joined:Feb 11, 2009
I have written here a lot before, but here's some more data for folks:
1. Our site is ~1000 pages, all hand written. Site is a blog
2. Some pages were "posts" designed for a short time that we never took down (e.g. giveaway announcements, weekend round-up style posts, etc.).
3. Many pages are highly researched articles with "how-to" information that was very detailed and useful (not eHow-esque).
4. We use Adsense , Impressions, and Affiliates to monetize depending on the page and what makes sense.
5. We are down an average of 5-8 spaces on rankings, sitewide (long tail and short).
6. We still rank strong for our domain name, and overall, we haven't been "obliterated" from the rankings, especially where competition is weaker in the search. Generally, scrapers aren't outranking us.
I have looked at tons of medium-sized sites across three big niches. I am at the conclusion that:
1) This is a site-wide penalty that impacts the "score" of the site. The worse the site gets evaluated for this penalty, the more points it loses in the rankings. This site-wide penalty (or negative "score") is factored in with Google's other traditional factors, probably all of which were not very affected by this change.
2) This penalty can grow with the size of the site. Smaller sites (sites with 5-20 pages max) are not affected in any material way by this change. In fact, sites with rather spammy link profiles or scrapers stealing a small amount of content can be doing better than other larger sites because of this. The larger the site, the bigger the potential penalty...
3) Google is looking to kill content farms. The "old" Google was of the mindset: "Upload 100,000 pages and we'll find what's good based on our algorithm". The "new" Google is saying: "The more pages you upload, the more you must demonstrate your site's overall value in aggregate." This resonates with a couple of things that came out on the official google blog release. Matt Cutts points out that Google has a responsibility to "encourage a healthy web ecosystem". What better way to encourage this ecosystem than to penalize sites for putting up 1000s of spammy pages? This forces responsibility among webmasters.
Matt also says that this will reward "sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on"
Note that Matt's comments are all about SITES, not PAGES. Sites that spend time putting together well-researched content with exhibit different factors than content-spinners. Content spinners rely on saying the same things 100 different ways but without adding any real value.
There are probably a variety of factors Google can examine to make this site-wide determination, but I think a fundamental factor is the % of "worthwhile" articles vs. "spammy" articles on the site. How google makes this determination: who knows... could be links, could be bounce rates, could be a mixture of these.
This is hard for sites that have focused on satisfying long-tail queries with really useful information but may not exhibit whatever ranking signal google is looking for. These sites (including my own) are collateral damage for this problem. But, I believe that Google now prefers sites with a much higher percentage of "valuable" pages. If you don't meet the percentage value determination, whatever that is, you get whacked.
Note that this is VERY different from the blanket Google approach of the past, which basically said that the more links you get into a domain or its pages, the more "authority" the domain has, and therefore the more likely new pages and content are going to rank. Content Farms lives on this approach. Google had to find a way to poison the well for these sites.
That's my take. I could be wrong, but so far, it makes sense to me.