it will get, especially when those links come from authoritative and credible sites like a .edu. The problem is, colleges and universities typically don’t have outbound links to commercial or enterprise ecommerce sites.
In a strange attempt to reposition some of the responsibility, a spokesman for Overstock said that on February 10th they asked the administrators of these sites to take down the links, which had been embedded with relevant keywords, but that many of the links were still up because of university webmasters had been dragging their feet.
Google’s guidelines ask that websites not participate in schemes intended to manipulate PageRank, and although Google was tight lipped about commenting on the reprimand, Overstock’s CEO conceded by saying that he understood Google’s position.
When considering that search newcomers like Blekko have based their model on providing highly targeted search results with no spam, the two tidbits of news above seem to be reactionary moves by Google in the face of mounting criticism about the quality of their own search results. While it’s not likely that these changes or penalties will modify some of the bad behavior that occurs in order to obtain top search result placement, Google has seized the opportunity to send a message that they have no intentions of being victimized.
As I mentioned in a previous post about Microsoft, when someone or something threatens the reigning champ, it’s time to administer a beat down. As one company spokesperson for Google put it, “Attempts to game Google’s ranking go on 24 hours a day, every single day.” Perhaps that’s a preview of more fine-tuning and more crackdowns on the horizon as the search giant looks to adjust its grip.
Jared Matkin is a staff writer for HotWax Media with a background in PR, Branding and Marketing. He’s also a light-hearted and an opinionated character who will join other HotWax Media employees and advisers in periodically posting his thoughts on topics ranging from enterprise eCommerce to business and technology.