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Google Goes After MFAs
Brett_Tabke




msg:4272071
 5:45 am on Feb 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

New York Times:

[bits.blogs.nytimes.com...]


Google’s announcement did not mention content farms. But Mr. Cutts has spoken in recent weeks about the problem and said Google was working on algorithm changes to fix it. “In general, there are some content farms that I think it would be fair to call spam, in the sense that the quality is so low-quality that people complain,” he said in a recent interview.


Google Corporate Blog Release:
in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what's going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. [googleblog.blogspot.com...]


Demand Media Response:
[demandmedia.com...]
How our content reaches the consumer – whether it’s through direct visits, social media referrals, apps or search – has always been important to and monitored closely by us. We also recognize that major search engines like Google have and will continue to make frequent changes. We have built our business by focusing on creating the useful and original content that meets the specific needs of today’s consumer. So naturally we applaud changes search engines make to improve the consumer experience – it’s both the right thing to do and our focus as well.

Today, Google announced an algorithm change to nearly 12% of their U.S. query results. As might be expected, a content library as diverse as ours saw some content go up and some go down in Google search results.This is consistent with what Google discussed on their blog post. It’s impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term – but at this point in time, we haven’t seen a material net impact on our Content & Media business.

 

walkman




msg:4273972
 5:38 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

It takes hard work and some knowledge but I've never had much of a problem outranking content farms.


Please spare us your holier than thou attitude. We have heard it all from many people, only to see them cry and bash Google the next algo update. We're discussing serious changes and issue not "follow google's guidelines and ..."

robdwoods




msg:4273973
 5:38 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Tedster, I agree. I'd expect to see a fair bit of tweaking of the algo over the next few weeks as it gets refined. I saw the same with the big local update that happened in late Oct. last year. The results now are substantially different than when the algo change first kicked in.

It'll be interesting to see if anyone comes out with a good analysis of WHY eHow didn't get hit and the others did, beyond Google conspiracy theories. I've heard people postulate that it's the amount of duplicate content but to my knowledge a lot of the other sites that got hit had mostly unique, though low quality content. My suspicion is that it's mostly user behavior or link profile that saved them as I know some of the SEOs that were working on the sites that got hit and they are extremely knowledable. That leads me to believe that it isn't on page or architecture issues, nor is it purely uniqueness of content.

tedster




msg:4273977
 5:47 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I posted this url in our February Updates thread, but it makes sense here, too. This is the full list that the German company Sistrix mined of the 300 sites that lost the highest number of keyword rankings.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?hl=en&hl=en&key=0AnIg_DeUJWYCdEpkY2EzamV1MktFd0ltZ2VsZGQtcmc&single=true&gid=0&output=html

robdwoods




msg:4273981
 5:48 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Please spare us your holier than thou attitude. We have heard it all from many people, only to see them cry and bash Google the next algo update. We're discussing serious changes and issue not "follow google's guidelines and ..."
Not holier than thou, maybe just better. I tons of top 3 rankings for competitive terms and have never been smacked by a single algo change in 8 years. I'm not suggesting you "just build a great site and follow google's guidelines". I'm saying that if you aren't just trying to exploit a loophole and actually do the hard work that it takes to get a site to rank, and you know what you're doing, you aren't likely to get hit by algo updates. I have tons of sites that might take a hit if Google changes the weight of exact match domains. I'm just not sitting back and waiting for it to happen. I expect it will happen and I'm taking steps to mitigate it before it happens, rather than exploiting the weight they carry in the algo now, resting on my laurels, and then complaining when Google makes a change that makes sense for search quality (like reducing the weight of exact match, or cleaning out a bunch of low quality content mills)
scooterdude




msg:4273982
 5:48 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

perhaps some folks pick their fights carefully

robdwoods




msg:4273991
 6:00 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Not trying to pick a fight. Just clarifying that I'm not espousing following the Google party line at all. I'm saying that this algo update was completely predictable and as such sites needed to take steps to mitigate the damage before it happened. There are other changes coming that are predictable as well and you also need to take steps to mitigate any damage now, not after the update happens. I'm saying to do what works, and what's going to keep working, not just to follow Google's guidelines.

tedster




msg:4273995
 6:07 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

We do have reports here of losses from ten year old sites that were never negatively affected before - not by Florida, not by Jagger, not by Mayday, not by nothing.

Google's new algo component is measuring something that they never tried to measure before - and its first incarnation looks pretty rough. I'm personally familiar with some of the sites on the big list from Sistrix, and I'm astounded that they took such a big hit.

Sites that took a hit were not PEANALIZED, and that's important to appreciate: not a penalty! There is no message in their Webmaster Tools about any problem.

Still, this new algorithm component - the first we know of that tries to measure quality instead of relevance - has decided that these pages don't measure up. 12% of all searches were affected - that's huge!

We don't know how this will look going forward. After more than a decade, we do have a good idea of what "relevance signals" look like. But what do "quality signals" look like? We're just beginning to work on that. I don't think we'll have big answers tomorrow or even Wednesday.

asabbia




msg:4274009
 6:20 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

@tedster:

well giving a look to the first of that SISTRIK list (wiseg..) it's not so surprisingly that it got hit that bad.. even me I have hard time figuring out what's the content and what's adsense.. (not even focusing the quality of the content, but I doubt it's so informative )

On that site there are even more ads than the content (up to 6 ads box O_O per page)

Jane_Doe




msg:4274013
 6:26 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sites that took a hit were not PEANALIZED, and that's important to appreciate: not a penalty! There is no message in their Webmaster Tools about any problem.


Penalties can just be "the minus x number of positions", not necessarily anything reported in Webmaster Tools. I have had a number of individual pages penalized with this update on a couple of older sites, written when the algo was less spam sensitive. Most of the pages I had already updated to today's standards were okay. The spammy pages with really great links (especially something like a NY Times link) are still ranking okay, too.

The rest all have to be rewritten and the link quality improved. I suspect that the back links from the sites that took hits themselves with this update are going to have a cascading effect on other sites.

Reno




msg:4274017
 6:35 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm saying that if you...actually do the hard work that it takes to get a site to rank, and you know what you're doing, you aren't likely to get hit by algo updates

And [2] : If you keep your nose clean, you'll never be harassed by the authorities.

Neither statement is necessarily true ~ both are conditional.

.....................

Jane_Doe




msg:4274030
 6:48 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Interestingly, askthebuilder is on the 300 list and that was one of the sites in the Adsense success stories.

[adsense.blogspot.com...]

tedster




msg:4274034
 6:57 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

The changes that this new update created are not a uniform number of lost places, nor do they appear to be a fixed percentage loss. Even more, according to Google this algo change can also generate a boost for a page, too.

All that taken together makes me pretty sure it's not a penalty, it's a whole new scoring metric.

netmeg




msg:4274035
 6:58 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sites that took a hit were not PENALIZED, and that's important to appreciate: not a penalty! There is no message in their Webmaster Tools about any problem.


Thank you. Maybe penalty vs filter vs whatever needs to be reiterated more frequently.

Yes I know it *feels* like a penalty, but I really think it's more a 'reclassification'

Reno




msg:4274040
 7:04 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Maybe penalty vs filter vs whatever needs to be reiterated more frequently.

The semantical difference is relevant to this discussion, but to most affected webmasters/siteowners, it's like saying "I'm not hitting you with a bat, I'm hitting you with a 2-by-4".

....................

tedster




msg:4274041
 7:04 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here's an interesting interview with Associated Content founder Luke Beatty. His creation is one that took a hit and he supports Google's direction.

Luke Beatty said he is not worried. "We welcome the change," he insisted... "and we endorse what Google is doing 100 percent."

That's ironic, given among those allegedly hit hardest by changing of its famous algorithm – based on early, and perhaps questionable, surveys – is Yahoo's Associated Content.

[kara.allthingsd.com...]

asabbia




msg:4274045
 7:15 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

what's the differences between associated content and ehow? except ac is from yahoo and ehow articles are like 70% text less than ac? :)

GeraniumV




msg:4274046
 7:17 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yahoo partnred with Bing?

Content_ed




msg:4274048
 7:20 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Tedster,

I'd like to believe it's not a penalty, but I don't see why you think a penalty would produce a set drop like minus three positions or minus ten. A penalty that simply knocks down whatever ultimate score Google assigns for the sake of ranking a particular phrase would look random for different phrases and pages depending on the competition.

I tend to suspect it's a penalty because my sites that were hit, a 10 year and a 15 year old site with all original content, low numbers of pages, and pure organic linking, are not very similar to the other legit sites I've seen that were hit.

One site has no advertsing beyond some Amazon links to buy published books. The subjects are mixed. The page lengths are much longer than most sites, usually a couple thousand words, but there are some shorter pages as well. Some are illustrated, some not, some include YouTube videos, most don't, some are blog posts, most ar not. Yet the overall result is remarkably uniform, all pages are seeing greatly reduced traffic.

If Google were evaluating the scoring for pages differently, I'd expect some pages to go up and other to go down. For them all to go down, it looks like a penalty.

TheMadScientist




msg:4274049
 7:21 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yeah, like Geranium said:

Bing + Yahoo! = Content Farm
Google + eHow = Thing of Beauty

lol - sorry for the conspiracy theory; too easy; couldn't resist.

tedster




msg:4274051
 7:24 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

If Google were evaluating the scoring for pages differently, I'd expect some pages to go up and other to go down.

That is what many affected websites have already reported.

Jane_Doe




msg:4274055
 7:29 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

All that taken together makes me pretty sure it's not a penalty, it's a whole new scoring metric.


You can call it whatever you want, filter, negative algo points or whatever, but am using the term "spam penalty" because that is the term Googleguy used in a post about the 302 problem from years ago causing a decrease in Pagerank -

"In many of the cases that I've examined, a spam penalty comes first. That spam penalty causes the PageRank of a site to decrease."

robdwoods




msg:4274058
 7:30 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Reno fair enough. I should have qualified my statement. I know that there's always collateral damage in an algo update like this where sites get hit that probably don't deserve it. My point was that if you weight your strategy too much to what's working right now and can reasonably predict that Google's going to change that, don't be surprised when they do change it. There are clearly site that got hit much harder than they deserved and I would fully expect Google to tweak whatever algo changes it made over the next few weeks. I do have one site that seems to have taken a bit of a hit but if I'm honest with myself, it deserved to take the hit it did. There are however a small minority who were clamoring for an algo update to fix the low quality content issue and then when it happened realized that they meant other sites, not their own.

smithaa02




msg:4274065
 7:35 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

To Content_ed...curious you mention low # of pages, because my primary site had very few, yet had A LOT of content (all organic, all linking to nice websites, no ads (it's not-for-profit)). I got whacked which makes me suspect page count is an important variable in google anti-contentfarm recipe). Doesn't make sense that they would 'dock points' for a site having adsense itself (even though it should) as this would be a little cannibalistic, so they probably had to identify other variables that correlated with a site being a 'content farm', and unfortunately I think low page count is one of them. Extra unfortunate as large page count favors poor navigation/design/lot's of clicking/page loading and it favors large corporations who can create quantity over quality (or content that is backed/skewed by money).

Reno




msg:4274075
 7:48 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

a small minority who were clamoring for an algo update to fix the low quality content issue and then when it happened realized that they meant other sites, not their own.

Yes, we agree on that ~ "be careful what you ask for because you just might get it".

My problem is with generalities when the fix should be with specifics. To wit, Google says it is going after "low quality" sites, but has never once (to the best of my knowledge) defined what "low quality" means. Well, it means different things to different people, and therefore means almost nothing.

But here is a specific that Google could go after that would fix a lot about what's wrong:

* Determine the originators of content and give them the extra point; and simultaneously, determine the copiers of original content and score them a negative point.

That seems pretty clear to me, as opposed to the meaningless "low quality". But there are those who will say "but that's too hard". You mean it's harder to determine the originator of content than it is to determine degrees of "quality"? OK, here's a clue: The originator put the content up FIRST. Does that make it a little easier?

....................

chrisv1963




msg:4274083
 7:52 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

The originator put the content up FIRST. Does that make it a little easier?


That too easy for Google engineers :-)

TheMadScientist




msg:4274091
 7:58 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

The originator put the content up FIRST. Does that make it a little easier?

Not trying to pick a fight, but that's not as easy as it sounds ... Last modified dates can be spoofed to a bot easily, and (especially if people run an article publishing site that gets scraped a bunch) if GoogleBot spiders the other page before yours they're the originator not you ... I think 'spidered first' is the answer, because then it makes a DMCA to replace the offending copiers easier since you only need to send Google and the site (or hosting provider of the site) they have listed a DMCA complaint to get your original copy the credit it deserves, but it's definitely not as easy as it sounds, because their bot isn't you, so knowing who put it up first has to depend on where the bot found it first.

Short Version:

You put up a new page.
Page gets scraped.
Scraped page gets spidered 1st.
They're the originator, not you.

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 8:04 pm (utc) on Feb 28, 2011]

tedster




msg:4274094
 8:04 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yeah, all that. What's more confounding is when the original url ranks well for years, only to get replaced by a copy far down the line.

mrguy




msg:4274096
 8:05 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think 'spidered first' is the answer, because then it makes a DMCA to replace the offending copiers easier since you only need to send Google and the site


What happens if the offender site gets spidered before yours?

falsepositive




msg:4274097
 8:06 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

TheMadScientist, that's what I assumed. However, wouldn't factors like authority, link profile, domain age matter? It just seems so contrarian to human behavior that a white hat site would suddenly scrape other people's work?

So for example, my site is white hat, with awesome content, a great community, etc. Someone scrapes me with no links, looks fairly spammy. I am the originator of content. Now my history should count for something? I wouldn't just turn around and copy a spammer's site would I? That's what I thought the algo did in the past, hence crediting me correctly for my content.

Apparently, that doesn't seem to be the case today....?

TheMadScientist




msg:4274098
 8:06 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I think that's lack of origination detection and the 'freshness filter' being turned a bit too high. Personally, I think they should attribute all the 'weight' from a copy of a page to the original, but I'm in dream land again, aren't I?

robdwoods




msg:4274099
 8:07 pm on Feb 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Reno Completely agree on the "low quality" issue. Google isn't going to put a large number of people on judging quality, despite the fact that they have "quality raters". They need to do it algorithmically. Favoring the originator of content is one step, especially to eliminate the scrapers. I'm not sure there are many signals they can use to judge quality of content outside of user behavior. "Low quality" essentially has to be equated with "content people don't want to consume". Even if that happens there will still be manipulation to encourage users to stay on a page, or click through to another page on the site, that won't speak to the actual value of the content on the page. I think that eventually Google can get to the point where they serve "good" content, but never the "best" content and it's still going to be up to the user to search and find the content that is best for them. I see the BBB as a very rough analogy. They try to provide a list of companies that are "good", but they are never 100% right, nor do they assure that your particular experience with the company will suit your needs. I think that's the best that Google will ever be able to do.

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