nickreynolds - 8:22 am on Jul 19, 2011 (gmt 0)
Just a random thought that helps me cope with Google!
My thinking about Google is often that with their thousands of very clever engineers, their absolute market dominance, their clever marketing strategies etc that they are a very sophisticated setup. I'm sure they are. But maybe they are also a little crude as well. And maybe this helps us to understand why we are frustrated with unfair penalties, the apparent inconsistencies with Panda etc. Google tend to talk as though they are doing a very good job that they are satisfied with apart from a few minor tweaks and maybe we get a little bit sucked in by that. It might be they are not quite as sophisticated as they think they are or maybe that their implementation can be a little crude at times.
Let me use an analogy (as with any analogy it has weaknesses and you can't press it too far). Let's say Google's Index is like this massive book with articles, adverts, information, pictures, cartoons and loads of other stuff in it. The owner of the book says "I want to make this book better for users so I'm going to get rid of some stuff in there" So he decides that where an item is a duplicate from somewhere else in the book he'll get rid of it, where an item is "shallow" and has little value, he'll get rid of that too. If an item is by someone well repected ("a brand") he'll keep it. If an item has lots of cross references elswhere in the book he'll give the item more prominence, but if those cross references are from rubbish articles he'll give it less prominence.
The way I think of Google is that they are so sophisticated that they will then go through the book very carefully and using a predefined list of factors that they think makes a good or bad entry into the book, will make a careful and accurate analysis of everything in there and taking a sharp scalpel will very carefully cut out the stuff they think isn't very good.
The reality is that maybe Google are more like a very intelligent but slightly clumsy editor. When he sees something that he doesn't like, sometimes he semms to be very careful in editing it out, but sometimes he just tears out that whole page or part of a page. Sometimes that means the good stuff has got thrown out with the bad. Sometimes he may just not notice some of the rubbish as he turns two pages over at the same time! Sometimes, although he is very intelligent, his shortsightedness leads to an innacurate assessment as to what is good or bad.
This analogy would explain why for instance Panda has hit some sites hard that really shouldn't have been hit, while others of lower quality seem to have done fine. It would illustrate why some sites seem to be guilty by association (on the same isp or GA code or adsense code) but some other sites on the same isp, GA or adsense code, are unaffected - it's just that some were on the same page in the book.
However the torn out pages aren't destroyed, the editor still keeps going back to them. If they are changed he may put them back in, or he may put them back in by mistake, or he may realise that they should never have been thrown out in the first place - we'll never know!
Maybe it's not just that Panda is so sophisticated and secret that we can't understand it but that it has a degree of crudeness to it that explains its many apparent inconsistencies. And it's this crudeness that makes it hard to pin down how to succeed with Google or get out of Panda.
Finally another example of Google sophistication and crudeness. Quite some time ago I realised that I was getting a lot of local results in search. Even in a browser where I have cookies disabled - how do they do that? Very sophisticated! Or not, as the local results were consistently for a town 150 miles away. A town I've never visited in my life and never used the town name in a search. Even now, many months later Google search results give my location as a town 50 miles away! So what in one sense is sophisticated (tailoring my personal results to my geo location) is in fact rather crude as they can't get the location right (and I'm choosing not to tell them!)
Anyway - lots of weanknesses in that analogy but I'm sure there's a grain of truth in there somewhere!