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...we used our standard evaluation system that we've developed, where we basically sent out documents to outside testers. Then we asked the raters questions like: "Would you be comfortable giving this site your credit card? Would you be comfortable giving medicine prescribed by this site to your kids?"
There was an engineer who came up with a rigorous set of questions, everything from. "Do you consider this site to be authoritative? Would it be okay if this was in a magazine? Does this site have excessive ads?"
...we actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side. And you can really see mathematical reasons.
Wow! Take a gander at some of those sites that people are reporting losses for. Go ahead and drill down to the MFA pages. I visited more than a few, all of them would have failed my initial sniff tests. Some of those folks have definitely stretched the limits of AdSense.
I agree that many of these sites have too much ad space, but there are several notable exceptions that lead me to suspect that ad space is not the primary factor here.
If I'm looking for art and I land on a page that's almost all text, with maybe one tiny image above the fold, I'm going to look elsewhere.
[edited by: indyank at 5:38 pm (utc) on Mar 6, 2011]
but what really stood out to me was all the 10 year old sites that got slammed
I don't have a great critical design eye, but some of the serious content sites (the basket mine fall into) looked awfully good to me. Many of them commented on getting ripped-off all the time and suggested duplicate content issues.
The site of mine that got hit the hardest is literally 10 years old. It has also been constantly scraped and ripped off more times than I can even put into words.
I read Vanessa's post. What I got out of it was.
When you redesign your sites and regain your positions, you can thank Google if you think it's appropriate. I think you're getting a little ahead of the game thanking them for making work for you before you know the outcome.
I never designed for an algo, I designed for people. That's still Google's official advice, it simply my not be true anymore.