October 14, 2003

OS X Panther discussion

"OS X Panther discussion" isn't really the topic of this post. Rather, this is about Google's algorithms. Andrew Orlowski has an interesting Register article today, Blog noise achieves Google KO. He discusses a situation where several blog "TrackBack" pages fill the results of a Google search for OS X Panther Discussion.

In what must be a record, Google is - at time of writing - returning empty Trackback pages as No.1, No.2, No.3 and No.4 positions. No.5 gets you to a real web page - an Apple Insider bulletin board. Then it's back to empty Trackback pages for results No.6, No.7 and No.10. In short, Google returns blog-infested blanks for seven of the top entries.

Honestly, I think this isn't too much of a problem. I believe it's a confluence of at least three different major rules being triggered, having to do with fresh pages (some of the results are very recent), authority pages (Mac stuff, such as OS X Panther, is very popular with some well-linked bloggers), and trying to find a "best" match for all keywords. Here, in particular, the TrackBacks label themselves "Discussion", so Google is putting much weight on that word. Google's a complex system, and algorithmic oddities will happen.

Now, this post is going to trigger some of those rules as well. Sometimes the best way to make a point is to demonstrate something directly :-).

The Trackback creators are aware of the issue too, and seem to be working on fixing it.

Disclaimer: Andrew Orlowski has covered my Google writing before, most recently in "Google bug blocks thousands of sites" for my report last week:

Google Spam Filtering Gone Bad

So I hope he won't be angry at me for writing this. Sigh, politics.

Update: I had the number-1 spot on Google, for a day, for those search terms. It's nice to be right :-). More significantly, I'm learning interesting bits about how the freshness rule functions. I could even see when certain search indexes were swapped out or in, as the hit-flow to my website would drop off or pick up again. The implications are staggering ...

See also the follow-up article: Emergency fixes for blog-clogged Google.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on October 14, 2003 11:12 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I found it on google!

Posted by: Jose at November 3, 2003 11:09 AM


Posted by: Hmm at November 7, 2003 11:54 PM

You're number one again...

Posted by: Robert at November 15, 2003 05:54 AM

You remain at No 1 in google - perhaps finally they are giving weblogs priority over the traditional news media and "commercial" noise...

Posted by: Nicholas at December 3, 2003 07:28 PM

Yes, you are number one again. The point is that google algorithms have to adapt to the web comunity, no the web comunity adapt to google. This can give you a page rank penalty and google is very clear about trying to manipulate their results. So... it's a google problem, not a weblog problem.

Posted by: Marius at January 18, 2004 12:58 PM