February 28, 2011

Google "Farmer" Update Blesses Wikipedia, Curses Mahalo, Centralization

The Google "Farmer" Update results, that is, the winnner and losers from Google's latest algorithm change regarding "content farms", have now been analyzed. So we have outcomes such as:

Let's see in detail what Google did to the affected domains. The first conclusion is quite straightforward: the number of keywords these domains are ranking for dropped dramatically. Looking at mahalo.com as an example, it went from 33,875 keywords before the update to just 9,740 keywords after the update went public a decrease of more than 70%.

Versus gainers

1. Amazon.com
2. eHow.com
3. NexTag.com
4. Wikipedia.com [sic - should be wikipedia.org]
5. Walmart.com
6. Target.com
7. Etsy.com
8. Answers.Yahoo.com
9. Sears.com
10. bestonlinecoupons.com

Note a pattern above? Another step to centralization, with some aggregator sites anointed as winners, and some as losers. And Wikipedia ends up even more dominant on Google.

I have to remind myself I'm basically completely unable to get the law/policy types to realize the enormous extent to which Wikipedia is de facto subsidized by Google. Here, not only is Wikipedia getting yet another boost, but some of its arguable commercial competitors are being killed! It's not because Wikipedia has some magic itself, in "community" or "civility", or whatever huckerism is being hyped. Rather, it has the algorithm support of Google.

Another gem noted - "Google also said that if its YouTube site gained, that was "happenstance."". If a big ISP did a network management change that just by "happenstance" might have benefited an enormous media property it owned, accusations of bias and favoritism would be rife.

Bonus link - Search Neutrality as Disclosure and Auditing (Frank Pasquale)

Given these parallels, I've compared principles of broadband non-discrimination and search non-discrimination. But virtually every time the term "search neutrality" comes up in conversation, people tend to want to end the argument by saying "there is no one best way to order search results - editorial discretion is built into the process of ranking sites." ... To critics, a neutral search engine would have to perform the (impossible) task of ranking every site according to some Platonic ideal of merit. ... Neutrality is a very broad term, and the obvious differences between the technical operation of physical infrastructure and search engines should not stop us from applying certain broad principles to each entity.

But there's no money behind that.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on February 28, 2011 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (6)