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Google Tweaks Algorithm; EHow Traffic Plummets 286

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the small-mercies dept.
jfruhlinger writes "For some time there's been rumbling that Google's search results have been gummed up by low-quality pages from 'content farms,' written at low or no cost specifically to score high on common Google queries. Now it looks like the latest update to Google's search algorithm is having an effect, cutting into traffic to eHow (and cutting down the stock price of eHow's owner, Demand Media, in the process)."
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Google Tweaks Algorithm; EHow Traffic Plummets

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  • and nothing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:11AM (#35866880)

    of value was lost!

    • Re:and nothing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:32AM (#35867128)
      Demand Media tend to buy up a lot of pre-existing sites as well - Airliners.net, a fantastic aviation enthusiasts site, was bought by Demand Media in 2007 and rapidly went down hill resulting in a lot of members leaving :( Something of value is definitely lost once Demand Media get involved.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      {image src="teeny violin.gif"}

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:11AM (#35866882)

    Wouldn't it be a lot simpler to just block all robot traffic to expertsexchange, ehow, and the like? Or even more trivial, allow users individual profiles to block specific user selectable domains?

      • Re:Already done. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:39AM (#35867200)

        Interesting.. I did not realize that feature was available, because it is not shown to me in my results. There is no "block" option next to the "cached" and "similar" as seen in the blog posts etc. I do see in my search options that I can manually block up to 500 domains from search results. Nothing weird here, just a normal google account and a normal firefox with no unusual addons/extensions.

        Maybe that option only appears for certain "special" domain names, or "special" searches?

        • Re:Already done. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:48AM (#35867320)
          You have to be logged into a google service, click on a link in the search results, go back, then just that link will have the "Block" button. It took me a few tries before it worked for me.

          Even better, you can go right to http://www.google.com/reviews/t [google.com] to set things up in bulk. Then, when you search, at the bottom of the page should be a link like "Some items were blocked, click to see"
          • by vlm (69642)

            You have to be logged into a google service, click on a link in the search results, go back, then just that link will have the "Block" button. It took me a few tries before it worked for me.

            You that bit at the start of the HHGTTG? About the plans available for review in a vault in the basement on a planet circling another star or something like that? Yeah thats what I'm thinking. At least its not in Klingon.

          • by natet (158905)

            Awesome. Experts exchange now blocked! This has immediately become my favorite google search feature.

            • by xaxa (988988)

              Awesome. Experts exchange now blocked! This has immediately become my favorite google search feature.

              With an HTTP referrer from Google I see the answers, right at the bottom (press the "End" key).

              Or, use the "Cached" link with Javascript disabled to see the "hidden" answers.

            • by cjb658 (1235986)

              You do realize that on EE, you can scroll to the bottom of the page for the answer?

              • by LizardKing (5245)

                You do realize that on EE, you can scroll to the bottom of the page for the incorrect answer?

                FTFY

            • by demonbug (309515)

              Awesome. Experts exchange now blocked! This has immediately become my favorite google search feature.

              I always read the URL as Expert Sex Change, so have never visited... So you're saying it isn't worth visiting anyway?

        • by Abstrackt (609015)

          Maybe that option only appears for certain "special" domain names, or "special" searches?

          You have to be logged in to use the feature and you must have visited the site at least once through a search, the option to block the offending site comes if it shows up again through a different search. There's also the option to block URLs manually under search settings, which is what I recommend.

        • if you're logged into your google account, go into search settings, roll to the bottom of the page and there'll be a "Blocked Sites" section where you can add sites manually.

      • Well that is a downright stupid implementation. Why should i have to go to a site I know I hate in order to get it blocked?

        • Re:Already done. (Score:4, Informative)

          by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:50AM (#35867350)
          You can go right to http://www.google.com/reviews/t [google.com] to set things up in bulk. You do have to be logged into a google service first, and for the blocking to work.
          • by NevarMore (248971)

            Is there some way to do a rules based block? Like anything that clones StackOverflow content should just be hidden or link me directly to SO?

        • Ohhhhh - I dunno. Google has a lot of neat things, some of which I haven't found on my own. Guess I'm not a Google fanatic. Anyway - I am logged in, and I clicked the link in sibling post, to find this: http://www.google.com/reviews/t [google.com]

          Manage Blocked Sites
          If you don't like a site that appears in your search results, you can block all the pages within that site. Then you won't see any of those pages when you're signed in and searching on Google. If you change your mind, you can unblock the site later.

          Site

      • I have yet to see this feature enabled in my locale. Maybe they haven't converted the code to PAL yet?

    • i've gotten experts exchange results in google searches forever, and i loathe them

      however, not once, in years, have i seen "experts exchange" written in such a way in your post that it makes me think "expert sex change"

      so thanks. thanks a lot. for making a bane of my existence somehow even worse. because now i will never look at "experts exchange" in google results again without seeing "expert sex change"

      • by Abstrackt (609015)

        however, not once, in years, have i seen "experts exchange" written in such a way in your post that it makes me think "expert sex change"

        Fun fact: it used to be expertsexchange.com, they changed it to experts-exchange.com because of that little issue.

        • by jon787 (512497)

          Fun Fact: The MS Exchange team thought this was hilarious and named their blog msexchangeteam.com

      • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

        now i will never look at "experts exchange" in google results again without seeing "expert sex change"

        Well, now just think of the unpleasant things that come to mind when someone mentions the phrase, "amateur sex change". *cringe* :)

    • by rgviza (1303161)

      they buy up domains, prop up content farms on them, and all links on the content farms go back to eHow. So it's not as simple as blocking robot traffic to the offending domains (ehow and the like), you need to also crawl the content farms (easy because the SEO people register the pages to be crawled and google is already crawling/ranking them). Pages on some random domain that only have links to eHow, which are not on eHow.com, are probably farm content. Ditto for other farm content pointing to other domain

    • Except that it's an opinion. I've used a couple eHow articles for things I have no clue about. On the other hand, their articles are crap and don't even load properly on my phone. I really like Experts Exchange, but if you are like me and don't carry around your pass, no phone access. So I completely understand being ticked off.

      But the key many people forget is that Google has to be careful to only block obvious spam sites or face the wrath of hundreds of governments wanting them to be content filter fo

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:11AM (#35866886)

    If your company's business plan focuses exclusively (or even primarily) on gaming Google search results, then anyone dumb enough to invest in you *deserves* to be screwed.

    • Unfortunately, while link farmers deserve to spend eternity licking fiberglass from satan's lava yacht(clinging to the outside, naturally), I suspect that investing in them is actually fairly rational.

      Investing in any one is likely a bad idea; but the genre as a whole seems to be able to stay at least a bit ahead of the search guys, and likely makes a profit during that time. As long as regurgitating their mass of serf and/or script generated sludge in slightly different formats is cheap enough, they are
      • by vlm (69642)

        regurgitating their mass of serf and/or script generated sludge

        And people wonder why I got rid of my facebook account. Oh wait you were talking about link farmers, sorry. And no, all of my "friends" were not link farmers, they just wrote that poorly.

    • yes, but it's to the point now that when you do a search, the first 10 pages of results are nothing but these sorts of BS sites. And the sites are getting better and better at mirroring themselves under multiple names. I applaud googles efforts.
  • by bhunachchicken (834243) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:14AM (#35866920) Homepage

    I don't know about anyone else, but I was beginning to get very pissed off with looking up things on Google and constantly being linked to Big Resource, which was just a huge page of nothing.

    Gettin' even bigger? Get as big as you like, you'll soon not see any visits from me...

  • Good (Score:2, Redundant)

    by chemicaldave (1776600)
    Google has been turning into a cesspool lately.
  • Hit me badly too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zakkie (170306) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:16AM (#35866948) Homepage

    I run a website that is entirely my own work, is the result of years of research and involves many hours a day of new research. I am able to provide the data I collate for free to everyone because AdSense income covered hosting costs and allowed me to pay rent and buy food. I was not making vast sums of money, but I could do what I love and provide a useful resource to thousands of others. Now, scraper sites get ranked above me and even sites that cite me as the source rank higher than I do for many keywords. It's unfortunate, but for me this means less time doing actual original research and more time having to go out and market myself.

    As a one man organisation, it's going to be really tough to keep going. I think Google have made a massive error here - by saying they can gauge the quality of a website (and its usefulness) algorithmically is arrogant and short-sighted. I hope they figure this out quickly. I really do hate having to sell stuff, even my own work!

    • Re:Hit me badly too (Score:5, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:20AM (#35866986) Homepage Journal

      I think Google have made a massive error here - by saying they can gauge the quality of a website (and its usefulness) algorithmically is arrogant and short-sighted. I hope they figure this out quickly. I really do hate having to sell stuff, even my own work!

      You have it entirely backwards. Google has made the only intelligent decision here, by saying that they cannot possibly gauge the quality of all websites manually, and sticking to their guns about doing it programatically. That way, suing them over your position in the rankings is much more difficult because they can prove a lack of favoritism.

      • by zakkie (170306)

        Well yes, but Google should not be judging a site's quality as such, they should be indexing the web. There is significant overlap in those concepts, sure, but currently their algorithm for indexing is broken - demonstrably so - and they are trying to do too much too soon. Wiping out the small independent publishers who provide mountains of good information is surely not what they intended to do.

        • by blue_adept (40915) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:38AM (#35867178)

          Wiping out small independent publishers who "collate" mountains of information that they don't own the copyright for may well be what google intends to do. Let's be clear here. Are you an author? Do you create content? Or do you amalgamate other people's work, with or without their permission and/or using "fair use" provisions of copyright law? You don't really say, but I'm guessing from the tone of your post that you don't in fact create content. So, if your site is useful, provide the link, so we can have a better informed discussion about the merits of your site wrt the recent change in google's algorithm.

          • by zakkie (170306)

            If you can't figure out how to find the link, I'm not sure your opinion on my site will be worth much, mate. But thanks for the kind offer.

            • by faedle (114018)

              In other words, Google's algorithm is working.

            • by avm (660)

              Nice site. Bookmarked for future reference so I don't have to deal with the content farms and their pop under flash nonsense.

            • if said website is under you homepage in your /. profile, then i am surprised you are able to sustain yourself with it.

              The last frontpage update (on what appears to be a car blog) is from fricking february, and the menu structure seems very unlikely to provide me with any kind of worthwhile content, there are multiple car-news sites that are many orders of magnitude more interesting.

              The specification part also seems rather non-user friendly to me.

              Honestly, spend more time on making your website worthwhile r

            • by IICV (652597)

              I think he was just hoping you didn't mean the site in your Slashdot profile, because that thing is a piece of junk. You aren't updating the main page even monthly and your content seems to consist of freely available information that you've just re-worded into blog posts and put into a database.

              Basically, I'm sorry to say it but your site doesn't really deserve a good ranking.

            • The reason that Google is important is that they have good algorithms for judging site quality and showing the interesting relevant sites first. They became the dominant search player because PageRank produced better results than many other search engines when they started, as well as being fast and uncluttered. (DEC's Altavista, the original dominant player, was also fast and uncluttered, but Google's result quality was a lot better.)

              If they weren't judging site quality, AdSense wouldn't be producing en

            • Re:Hit me badly too (Score:5, Informative)

              by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @12:25PM (#35869428) Homepage Journal

              On my netbook, when I navigate to your site I see two pictures, a couple menus and a bunch of ads on the first screen. I have to scroll down to the second page to even get an idea about what kind of content your site offers. That's very atypical for a good website.

        • by Artifex (18308)

          Well yes, but Google should not be judging a site's quality as such, they should be indexing the web. There is significant overlap in those concepts, sure, but currently their algorithm for indexing is broken - demonstrably so - and they are trying to do too much too soon.

          I'm confused; are you in the index or not? If you're in the index, then your complaint is really about the ranking you're being assigned. But you just said you don't want them to judge quality (though earlier you argued that your quality is what differentiates you from your competition). How else should they be judging your content?

          • by zakkie (170306)

            Well yes, but Google should not be judging a site's quality as such, they should be indexing the web. There is significant overlap in those concepts, sure, but currently their algorithm for indexing is broken - demonstrably so - and they are trying to do too much too soon.

            I'm confused; are you in the index or not? If you're in the index, then your complaint is really about the ranking you're being assigned. But you just said you don't want them to judge quality (though earlier you argued that your quality is what differentiates you from your competition). How else should they be judging your content?

            I am in the index, and Google is going a really shitty job of figuring out quality on whatever these new algorithms consider to be signs of quality. My site is older (they can verify that easily enough) than the scraper sites, has more links to it (the basis of the original page ranking system) and is also quite clearly being duplicated by these sites. Had Google stuck to just indexing the web as they did, the natural order of things would have been more favourable to me. Which IMHO is what it should be in

            • My site is older (they can verify that easily enough) than the scraper sites, has more links to it (the basis of the original page ranking system) and is also quite clearly being duplicated by these sites.

              If you own the copyright in non-free works that they are reproducing without permission, send one copy of a signed takedown request to Google and one to the IP address block owner.

            • "the natural order of things"

              Who wants to be the first to tell Zakkie that in "the natural order of things" there would be no intartubez? The internet itself is an artifact, and everything about it is artificial. There IS no "natural order".

              So, what you are saying is, using some of Google's older models, you were treated well, and you were happy. With the updated algorithms, you are not being treated as well, and you resent it. This has nothing to do with any "natural order" at all. You simply prefer o

            • by jwhitener (198343)

              If I search for automobile technical specification you are the number one hit.
              If I search for car technical specification you are the number two hit.

              It seems that google is placing you fairly high for certain terms. Perhaps you lost rank when people search for shorter/less specific terms, like 'car spec', but that isn't so much an issue with google, as it is an issue with how your site is designed, how many others are linking to you, how they are describing the links, etc.. seo stuff.

              Given that you seem to

        • by metamatic (202216)

          Well yes, but Google should not be judging a site's quality as such, they should be indexing the web.

          Google isn't judging your site's quality. They're ranking it based on how the rest of the web judges your site's quality. If nobody thinks you're worth linking to, your rank is poor; if everyone links to you as the definitive source, your rank is high.

    • by exploder (196936)

      Are you a (one man) content farm? You're pretty vague about what kind of data you provide.

      • He's got a link to his site in his /. profile so you can judge for yourself. The site looks fine to me, genuinely useful to people who're interested in that sort of thing.

    • by bmo (77928)

      So what's your site?

      If it's useful, I'd like to see it.

      I like useful things. I'm sure the rest of Slashdot likes useful things too. So post it here. We'll go visit.

      What have you got to lose?

      --
      BMO

      • by vlm (69642)

        So what's your site? ... What have you got to lose?

        Zakkie links to http://www.carfolio.com/ [carfolio.com] on his /. profile page. I'm personally completely uninterested in the topic, but it looks like a real site as opposed to a content farm.

        He's probably worried about losing his anonymity, knowing that /. is the most likely place on the net to have us all check his whois and reverse DNS records just for fun, etc.

        • by zakkie (170306)

          So what's your site? ... What have you got to lose?

          Zakkie links to http://www.carfolio.com/ [carfolio.com] on his /. profile page. I'm personally completely uninterested in the topic, but it looks like a real site as opposed to a content farm.

          He's probably worried about losing his anonymity, knowing that /. is the most likely place on the net to have us all check his whois and reverse DNS records just for fun, etc.

          I was commenting on the story, because it impacted me quite directly. Those who wanted to see my site could easily have done what you did :)

    • by pz (113803)

      I really do hate having to sell stuff, even my own work!

      By relying on AdSense for income, you are selling your own work. Thinking otherwise is allowing yourself a convenient illusion.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        But not selling it for cash, just page impressions.
      • by zakkie (170306)

        By relying on AdSense for income, you are selling your own work. Thinking otherwise is allowing yourself a convenient illusion.

        Yes, but I don't have to stop researching my data, making my site work better, adding features, etc. Eventually I could look to hire people to sell for me, but I'm certainly not in the position to be able to do that yet.

      • by gnapster (1401889)
        What he means is spending time on marketing, instead of actually being productive. It wasn't that hard; don't be dense.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I think Google have made a massive error here - by saying they can gauge the quality of a website (and its usefulness) algorithmically is arrogant and short-sighted.

      WTF? Google has always 'algorithmically gauged the quality and usefulness' of a website. That's what they do. That's what they've always done, and that's what search engines are for.

      When they first came out, they were the best search engine because they explicitly pruned out the cruft and the link farms that had polluted all of the other sear

    • by NevarMore (248971)

      You should have a link to your site in this post then.

      Have you considered sites that boost search rankings by reposting your content? Note that this is different from a content scraper, you gotta submit an article to them first they don't just go and scrape it.

      I think ArticleSnatch [articlesnatch.com] does something like this. Basically you post an article there, take advantage of AS's search ranking so your content shows up in searches, but then AS links to your original site/blog so you still get traffic driven to your site

    • by Bucc5062 (856482)

      Interesting...It took some minor investigation to look up your web site. I then did a generic type Google search (vehicle technical specifications) and tada! You're site popped up as the first link. It would seem that perhaps their algorithm is doing its job.

      The web site was a little rough on the user. I did not find it very user friendly for looking up vehicles. I tried with my two rather common vehicles, 1999 Dodge 2500 and a 1997 Nissan Maxima. Could not find either of them. I am jsut wondering ho

    • I think Google have made a massive error here - by saying they can gauge the quality of a website (and its usefulness) algorithmically is arrogant and short-sighted.

      You're right. Google should hire an army of individuals to manually rate the content on every web page that they crawl. Human beings could index and categorize web sites to make the good stuff easier to find. This directory approach provided easy access to thousands of sites for clients of Yahoo! in the 1990s, and it's why dozens of internet users still rely on Yahoo! today.

      Yes sir, there's nothing like the feel of good old-fashioned hand-crafted search results. Sure, they cost a little more and take

    • by Spykk (823586)
      Well, your first mistake was posting about your site on slashdot without including a link. A high rated slashdot post can get you a lot of views. Your second mistake was not investing in my SUPER GUIDE TO INTERNET WIN!!1! [thisisfake.fak]
  • They definitely need to tweak it further to get rid of or decrease the number of results from expert sex change.
  • they will adapt their pages and quickly smother google searches. I know the news pages are like this, the day after the first change many sites dropped off of the right side bar only to return within weeks. A great example on the unfiltered news site is Huffington Post, NY Times, and LA Times. All three fell off, the first more than the other two, but now fill the sides up again.

    Google can keep tweaking all they want but more people are paid to ensure rankings and page hits than Google has to ensure fairnes

    • I know the news pages are like this, the day after the first change many sites dropped off of the right side bar only to return within weeks.

      The right side bar in google is paid advertisements. That's different from google's organic search results.

      Also, the Huffington Post is not an "unfiltered news site." They're a commentary site. Their writers provide opinion and not objective fact. Now there's nothing wrong with that, so long as you're honest about it. (They are.) A real newspaper can have an editorial page; the Huffington Post is just a bunch of little editorial pages.

  • by JohnRoss1968 (574825) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @09:41AM (#35867228)

    You can get better advise from the crazy drunk down at the park.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday April 19, 2011 @10:08AM (#35867568)

    I do some fairly technically oriented searches at work, and sometimes the first three pages of hits would be [1] sites that sell (or make you register for) copies of otherwise freely available documentation and [2] pages that are just random titles and snippets of other works without links.

    Or there's some paragraph on a message board or in an article that has all the key words, but is useless, and all I get is 50 copies of the same article or posting. Some message board sites seem to be just copies of other sites with different CSS skins.

    • by jank1887 (815982)

      my favorite is when you're searching for a 'how to fix XYZ', and you wouldn't mind a good experts exchange or eHow article, but instead you get the wikiAnswers 'you asked about XYZ, here's a question about XYZ, can you answer it?' crap. get a lot of those.

  • A web site has no "right" to a ranking. A previous ranking confers no "right" to a future ranking. Using the "free advertising" that comes with search engine rankings carries a risk that is different from paid advertising. I hope the effected commercial site's prospectus notifies investors that they are at the mercy of web site rankings.

    • The problem isn't website publisher expectations; it's user expectations. If I do a search for "fixing motorcycle flat," I expect to see enthusiast links to detailed, dedicated forums on fixing my flat. I don't expect to see a lame eHow recipe, ads for motorcycle products, etc. The problem Google has is over the past few years, searches have become polluted with lots of garbage links that are frustrating users.

      But, that's what a profit motive can do. Look at YouTube. You go out and do a search of anyth

  • I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of SEO cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something awesome has happened
  • by PPH (736903)

    "How can I improve my web page Google rank?"

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