Google Implements Biggest Search Changes, Penalizes Thousands of Websites

google-searchThe world’s most popular online search engine, Google Inc., yesterday implemented the most significant changes in over a year to its search algorithms that rank websites in an effort to increase the quality of its index.

Google says its primary goal is to provide the most relevant results for queries as quickly as possible, but for years, low-quality websites have been gaming Google’s proprietary systems to artificially increase their rankings, thereby getting more visitors from organic search results.

Even multimillion-dollar corporate websites use black-hat search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that are forbidden by Google’s terms of service. Most recently, Google penalized JCPenny.com after a report by The New York Times confirmed the company used black-hat methods to bump up its rankings. JCPenny now says it is working on restoring its search results with white-hat methods after firing its current search engine optimization (SEO) firm, a process that could take years.

Users, including many industry professionals, have long argued low-quality websites provide highly unreliable information, and sometimes, their content is even partially generated with automated systems, further decreasing the reliability of the content.

Google said in a company blog post that about 11.8-percent of query results would be affected by the change, meaning many websites that previously held high-ranking positions would have suddenly lost their rankings.

The algorithmic change has been applied to all U.S. queries, with the company rolling out additional updates to other international centric search results in the future, no specific time frame was disclosed by Google.

Many firms rely on free traffic referred to by organic Google search results to generate revenue mainly from on-page advertisements.

Demand Media, the parent company of many popular publications, including eHow.com, among many others, aggregately produces thousands of articles on a daily basis, and generates revenue solely from advertisements.

Almost all of those articles are partially created on an automated basis, are usually very short, highly unreliable, and are of low quality.

Some queries that previously ranked eHow.com on the first page of certain results have now disappeared, despite the company’s claim that the recent Google algorithmic change has not seen a material drop in traffic.

Google says its goal is to generate results from authoritative websites that provide unique, high-quality information, such as research reports, in-depth analysis, among other value adding content.

We firstly reported that Google would make significant changes in 2011 targeting spam websites, but this recent sweep illustrates the growing challenge of even legitimate new websites actually gaining traction in today’s search climate.

In another attempt by Google to improve its search results, Google also recently released a new tool for its Chrome browser, Personal Blocklist, which allows users to manually block spam websites.

Google said data gathered from the Chrome extension was not used in this recent sweep.


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Murad is an engineering graduate from Centennial college in Toronto, Canada. Write to murad@business2press.com
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