Spam

Google content farm algorithmic update

Google is constantly fine tuning its algorithms to prevent spam and increase the quality of search results. In most cases, few outside of the search engine marketing industry even notice when Google makes a change. Earlier this week however, Google started rolling out an algorithmic improvement to US users that will have a noticeable impact. This update may prove to be the most significant single update in years. According to Google's recent blog post post 11.8% of queries will be impacted. Some Webmasters are already reporting issues.

"This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."

By the way, if you're attending SMX West next week or SES New York in two weeks please be sure to say hello!

Worksheetsengine.com is a two month old domain name owned by an individual in Russia. It has roughly 500,000 pages indexed by Google and a homepage PageRank of 2 despite being entirely duplicate content. According to Compete the site gets 125k unique visitors per month but, I have a feeling these visitors all think they're using Bing.com.

While Google has condemned buying and selling links that pass PageRank, they've encouraged listing in paid directories like Yahoo for years. It seems that era may have come to an end earlier today. The following bullet points have been removed from Google's Webmaster Guidelines Webmaster Help Center*

  • "Have other relevant sites link to yours."
  • "Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites."

Does this recent move reflect a renewed emphasis on rooting out paid links passing PageRank and/or low quality links by Google?

*As mentioned, the bullet points above have been removed from the US version of Google's Webmaster Help Center. Other versions may not yet reflect this change.
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UPDATE: Hat tip to Barry Schwartz who noticed John Honeck's post in Google Groups where Google's John Mueller comments on the change. Barry provides a full recap at SERoundTable.com and SearchEngineLand.com.

A friend of mine recently emailed to ask, how TinyURL impacts SEO? It's a good question and one many folks can't answer so, I thought I'd blog my answer to his question!

For anyone not familiar with TinyURL, in layman terms it's a tool where users can enter long displaying URLs to get a shortened version. TinyURLs are often used where long URLs might wrap and therefore break, such as in email or social media web applications like Twitter. In more technical terms, TinyURLs are short, dynamically created URLs that redirect users to another intended URL via 301 redirect. Because TinyURLs "301" or permanently redirect, search engines should not index the TinyURL but instead should index and pass PageRank to the actual URL.

It is important to note, TinyURLs to paid links passing PageRank is a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines and that sites like Twitter use nofollow techniques to prevent spam.

On their own, TinyURLs can be search engine friendly from a technical perspective. At the same time, I wouldn't suggest replacing your site's navigation with TinyURLs and would point out that tracking TinyURLs via analytics might be difficult.

A few weeks ago Google launched a new feature intended to provide users with whois data in Google's main SERPs. By entering a query like "whois google.com" users are returned new whois data including creation and expiration dates in Google's main results. In addition to the new feature, Google provides users the option for more information via "Whois record for google.com" link which resolves to domaintools.com. After linking directly from Google's main search results to domaintools.com, users are greeted with various details about the domain including website title, description and even an "SEO Score" provided by domaintoools.com.

After linking from Google's main SERP to domaintools.com you might notice, there are lots of ads provided by Google. If you look closely, right along side those Google ads you'll find paid links passing PageRank at domaintools.com. Paid links passing PageRank are a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and grounds for being banned from Google. In this case Google is linking to pages with paid links passing PageRank!

Here is an example using the cached text version of the domaintools.com landing page linked to by Google for the query "whois google.com" http://209.85.165.104/search?.... In it you'll notice http://vpslink.com... is a paid link passing PageRank. As I mentioned at SearchEngineWatch.com the paid link domain ranks #1 for the keyword term used in it's ALT anchor text at domaintools.com and linked to by the Google Whois feature.

If you would like more information about paid ads at domaintools.com and have $10k per month, click on the "Sponsor us" link to the right of the Google search box. I've not seen many banner ad landing pages with a PR of 6!

- beu

UPDATE: - In response to this post being picked up by blogoscoped.com, Matt Cutts (Head of Google Web Spam Team) confirmed earlier today that DomainTools.com is now in compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines. DomainTools is now blocking ads with paid links passing PageRank via robots.txt. Sincere and special thanks to Matt, Google and DomainTools.com for swiftly resolving this issue!

- beu