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Big changes promised shortly at Google

 7:32 am on Feb 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Moultano, a purported Google employee, posted the following a few hours ago in response to questions about adsense spammers getting removed from the program, the decision process etc... [news.ycombinator.com...]

Even so, it may have affected resource decisions. At the organizational level, did the specter of losing tens of millions in ad revenue had something to do with why Google waited so long to start to address the problem?

Moultano answer:
At the organizational level, Google is essentially chaos. In search quality in particular, once you've demonstrated that you can do useful stuff on your own, you're pretty much free to work on whatever you think is important. I don't think there's even a mechanism for shifting priorities like that.

We've been working on this issue for a long time, and made some progress. These efforts started long before the recent spat of news articles. I've personally been working on it for over a year. The central issue is that it's very difficult to make changes that sacrifice "on-topic-ness" for "good-ness" that don't make the results in general worse. You can expect some big changes here very shortly though.

I'd be interested to hear your ideas on what "big changes" might entail. Earlier in the week Moultano also suggested that Google plans to "dramatically" change how they use links in the near future. If he's right on both counts is the website rankings landscape in for another shakedown at Google?



 8:31 pm on Feb 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

A lot of people use Google to search for information, not just buy products. I have sites that provide very useful information to my visitors. It is the fact that it is monetized with Adsense, that allows me to invest more with a professional copywriter, and more of my time into making the site more informative and useful to the visitor.
What is wrong with this? It's how business is, if you provide a service (especially for free) then it is accompanied with advertising.
Is it wrong that I make a business and living around this, I am investing my time, skills and knowledge set into this full time, so I deserve to make a living from it. It just simply isn't feasible without Adsense.


 9:17 pm on Feb 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Whatson - I doubt anyone would deny your efforts are worthy of your rankings and traffic given what you say there.

Im not a judge - but if I were - I would say you were guilty of nothing. Your business model is fine with me and probably everyone on this thread.

I think its the scraper - text spun - inaccurate type MFA sites which need the boot from google - not ones which are worked on like yours.

I dont think anyone would have a problem with the model you use.


 9:32 pm on Feb 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think its the scraper - text spun - inaccurate type MFA sites which need the boot from google

What Google will apparently target are low quality scraper sites, not scraper sites per se.

From the Matt Cutts / Danny Sullivan conversation:
"Matt told Danny ... that the algorithm change from last week was just related to blocking low quality scraper sites from showing up in Google's search results." (emphasis mine)

Source [seroundtable.com]

"Quality" of course is in the eyes of the beholder, so I will leave it to those wiser than me to say what that means. I have no idea.



 10:03 pm on Feb 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Agree with MrFewkes, I just can't see them wanting to disrupt the SERPS significantly in a short space of time. Significant disruptions to the usual service are surely not a positive signal to shareholders? Changes, if they are coming, would be gradually phased in.

However if there were to be significant changes in link-based ranking factor I would guess at;

Dialling down anchor text power - to me, lots of keyword focused anchor text screams 'unnatural!'

Increased trust weighting

Increased weighting on links from topic specific pages, or from links which are close to topic sensitive paragraphs, sentences etc.


 10:21 pm on Feb 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

There's no great answer.

Dialling down anchor text power - to me, lots of keyword focused anchor text screams 'unnatural!'

The counterpoint is that this probably dials 'up' onpage text. And that's more prone to manipulation.
Increased trust weighting

Oh please give me that. I'd be nailed to number one for everything, like I used to be. But Google doesn't seem to roll that way anymore, and hasn't in a while (I think).
Increased weighting on links from topic specific pages, or from links which are close to topic sensitive paragraphs, sentences etc.

I think this is already high weight. I think that's why blogs/press releases and article submissions work so well these days.

Now if they changed this to increase weightings from topic specific sites instead of pages, that might make a different, I dunno. I know it would make my life better :).


 10:47 pm on Feb 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

2 points by svlla 2 days ago | link

that's really the problem. Adsense doesn't factor into it... but it should. negatively. truth is, Google has created a superb "signal" that a website is crummy: Adsense. it would be funny if it wasn't so sad. and they can't do anything about it, since it would hurt the bottom line.

I know I was mislead by Brett's quote because its placement made it seem like it was from Moultano... it wasn't.

And since we know Bing is basically copying Google's results, I suspect Bing doesn't use Adsense either...


 4:59 am on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

All this AdSense discussion makes absolutely no sense. Large and reputable newspapers use AdSense, some of the best specialized online publications use AdSense. We could as well discuss banning public transport because thieves make take a bus occasionally. AdSense can not be any sort of ranking factor.

The huge problem with low quality content farms is that they often offer precisely what people want. Very simplistic content, condensed into three lines of easy-to-read text that is separated into very short sentences for even the slowest brain to digest. Look at TV! Soap operas, reality shows, and "infotainment" news that stuff complex world politics into a 30 second trailer, not mentioning any of the really important aspects. Nobody cares, those news shows are hugely successful.

The web will eventually end up there. Demand Media is only the beginning and even Google can not stop that. The "masses" want easy explanations and quick, superficial stuff.

I hope I'm wrong, though.


 5:06 am on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

>> If Google used anything about Adsense as a negative organic signal, then content farms would quickly move to (or even create) a different ad platform or adjust their Adsense layout

Please lets get away from this BS that adsense = content farms. There are a lot of businesses that are owner driven and like in my case operate in geographies where they cannot setup a sales team. In our case, we run online communities which span 20+ cities across Asia where if it wasnt for Adsense we would not be able to target local businesses who need PPC driven campaigns.

We can handle the large advertisers easily, the 4As know us very well and spend a lot of money with us. It is all about reaching the small advertisers who are not on any network and spend $5-10 a day for us. This sort of advertising which comes in at about 30% of our revenues adds to the bottom line.

So once again... adsense != content farm. Repeat after me ... :)


 6:46 am on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Adsense already Smart Prices us based on click quality. And clearly Google has some idea of what it considers to be Search Quality.

The overwhelming value of a click comes from the intent behind it, not what site it is on. That's why Google makes billions and social sites struggle to come anywhere close to those types of revenue numbers. The result of "smart pricing" can reflect the value of the content on a site but IMHO most of the time it probably doesn't. If you have a crap site that someone lands on from a pop up, the clicks from that site will not be worth much. If you take that same crap site and get it to rank #1 for whatever the content is on the page then the quality of clicks off that page will be spectacular comparatively.

Let's say you have a site reviewing widgets that people come to to research them and ultimately buy them. If someone reads a review and clicks on a link to go purchase a widget then AdSense doesn't get the click. If AdSense does get the click, chances are the AdSense will be less relevant to the widget reviewed (or take the user off of the original purchase path, cause them to consider an alternative and not result in an immediate sale because now they are back to the thinking stage and out of the previous buying intent) than the link to that actual widget in the review.

If someone looks for diet pills and a MFA site can come up in and is clicked on from the search results, has a few lines about diet pills and a block of AdSense selling diet pills at the top of the page then it is the intent of the user (i.e. the initial search) that makes the click [that ends up going to AdSense] valuable. If you actually have to sell something to get paid from your advertising, it can work best to provide just enough information to keep someone thinking they are going in the right direction so they'll go click on your aff link and go buy. If you get paid on the click then don't provide any quality but just give someone an AdSense block that contains something that looks more relevant (or provides a clearer path) than anything else on the page and they'll click on it, go buy something. If the conversion data is then used to determine search quality then the MFA site will be judged by the algo to be an excellent site.

Please lets get away from this BS that adsense = content farms

I think it is content farm = adsense but adsense != content farm

We also need to remember that there are still plenty of companies out there that don't have much of an analytics plan and still chase clicks. When it is clicks an advertiser is after it is pretty hard to judge quality if there is no post-click metric.

The bottom line is whatever appears in front of someone intent on doing something be it a scraper with an AdSense block more relevant (than the content) to the action one is seeking to take or a good content site that provides the answer, product or service right on the page, the path that provides the clearest path to achieve the goal will win out every time.

It begs the question, if the userd finds what they want does it matter how they get there? Add in a pressure/desire for Google to always make more money now and in the future and what direction does that lead?


 9:22 am on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

It begs the question, if the user finds what they want does it matter how they get there?

In the case of a MFA site, it just served as an middle man without adding value while the user could have clicked the same ad on Google Search results, providing them with greater profit, so MFA sites are just parasitic. I'm sure Google would much prefer that a user click on the ads directly if that's all they wanted, or get to a quality site with more information if that's what they're looking for. MFA sites also tarnish the Google and Adsense brand for the general public, associating them to frustrating and trashy sites of little value.


 9:28 am on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just look at some of the top sites that Blekko has banned as being content farms

Blekko is a bad example. My website and my biggest competitor's website are leading sites in our niche with thousands of pages of unique content on a certain subject (no content farm, but usefull info on one subject). Both sites have very good rankings on Google and Bing. Both sites are banned by Blekko ...
And ... the best of all ... the first result in Blekko's SERPS for our most important keyword leads to a 404 Not Found page of a website with as good as no information about that subject.


 9:40 am on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

so MFA sites are just parasitic

Yeah, but I guess if the Search Engine is (all that great) it could just send people directly to the ultimate destination, where people can buy their product, get the ultimate answer to their question...

Ooops..., adsense would not be involved in that? Where would the profit be then? ...So, who is parasitic again?


 12:10 pm on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't care about blekko banning content farms but it is ridiculous to call blekko a spam free search engiine...it is no where near google or bing and I mostly see very poor results...

blekko has a long long way to go to even catch up with duckduckgo...

duckduckgo definitely amazes me many times...may be, google have to test them too :)

[edited by: indyank at 12:41 pm (utc) on Feb 8, 2011]


 12:35 pm on Feb 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

So, who is parasitic again?

I'm not sure what's your point. Both Google and unique, information rich web sites provide great services and value for free, they deserve their advertising cut if some user is referred by them (CPC, CPA) or if they help promotion (CPM). MFA provides nothing, they just cheat the system, forcing themselves as useless extra middle men and polluting the web. Everybody would be happy to see them completely out of the search results, just like everybody would be happy not to receive email spam anymore. However, it's obviously a tough technical job for Google. As for sending users directly to other web sites... it's called "I'm feeling lucky". But most of the time, there is no way to know the perfect destination, so a list of search results is necessary.


 7:05 am on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Adsense isn't the problem in terms of rankings. If there was a penalty for using Adsense, sites would just find an alternative revenue source.

If you want to take a shot at Adsense, it should be for Google having little to no editorial guidelines for being a part of the program. For a company that has heavily altered who is allowed to advertise in their search results, they've gone the opposite direction when it comes Adsense (despite the PR garbage they'll spew about how they ban bad accounts).


 8:38 am on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Maybe that is the next target of spammers; posting millions of fake queries to google so that their desired keywords appear as the first suggestion in the auto completion list.

That (automated submissions) is against the Google TOS. I believe they would ban any IP that did that.

What Google will apparently target are low quality scraper sites, not scraper sites per se.

What exactly does a high quality scraper site look like? :)


 8:44 am on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

What exactly does a high quality scraper site look like? :)

Like Google, no?


 9:10 am on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

There are content aggregators who are members of this community. I would suggest they consider themselves as a high quality scraper.

Also, as a thought experiment, imagine a huge single-URL how-to document in plain text. Then imagine a scraped version marked up with fragments, split over URLs by chapter, with an index page.

Value added, no?


 12:51 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Im seeing HUGE changes at the mo with sites all switching positions on page 1 on google.co.uk

Anyone else?
Could this be the changes?


 12:57 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I wanna throw in some 'likes' for ^^^

Social / engagement added too, no?

Just to be obvious: Shaddows is right, quality is in the eye of the beholder


 3:47 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sorry caribguy - I am not sure what you mean there?


 4:31 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Looks like another algo change is making it's ugly way through the serps. I don't think they'll ever settle out, in fact, I think Google wants to juggle them constantly which will result in sporadic traffic for all. This keeps their Adwords Ads in cycle. I foresee a day, very soon when serps are refreshed and changed as fast as a movie image - 30fps.
Every 30th of a second the serps will change and depending upon when you click, that's what you get.
As far as Adwords Ads, instead of position for 10 ads, the cycle would allow for 300 ads all served in split second, ever changing intervals. It would be very difficult to game that system.


 5:10 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sorry, MrFewkes - comment related to the one above yours (and not so well thought out). Consider how you could build a community around a topic, without actually requiring any original content: i.e. start with scraped / plagiarized and keep going with UGC.

The 'fake' or maybe not - ranking signals that you could inject (through social and other means) are impressive.


 5:18 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing huge changes in the UK too. Some search terms that include a company name show the first SEVEN results coming from that company's website - ridiculous, if I wanted seven pages from their site I'd have gone to their home page first and avoided G altogether -and most of the fastest risers have been rewarded for spammy artificial blog links. Not Google's finest day so far.


 6:16 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think Google wants to juggle them constantly which will result in sporadic traffic for all... I foresee a day, very soon when serps are refreshed and changed as fast as a movie image...

I'm not sure whether you are serious or tongue-in-cheek, but actually, a couple years ago I posted a similar thought, that the SERPs would be purposely scrambled on a regular basis. Not as fast as you're suggesting (perhaps jokingly), but with a regularity that will be based on the decisions you make as you click on the listings.

So for example, if someone searches for "911", Google may bring back results from both Sept 11th and from emergency services in that person's area. If they then ignore all the 09/11 listings and 3 or 4 times in a row click on the emergency services, then I can see the SERPs being refreshed with NO Sept 11th and ALL emergency related. To be honest, I expected it by now ~ they'll learn from the person's realtime clicks what they want, and will attempt to deliver accordingly.



 7:24 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I dont want to be negative - but just an observation - my competitor has done extremely well with todays update - with profile links he has retained his number 1 spot- and has 7 out of 10 sites on page 1. All different doms.

Interestingly - for that phrase - one of mine has jumped up to position 4 from about 15. No mention of the phrase in my title!

Hmmm - that site could give me a few clues I think as to what has happened today.


 7:56 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hmmm - that site could give me a few clues I think as to what has happened today.

I see a similar situation where my competitor does great when I an down. The trouble is, I can't say the is a positive thing because my competitor uses duplicate meta tags throughout his site. He also points multiple domains he owns with related content back to the main site. When this happens, it usually means that Google is flipping the "flipping" switches "a 'flipping' 'gain".


 8:22 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google is flipping the "flipping" switches "a 'flipping' 'gain".

I am wondering if this is the case - or it is the start (or all of) the big changes.

LOL - I looked at my site plummet today at 12.45pm - my heart sank to the floor - then - I went to the dentist and had a filling!
Not a great day :) serves me right for saying I will chew on silver foil!



 9:09 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

lol ur funny


 9:25 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

@MrFewkes - I saw the exact same plummet occur at noon. Traffic is again so low that it hardly warrants a dedicated server. This constant Yo-Yo of traffic is tantamount to third world internet service.

I am seeing some absolutely INSANE results right now. Keywords loaded pages, irrelevant content and just one big pile of steaming smelly Google goodness. Here we go again, legit businesses get fined again in the way of lost sales while Google shake & bakes this new mess. I have yet to see any positive results that would be removing poor quality scrapers or anything remotely close to the PR (another steaming pile) propaganda released by the Google androids.


 10:29 pm on Feb 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

backdraft, perhaps that's a plan. Make it so overoptimized crud floats to the top and make it easy for the algo to see that people hate that content... then ban it using the algo alone.

I'd prefer it sink to the bottom but the top is just as good for making it stick out, dontcha think? :-)

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