Google’s latest algorithm change has webmasters and SEO gurus shaking in their boots. But what could be the motive behind all this change?
Google has been making many changes over the last year or so and generally these seem to be aimed toward improving the search engine experience for users. The official statement is that Google is aiming at becoming better at detecting spammy black hat SEO methods and honing in on the good quality and original content. Semantic search and social search are being introduced while at the same time the search giant has been coming down hard on ‘over optimization’ and duplicate content.
But when is change no longer a good thing? At what point does it become change for change’s sake? Worse, at what point does it become an example of Google dictating what gets exposure on the net and what doesn’t? On could ask what gives Google the authority to decide what is ‘good’ content and what isn’t.
And could there be a more sinister ulterior motive behind all this?
First Panda and Now Penguin
Google Panda was one of the biggest steps to eradicate spammy SEO and the main victims here were the content farms that focused on generating huge amounts of content with variable quality by letting users submit as much as they liked. These content farms also represented a good way for visitors to build links online and submitting articles with an embedded link was one of the most sure fire ways to climb the SERPs. After the Google Panda update, which affected a whopping 12% of queries, this all changes and while Google did manage to cut a lot of dross, they also managed to destroy some perfectly legitimate businesses which they seem to forget.
The next change to Google’s algorithms hits this week and Cutts tells us that this time only 3% of queries will be affected. The idea, according to Google’s blog, is to get rid of sites that use heavily spun content that are completely beyond comprehension.
Sounds Good in Theory, But Is it Working?
However the official blog also tells us that the change will affect some websites that aren’t ‘easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis’. This then is where we see the first hint that yet again, hundreds or thousands of businesses are likely to go down the pan because of a tweak in an algorithm. And the point is – if the sites aren’t recognizable as spam, what harm are they doing to anyone? Why shouldn’t Google display sites at the top spot that look perfectly fine to the reader? Is that even ‘black hat’?
And these aren’t the only examples of this happening either. Because while Panda and this recent update have received more publicity, they have been doing a lot more behind the scenes too. In the last couple of months for instance they have punished sites that had more than two ads above the fold, and then they de-indexed all the blog networks. And lots of other sites have also reported drops in their rankings lately that seem to them at least to be somewhat malicious. Do a search for ‘Make Money Online’ at the moment and your results will change on a near daily basis. For a long time the site holding the top spot there was ‘paid2review’. Which looks like this:
A little advert-heavy perhaps, but ultimately it fits the bill and does provide people with some ways to make money online. A check I did today however brought up entirely different results. And these results were also entirely different from those I read about on another blog published only a few days ago.
This is what came up:
And that puts this at the top spot:
And this slightly further down the page:
So what we have here is at least two pages with absolutely no content whatsoever – and one which appears to be making no effort to produce any content any time soon. Click the comments and the top one is an astute observation from ‘Jeff':
The owners’ explanation? That so many sites have been penalized that a blank page managed to find its way to the top.
Is SEO Now Completely Unreliable?
The question you have to ask yourself is: has Google actually done any good here? Surely you’d rather read a page with some ads that used some proven techniques to get to number 1, than you would a page that just stumbled onto page 1 and actually doesn’t even have any content on it?
The answer is probably not. And while people abusing the system is of course not what anyone wants, there also does need to be a system so that a website can work hard and be rewarded for that hard work. Does Google have any idea how long link building takes? Is it fair to suddenly destroy all that hard work and ruin people’s businesses on a whim?
So what’s left? Why are Google doing all this? Well one potential reason could be that Google wants SEO to be unreliable. Think about it Google offers a paid advertising service (it’s called AdWords, you may have heard of it) that can get your link put straight to the top of the SERPs for a fee; and SEO is the only real competition for that service.
The more unreliable SEO becomes the more companies will be forced to turn to AdWords.
And you could even take this one step further – because if Google has ensured that all their top organic results are spam and it looks like the web is ‘overrun’ by spam, then suddenly visitors might start to actually choose to click on the sponsored links at the top. Even the discerning visitors might rather click a link that’s been paid for rather than one that’s got nothing on it. And that would then make AdWords more valuable still – and would mean Google could charge more for that service.
It’s cynical, but regardless of Google’s motives this is certainly going to be one outcome of their actions. What’s your interpretation of all this? Sound of in the comments below. And keep your fingers crossed that future changes favor you…
If you are not convinced about how bad the latest update really is, I invite you to browse through some of the following posts and see how badly Google is now doing for some more queries. You will be convinced that Google is hell-bent on making SEO look unreliable and ineffective: