Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Google Heavily Penalizes Websites

Three days ago Google launched and update that may radically affect the amount of search engine traffic your blog or website gets. They're calling it a minor update to their algorithm, but it has already had a major effect on some sites. 8 Days ago I mentioned on Hacker News that a site that was scraping the popular StackOverflow was ranking higher than them - by republishing their content. Well Google has updated their algorithm and the scraper site's traffic immediately plummeted by about 90%. The day-over-day drop is 40%. I'm not a fan of sites that steal content, but ouch!!

Here is Matt Cutts, head of Google's anti-spam team making the announcement a few days ago.

From industry buzz it seems that Google is going after two kinds of sites this year. The first is sites that scrape content from others and republish that content unmodified (scraper sites). The second is sites who have low quality content farms, where large numbers of low wage humans generate low quality content purely to try and attract search engine traffic. We've now seen hard evidence of the new anti-scraper policy but not much evidence of Google going after content farms.

If you run a blog or content site that relies on SEO traffic, here is how you need to react to this:
  1. Make sure you limit the amount of republished content.
  2. If you do republish content, make sure there is at least the same amount of original content on the same page to balance it out.
  3. Beware publishing large amounts of low quality content. We haven't seen any evidence of penalties in this area yet, but trust me they're coming.
I'm also modifying my back-link strategy slightly:

Google has always had a duplicate content penalty but over the last few years scrapers have gotten good at getting around that by mixing and matching content and adding just enough of their own to have it appear unique to a machine. Now Google have made a few additional changes to their search algorithm to penalize scraper sites. The question is, what changes did they make?

My guess is that one of the things they are looking at is the number of "deep links" you have from other websites linking to content deep in your own site. Sites that scrape content tend to have many links from high ranking sites to their home page but few links to content deep in the site because people just don't find the content valuable enough.

So one of the ways I'm reacting to this algorithm change is to make sure that it's not just our home page that is linked to, but pages deep within the site too.

Expect to see a few more changes from Google like this as the year progresses. Remember, the most important thing is to have unique and useful content and to let the right websites know about it.

Lastly, Google just launched a service that you'll hear about in the news tomorrow to help Egyptians stay in touch with the rest of the world as the government there removes Internet and Cellphone access. It's called Speak2Tweet and it's a collaboration between Twitter and Google. Here's the quote from Google's Blog in case you don't have web access and are in Egypt:

"It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet."

There are already some incredible messages being posted by Egyptians including this one referring to the million person march planned for tomorrow.

On a personal note, having lived through the transition of South Africa to a democracy, I'd like to wish any Egyptians who are Weekly Feed subscribers or Feedjit members a safe and influential week!

Best regards,

Mark Maunder
Feedjit Founder & CEO

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