December 01, 2006

Wikipedia Watch - Google Spam Filter Victim?

Daniel Brandt claims that Google hates Wikipedia-Watch (his site critical of Wikipedia). He presents some very different ranking for various terms.

This turns out to be interesting, as I was able to refine the tests to a sharper outcome. Now, let's keep in mind the difference between the facts, and the theory to explain them. There's something I call "SEO superstition", which is the very understandable way random variations can mislead people to form bad theories. And "never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity". So a particular pattern may not be even real, or if it is, that doesn't necessarily indicate that Google's editing search results to marginalize critics (we should be so threatening ...).

So, with that in mind, comparing search terms, I found the following rankings today for for the indicated strings of words (searching as a set of words, not a quoted phrase):

[can you sue Wikipedia]

Yahoo - #1 and #4
MSN - #1 and #2
Google - more than #300 (!)

[plagiarism Wikipedia]

Yahoo - #5
MSN - #3
Google - I had to go past #700 before I found a result for

[phenomenon of Wikipedia]

Yahoo - #3
MSN - #4
Google - somewhere around #80

Note Wikipedia Watch site ranks #1 in Google for the search [Wikipedia Watch], but I think that may be misleading.

Feel free to try to reproduce, it's not difficult.

Conclusion: This is a real differential. It's too much to be explained by various SEO factors. Something is amiss here.

I think has somehow tripped a spam penalty on Google. This is not necessarily Daniel Brandt's fault. But there is a downgrading of the site.

[PS: Invocation - Spammeister Matt Cutts, you might want to check this out. I know Daniel gives you a hard time about being an ex-NSA spook, but look at it this way - a bug's a bug].

[Update Sun Dec 3 09:30:41 EST - the site's issue has been fixed now, for reasons unknown, and the Wikipedia Watch page updated accordingly showing dramatic ranking increases]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on December 01, 2006 07:42 AM (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'm also getting a gray PageRank for that site.

Posted by: Philipp Lenssen at December 1, 2006 10:22 AM

I think the grey PageRank is just old data on that data lookup server. It has PR 5 if you check other servers.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 1, 2006 10:42 AM