January 29, 2011

Google Algorithm, Spam, "Content Farms", Life and Death for Sites

The most recent Google algorithm change, and reactions, is showing yet again how much structural influence these deliberate choices have over sites. One of the concepts I've tried to get into certain discourse (and, for various reasons, pretty much failed) concerns the effect Google can have by making algorithmic changes which either favor or disfavor certain types of sites. When I attempt to explain this, usually to various people whose education was in law or philosophy or other humanities, the first problem I often find is that they have no idea what I'm talking about. They've heard Google doesn't make specific sites ranking choices. This then seems to displace anything else in terms of concepts. Especially an idea of making parameter choices which then affect specific sites (extra-credit: possible choices which are nominally global but which primarily affect one very prominent site, cough, Wikipedia, cough ...).

In a discussion thread above, one webmaster says their site was very negatively affected, and gave this interesting report:

What has replaced us you may ask? Well that's the fun part.
Result 1 Wikipedia with a general about for the game.
Result 2 A Ehow article from 4 years ago with absolutely no relevant content to the query.
Result 3 A hubpages article again that is totally out of date and useless to the querytype.
Result 4-24 I dont want to even bother typing as it is just about borderline spam.

I haven't verified the claims. But just look at the list. If it's correct, note the implications - independent site replaced by large centralizers again (and spam). One can understand the reasoning. However, it's not exactly something that just happens, or falls from the sky.

Every time one of these events happens, it's an instructive lesson to see all the seething by the small websites at the "bottom", and how little that matters at the "top". It's something to keep in mind the next time there's a punditry outrage-fest that supposedly by coincidence maps onto certain big-business fights.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on January 29, 2011 11:33 AM | (Infothought permalink)