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How Big Brands Have Begun Gaming Google News
Shatner




msg:4386107
 12:14 am on Nov 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm an avid watcher of Google News. Understanding how it works is always something of a mystery. But what's clear is that whoever ends up as the top story on the front page or in each section of GNews, gets the most traffic.

This has become even more true with those same stories appearing alongside search.

Recently Google News has been moving more towards favoring Big Brands, in much the same way Google Search has. On GNews that works out this way...

If LittleBrandY has a story and BigBrandX has a story, Google News will display the BigBrandX story over LIttleBrandY story, even if the LittleBrandY story is far more relevant.

Alright. That's fine. LittleBrandY would still get in once in awhile. But what's happened in the past couple of weeks is that BigBrandX's have started realizing they have preferential treatment, and begun manipulating it.

That works this way.

1.Google News decides the topic "widgets" is now relevant and begins featuring stories related to topic "widgets" on the front page of GNews.

2. BigBrandX notices that Google News is featuring "widgets" as a topic and quickly writes a story on "widgets" and publishes it.

3. Google News sees BigBrandX's story on "widgets" and immediately features it as the top story on the GNews front page. It stays there for 20 - 45 minutes after which GNews rotates in another story from someone else.

4. BigBrandX sees that its "widgets" story has now been bumped off the front page by someone else and then republishes exactly the same story with the same title all over again.

5. GNews sees that BigBrandX has a new story on "widgets" and immediately pushes it to the top above all the other stories.

6. The same story from BigBrandX has now been re-featured and gets another 45 minutes as the top story.

7. Process repeats over and over until the topic is no longer on GNews.

To date I've seen this being done but at least 10 of the biggest, most well known media corporations and a whole host of newspaper conglomerates, with great success. As a result, the number of sources on GNews is now becoming extremely limited and ONLY big brands are being displayed often with irrelevant or poorly written stories which were covered much better by someone else, who might actually be an expert on the subject.

 

potentialgeek




msg:4386182
 7:19 am on Nov 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Great post with unique content and original analysis.

I don't follow News as much but noticed the shift even in Google Images to favor the top authority sites also called major brands.

It's amazing how little foresight Google shows about brands gaming them. It's as if they know nothing about human nature and completely forget about the brands busted in the news for gaming links, etc.

arikgub




msg:4386190
 8:28 am on Nov 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for this excellent post, Shatner. I've just learned something.

It's amazing how little foresight Google shows about brands gaming them.


And I tend to think Google simply doesn't care. May be they actually like it that way. They have the power to force media to keep up with the news and supply the demand of their visitors. And the little guy ... who cares?

Shatner




msg:4386280
 7:27 pm on Nov 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

arikgub... I tend to agree your analysis. I don't think they care if they are gaming them. If they did, they'd surely have stopped it because this is so blatant and obvious and easy for them to stop, it's impossible to believe they don't know about it.

The result of this gaming is that Google News has a lot of prestigious looking names on its front page. None of the stories are any good, they're lousy, and worse it's the same story over and over and over again... but my feeling is that all google really cares about is that it says "From BigBrandX" on their front page and the actual content being delivered by that brand does not matter.

Google News is no longer delivering the news, it's delivering a list of the most famous people who cover news.

[edited by: Shatner at 7:30 pm (utc) on Nov 12, 2011]

Shatner




msg:4386281
 7:29 pm on Nov 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

One of the ways the BigBrandX's are pulling this off is by not only republishing the same story over and over again, but by republishing the same story on multiple domains.

For instance they might publish a story on BigBrandX.com and then when they need to push it to the top again, republish exactly the same story on BigBrandX.uk.co and so on. It's the same exact content, just repurposed over and over again.

It's exactly the kind of thing smaller sites get penalized for, but BigBrands are immune so they use that immunity to manipulate the system.

kidder




msg:4386347
 11:06 pm on Nov 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

Its not just Google news, here in AU big brands like c#rsales get away with keyword stuffing, doorway pages, link anchor abuse (on page) and thin content. They are allowed to dominate multiple industries because they have such a large network and brand. Having said that they certainly have the best site in the country and its the best user experience. Not to mention they must spend a kings ransom on adwords..

Andem




msg:4386483
 6:22 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I agree with you Shatner. The big names on Google News get special treatment and overall, I see the quality of their results horrible compared to how amazing G News used to be. They have also removed the few similar stories that used to be shown by default below the featured story. You now have to click one the story text to see the related stories.

Another weird thing that I've seen on Google News over the past few months is vBulletin powered forums with small snippets of real news stories are outranking the original source.

wheel




msg:4386493
 6:43 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I agree this is an interesting post. But my take is a bit different.

First, kudos to any 'big brand' that has an SEO on hand that's bright enough to do this. I expect that most companies that qualify as a big brand are simply to stuck in beauracracy to do anything even close to this. If they've got someone kicking butt on this, give the SEO a raise.

Secondly, the only thing stopping any one of us from doing the very same thing is nothing other than having Google evaluate us as a brand.

Rather than complaining that 'brands' or some other identifiable trait of your competitors have an edge, don't we see the opportunity to do the same thing ourselves?

Shatner




msg:4386519
 7:47 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

@wheel

Complaining about complaining is the least useful thing anyone can do.

You have answered your own question. Why don't we see the opportunity to do the same thing ourselves? Because we can't do the same thing ourselves.

Little Brands can't attempt this on GNews because the nature of their algo will always allow the big brands to shove them out of the way.

You would say... well then become big brands!

But how do you become a big brand? Answer: By getting exposure on a place like GNews. Unfortunately, because the Big Brands are gaming their system and Google either hasn't caught them or doesn't care... it is impossible for Little Brands to get exposure, thus making it impossible for them to become Big Brands and do the same thing.

What has happened here is Big Brands have found a way to secure their position at the top, so that newcomers cannot challenge them, and they will always stay the Big Brands regardless of the quality of their product (in this case content).

It is worth noting that this was NOT Google's intent in the way GNews is set up. GNews WOULD give exposure to smaller brands if the Big Brands weren't gaming it and manipulating their position to shut Little Brands out and hog all the exposure.

The only real question here is does Google just not know what they're doing, or have they decided they don't care and all they're interested in is having splashy "big brand" names on their pages. Personally I think they just don't know, or haven't figured out what to do about it since they don't want to anger the big brands manipulating it... and they definitely can't ban them.

[edited by: Shatner at 7:57 pm (utc) on Nov 13, 2011]

Robert Charlton




msg:4386525
 7:56 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

First, kudos to any 'big brand' that has an SEO on hand that's bright enough to do this.

Ditto. That said, this is not so new. Targeting "verticals" or channels is a technique that's been widely discussed and used in search marketing circles since roughly 2005, when Google started showing vertical results in the top positions. The underlying principles predate the web.

In addition to News, other verticals that should be targeted (and you don't necessarily have to be a big brand for these to be helpful) include Images, Videos, and Shopping. You might also consider Blogs and Social to be vertical channels. Using these channels, in fact, can help you build a brand.

You need to research what's likely to succeed for given types of searches, and how you can relate your product, service, or organization to those verticals. In the case of targeting News, what's current and likely to be searched and displayed as a Universal result is of course an important consideration.

wheel




msg:4386527
 8:16 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

You have answered your own question. Why don't we see the opportunity to do the same thing ourselves? Because we can't do the same thing ourselves.

Little Brands can't attempt this on GNews because the nature of their algo will always allow the big brands to shove them out of the way.

You would say... well then become big brands!

But how do you become a big brand? Answer: By getting exposure on a place like GNews.

Baloney, hooey, bullcrap.

I received multiple mainstream media mentions in the last month. Website of a national tv station, print and website of our national business newspaper, and a consumer magazine in my industry. Is that enough brand signals for you? And I work from my house. I'm anything but a big brand.

The only thing between you and sending out big brand signals is laziness. I don't know how else to define it when people simply don't want to do the work to achieve the goal. Particularly when in this case the goal isn't that difficult to achieve. This is the internet, not downtown NYC. Sending out brand signals can be done by anyone - it doesn't require unlimited capital or staff.

it is impossible for Little Brands to get exposure, thus making it impossible for them to become Big Brands and do the same thing.

Wrong. Completely 100% wrong.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4386556
 10:08 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Volume is a key to getting top rankings in Google news. Your site must have a timely article about every breaking story related to its subject (or area, Google loves local).

Dan01




msg:4386580
 11:45 pm on Nov 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I agree with some of what Shatner said. Sometimes I have to sort by date because many of the top brands were a day or two old.

I used to see the Wall Street Journal in the top results all of the time. Lately, since they started charging if you exceed their quota, their SERPS seems to have dropped. I hate to click on a link and find out they are trying to charge me for the article. I don't care if it is the NYT or WSJ.

Eric Schmidt said years ago that he sees the future full of smaller publishers - or something to that effect. It made sense to me because who wants to pay for janitors and advertising executives. Can't the reporter take out his own trash? I liked Schmidt's vision better than a world where the big media takes control of the Internet.

dhaliwal




msg:4386650
 10:20 am on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have also noticed Google News for over 6 years and i would agree to what Shatner has said.

Google is clearly favoring big media houses and small publishers have been crushed out. They may try their best, they simply won't be able to cover up their costs of reporting any kind of events.

Big media houses have big budgets, so it doesn't make a big difference for them. Small publisher goes out of business, if he isn't able to cover his costs for 3-4 months.

MelissaLB




msg:4386672
 12:35 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

We have definitely noticed Big Brands (one retail dinosaur in particular) that we suspect to be gaming google. They have, from out of nowhere, popped up in the Google Shopping Results in an industry they don't rightfully belong in and they are doing it by changing their business model to that of Amazon.

It seems that the 'trust factor' of the Big Brand is outweighing those sites that have the authority and are direct sellers of the products a user is looking for.

Well, JC Penney and Overstock were outed last year, wonder if Google is going to catch on to what's happening this year...

rlange




msg:4386706
 2:10 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

(This rule about not being specific, while understandable, makes things difficult for anyone who's skeptical. At best, all you have to work with are a bunch of "me, too" responses. This thread doesn't even have that so far...)

Shatner wrote:
4. BigBrandX sees that its "widgets" story has now been bumped off the front page by someone else and then republishes exactly the same story with the same title all over again.

Are you sure that it's the exact same story?

News sites are known to frequently update previously published stories about ongoing events as new information comes in. I don't know how sites like CNN operate on the backend, but is it possible that these updates trigger a republishing of the story?

I find it a bit difficult to swallow that any big brand, while certainly having the resources to do so, would have anyone just sit around, monitor Google News, and then republish a story every time it falls out of the lead.

--
Ryan

creative craig




msg:4386804
 5:21 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I received multiple mainstream media mentions in the last month. Website of a national tv station, print and website of our national business newspaper, and a consumer magazine in my industry. Is that enough brand signals for you? And I work from my house. I'm anything but a big brand.


Even though you work from your house - still sounds like a big brand in your market to me. Or maybe we have different ideas of what a big brand really is?

creative craig




msg:4386806
 5:29 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I find it a bit difficult to swallow that any big brand, while certainly having the resources to do so, would have anyone just sit around, monitor Google News, and then republish a story every time it falls out of the lead.


I can easily see this happening - all it would take is an inhouse lead SEO and a small group of juniors to run this game and plenty of others!

Shatner




msg:4386834
 6:27 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I find it a bit difficult to swallow that any big brand, while certainly having the resources to do so, would have anyone just sit around, monitor Google News, and then republish a story every time it falls out of the lead.


Yes, I'm sure. And of course they would. Big Brands have MORE time to do that than smaller brands, because they have money. Money which they use to hire people who do nothing BUT things like that.

rlange




msg:4386854
 7:22 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Would you care to address the rest of my post, Shatner?

--
Ryan

Andem




msg:4386929
 11:04 pm on Nov 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'll try to give some insight, rlange.

News sites are known to frequently update previously published stories about ongoing events as new information comes in. I don't know how sites like CNN operate on the backend, but is it possible that these updates trigger a republishing of the story?


Google News updates work on a url basis. It used to be that they would identify a unique number id in the story url and not consider it republished unless the unique id number changed. Now, Google will view an updated URL as a new story without regard to the number id. Usually all they have to do is change a character in the story URL and it's now considered a new story.

Our URIs contain a couple of words from the headline and a unique story id. If I've noticed a typo in the headline and changed it after Google has grabbed it, the new url will appear as a new story and get a 5-120min boost.

A note: I noticed Google News uses news sitemaps now. We have been listed since far before news sitemaps were introduced and hence are perhaps legacy publishers. I don't know if G News treats sitemap news differently.

Shatner




msg:4386970
 12:52 am on Nov 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Would you care to address the rest of my post, Shatner?


Updates triggering reposting does happen (again only for Big Brands mind you) but that's not what I'm talking about here.

However I have observed updating used as one method to trick Google into reposting something. In several cases I've seen "updates" made to stories that aren't really updates. They'll just add one sentence, which isn't realy anything new, and call it an update.

rlange




msg:4387163
 2:35 pm on Nov 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Shatner wrote:
Updates triggering reposting does happen (again only for Big Brands mind you) but that's not what I'm talking about here.

Are you sure? Have you checked and double-checked everything? Andem indicates that the simple correction of a typo in the headline and therefore the URL may be enough to bump that particular story back up.

In several cases I've seen "updates" made to stories that aren't really updates. They'll just add one sentence, which isn't realy anything new, and call it an update.

That's pretty natural. If Google is bumping those stories back up to the top, the fault is likely with Google rather than some questionable behavior on the part of the publisher.

To say, without evidence, that this particular method, or any other method, is being consciously used by publishers to game Google News is overly paranoid in my opinion.

Either way, have you informed Google of your findings? If they're being gamed or there is a flaw in the way Google News presents stories, I'm sure they'd like to know.

--
Ryan

lexipixel




msg:4390015
 9:30 pm on Nov 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think a lot of people mistake "cause" and "effect".


From Google News (publishers) Help area:

"From the moment we discover a new article, we'll keep re-crawling it looking for changes. Since we've noticed that most changes to articles occur just after they're published, we revisit articles most frequently in the first day after we've found them. After that, we visit them less often."


[google.com...]


Cause: article updated then recrawled by Google

Effect: authority news site's "freshened" content gets a bump.

No "talented" SEO staff required.

Google does it as part of the (totally automated) News algo.

I find most of the bigger regional news outlets publish many stories at 12:01am - 12:05am with very skimpy details. Throughout the night and early morning they add to the articles... bump, bump, bump...

If they plan to do a follow-up article on a new angle or in-depth coverage, they hold it until after 11:59:59 that night, so they can start with a new story for a fresh crack at top of the heap.

pageoneresults




msg:4390048
 11:04 pm on Nov 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'd say lexipixel summed that up real well. :)

From the moment we discover a new article, we'll keep re-crawling it looking for changes. Since we've noticed that most changes to articles occur just after they're published, we revisit articles most frequently in the first day after we've found them. After that, we visit them less often.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4390161
 7:42 am on Nov 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

So posting at 8 am and updating hourly for the day would be a sign of quality, hmmm.

Nope, doesn't work with my subjects of interest. This doesn't help timeless material in the least.

tedster




msg:4390166
 7:44 am on Nov 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Sgt - are you hoping to rank "timeless" material in Google News search?

FranticFish




msg:4390185
 9:10 am on Nov 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

The appreciation and admiration for greed shown by some people in this thread sticks in my throat. This 'win at any cost' attitude is not good for a diverse internet, marketplace, or world for that matter. This is (unfortunately) why we need regulators in all walks of life. Kudos? None whatsoever, I'm proud to say.

cwnet




msg:4390431
 7:53 pm on Nov 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

@FranticFish +10

wheel




msg:4390432
 8:04 pm on Nov 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

This 'win at any cost' attitude is not good for a diverse internet, marketplace, or world for that matter

When the diverse internet, marketplace, or rest of the world starts paying my paycheck is about when I'll start caring about any of them. That's not greed, it's getting ahead for yourself and your family.

This 38 message thread spans 2 pages: 38 ( [1] 2 > >
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