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@Scott Willeke, Thanks! I installed that blacklist plugin. I've been wanting such an extension for some time: I want to acknowledge Google as an innovative company that almost single-handedly made the world wide web useful. As of last year they'd crawled over 1 trillion unique URLs, an astounding amount of noise to sift through. I admire their engineering ethos and feel their business largely adheres to "don't be evil". That said, there is a real, serious problem with result quality. Google is a victim of its own success. The ecosystem they created is so profitable that it requires Google to spend inordinate time (possibly 50% of engineering?) keeping webmasters honest. Pick your metaphor -- traders gaming the stock market or bacteria growing antibiotic resistant -- bad websites are out-evolving Google. Ranking knowledge has become ubiquitous, and sadly knowledge of gaming an engine has become more important to content sites that writing valid, expert content. It's not just the spammers, malware sites, and scraper sites writing worthless keyword stuffed content and buying links. Google also made a deal with the McContent devil, Demand Media: Demand buys up search queries and pays writers a paltry sum (dollars) to write poorly-researched content on subject areas they often have little to no experience in. Demand makes a few ad dollars per article, with traffic exclusively driven by search (I've never met anyone who goes directly to to browse.) In turn, Google takes a cut of Adwords dollars. In the short run, Google's bottom line looks better, especially on a Youtube site they've had trouble monetizing. Demand runs eHow, but you'll equally vapid content on Q/A sites Wikia, Yahoo Answers. Google needs to respond or their flagship search will suffer. The solution will be complex and multifaceted. In addition to small, incremental changes, I think Google will need to make some seismic ones. Google will face cries of injustice from "content producers" in the gray areas, but they need to stand tough. I run SEO program at a large US media organization, NPR. From the beginning, we've stayed above board - fixing coding issues, worked on syndication, and trained our writers on the very basics. We write first for humans. That ensures that Google crawls us adequately, but we do lose traffic to sites that out-SEO us, legitimately or otherwise. My long view is that this current state of search is not sustainable, and any efforts we spend beyond the basics are at the expense of other products we can build. It's easy for my organization to take this tack, however, because we're a well known brand and we can focus on other channels, such as social media and viral sites. Content producers should think about the tradeoffs they make when going broke for SEO -- it's impossible to quantify the traffic you don't get from Facebook/Twitter when you water down your content.
Toggle Commented Jan 4, 2011 on Trouble In the House of Google at Coding Horror
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Jan 4, 2011