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Google, Content Farms and Sleight of Hand

Google is awakening to the issues of trust and quality of its search engine results. So far, it’s largely sleight of hand and there haven’t been any real underlying improvements in the quality aspects of Google’s search algorithm.

As near as I can figure Google’s solution in the short term is to:

1. Ask billions of searchers to manually block any sites that they don’t want to influence their search results. (Google launched a Chrome browser extension to allow users to block results from certain domains.) This strategy has failed pretty spectacularly in the past with filtering of search results. And it certainly won’t be evenly implemented and adds a tool for more people to block sites for reasons other than the quality of information.


2. Broadly demoting certain sites in the search algorithm to move them down the chain of results. s every one deserving of this’punichment’? “SEO consulting company Sistrix has done some number crunching on a dataset of 1 million keywords to identify some of the winners and losers from the change.” It seems like a meat cleaver approach but at least it is using a bigger hammer to whack those moles. Here’s the Sistrix chart:

A few of the more interesting, fairly current, articles and posts on this topic that I read are here:

Google Announces “Big Algorithmic Improvement” to Search

Who is Behind the Successful PR Campaign Poking Holes in Google’s Search Quality?
Search Engine Watch

The Google Spam-Jam
Search Engine Watch

Has Google’s New Algorithm Really Cleaned Up Search?(ReadWriteWeb)

Farmer Update About Sites Not Content
Blind Five Year Old

The Dirty Little Secrets of Search
New York Times

New York Times Exposes J.C. Penney Link Scheme That Causes Plummeting Rankings in Google
Search Engine Land

Google Forecloses On Content Farms With “Farmer” Algorithm Update
Search Engine Land

Number Crunchers: Who Lost In Google’s “Farmer” Algorithm Change?
Search Engine Land

Search Still Sucks

Google Tweaks Algorithm to Push Down Low-Quality Sites
New York Times

Demand Media Dodges Google’s Content Farm Pesticide
Fast Company

This battle for quality search results will play out for out years. Libraries have always preferred to offer e-content that was curated by themslves and by specialized library vendors. With the emergence of the we, the opportunity to influence search results display an rankings for traffic, commercial, political, and special interest reasons has been very strong.

As it stands now, library content is quite pristine in comparison and should serve as a nice differentiation from the consumer web. It seems that learning and research might depend on this. Either way, it behooves every professional librarian to keep their eyes on this issue. When this issue starts to migrate out of websites and into articles or books in Google Scholar or Google Books, etc. is that when we’ll be more concerned?


Posted on: February 28, 2011, 2:17 pm Category: Uncategorized

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  1. This blog post was referenced in an article I just read. Businessweek. March 21-27, 2011. Page 46.