Google’s Latest Algorithm Update – Adwords Makes More Money if SEO is Unreliable


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:

Image ‘makemoneyonline4.png’

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:


About Jeet

Jeet writes about blogging, Google, SEO and link building. He is learning to juggle with 4 balls though he already juggles his time between his company GetLinksPro and his 7 month's old twins.

44 thoughts on “Google’s Latest Algorithm Update – Adwords Makes More Money if SEO is Unreliable

  1. Shaad Hamid

    The key takeaway from all the algorithm updates is pretty simple. Don’t ever base your business on one particular channel. Be it Google, be it Facebook or any other media. Build a business that provides what your consumers want; not what google or facebook want.

    1. Scott Huey

      You are exactly right base everything on your consumers, readers, and customers…It may take longer but you will get more reliable customers and word of mouth.

      1. Anonymous

        Absolutely! If your entire business model is based around Google’s algorithm then you need to accept the risks that come along with it. I love the quote “don’t chase after Google; chase after what Google chases”, and that’s users.

  2. jeffreyskang

    thanks for the mention jeet. i bet it would’ve helped to include a link, but at the time of that comment, it was just a domain. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

    Jeet, I want to remove my posts and deindex those posts off my site, can you help me?

  3. AM

    Although the premise of this post is intriguing, I doubt that Google would *intentionally* give its users less relevant and useful search results as a tactic to boost AdWords revenue. If Google searches bring up lots of spam and garbage, then Bing will quickly start taking market share away from them. Such a tactic would be like jumping off a cliff to grab a $20 bill at the bottom of a canyon.

    I think it is clear that Google’s efforts to improve its search results are not working but I do not think they planned to make themselves into a worse search engine.

    1. paula

      clearly for years google has been sabotaging the most vulnerable, why I dont know. If its not sabotage they have a staff that makes what appears to be stupid decisions. I can never figure out their direction…

  4. David Merrill

    Pretty scary stuff, Jeet.

    I gotta agree with AM, though, that Google is just trying to hold it’s top position by staying “ahead of the curve”.

    The fact that they’re doing such a sloppy job of it sort of underminds my previous assumption that they’re so smart, and good at what they do.

    I think it’s a classic case of overthink, as in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”…

  5. Amrit Hallan

    I don’t think it’s in Google’s interest to rank well crappy links because then why would people use Google? I mean, if 1-5 top links are not relevant why would I go to Google to do my search next time? And if I don’t go to Google then doesn’t it defeat the entire purpose of earning money off AdWords?

    Although Google also distributes its ads on other networks (for instance AdSence) still a big chunk of its advertising revenue comes from the main website and if it starts throwing up unreliable results, it will actually harm the company.

    So good Seo and reliable Seo is actually profitable for Google.

  6. pp

    They probably stacking Adwords money right now and preparing to buy FaceBook. 😀

  7. Yogesh

    What gives Google a right to decide what they chose to display in their index and in rankings is the fact that it is their index, their search algorithm and their search engine!

    If people don’t like Google, they can move to different search engine, much like it is with any other service/product!

    Yes it pains to see one’s own site dropping in ranking and other not so good sites gaining at time, but that is part of the business and like Shaad said, never completely depend on one source of traffic!

  8. fas

    So basically this whole thing might just be in process change, once that happens, it should be fine!

  9. Paul

    “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?”
    Do you have any idea how much hard work is involved in housebreaking? Is it fair to arrest criminals when they’re caught?
    Lets face it, most of the people who are caught by the anti webspam actions are spammers and scammers who have been breaking the Google Terms of Service for years and at last Google has caught up with them. Now they squeal like pigs.
    The fact is that they have been keeping honest businesses who operate within the rules, out of the top organic spots for years. All the people at the top of SERPS now and the honest SEO people are cheering for Matt Cutts.
    Nice to see you walking the walk, Matt.
    I’m sure that most of spammers amongst you will find other ways to webspam the system in the belief that it’s easier than real work. And in a couple of years you’ll be squealling again.
    Your argument that the updates will gain advertising revenue is patently absurd. If you had thought through the logic from basics, for more than five second and have an IQ above 85, you would see why.
    Google is a long way from being a perfect search engine but I suggest that for the searcher, it has been greatly improved in certain niches, by the latest updates.

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  11. jamie

    I guess if you follow shoemoneys blog this was coming.. I think Google doesn’t know just how they want it done.. The problem is when they are “Testing” they hurt alot of businesses along the way.. Gotta agree with Shaad , Don’t put eggs in one basket!! Organic traffic is and never will be what it was.. I guess you go with the flow bc Whining wont help!!

  12. Matthew Jeschke

    I always wondered if Google would have to take some action to boost their Adwords revenue now that’s there so many other competitors in that space. Probably that isn’t their sole motive though and honestly, this is probably a novice thing to say… But I think that, a business should be in business for people not search bots / google. And unfortunately, I see so many who are in business for the later. That said, I too am a little addicted to organic traffic from Google :) But I never started writing online with the intentions of performing SEO.

  13. Nate

    Millionaire from the internet. Man, you have my respect. I am in the he alt and fitness niche and am glad a site like shoe money is around, appreciate your expertise.

  14. Ashley, cutey

    I have no problem with Penguin, but I think Google needs to make it clearer on how recovery can be made.

    After all not every website out there is doing their own SEO, a business hires an “SEO” based on these masses of emails we get from them. Maybe it is the companies own fault for not doing research? but I don’t think that means they should be forever effected by it.

    Reconsideration requests wont work because it’s not a manual thing.

  15. Steve Smith

    So out of BILLIONS of search queries, you find a few that give less than stellar results. From that, you extrapolate that Google wants to make it’s entire search business unreliable..

    I’ll use the same technique and state that the earth must be covered in blueberry syrup b/c the sky is blue.

  16. Alex

    “…then suddenly visitors might start to actually choose to click on the sponsored links at the top”.

    Or they can start using Yahoo or Bing!

  17. Garry

    STEVE SMITH For the win. My thoughts exactly. I think there are only a handful of people out there that are certain that recent algo changes are, again, to improve the quality of the results and not some master plan to boost Adwords revenue. First, Panda got rid of the crap-ticles. Then Penguin got rid of the crap links. It was a 2-phased 15 month process. Sure, there will be a few SERPS that slip through the cracks but any mass adjustment that’s 99.9% effective is a winner in any data engineer’s book.

  18. Vineet Saxena

    Me too noticed that site on the first page for ” make money online”. Indeed that user should have capitalized the traffic to his site. Thanks to Google.

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  20. Dent

    This update is very good for me, who is not good at SEO. Content is KING, may be in future we don’t have to SEO :D. But i realize that, +1 will increase your rank on search result. I recommend newbie blogger to increase +1 (maybe through addmefast). This is very good for me, now my page rank 2 on google 😀

  21. Bruce Barker

    Roll on real competition for Google, I say. I speak as one who saw a perfectly good, content-filled site plummet in the Panda update and stopped me doing anything for awhile. I hope my new blog doesn’t suffer from any future Google updates!

  22. Josh @ Live Well Simply

    Google is quickly losing market share to Bing partly as a result of this SEO issue. I’ve been focusing my SEO efforts to rank high in Bing. It’s a much more reliable bet at this point.

  23. Ravinder Nagar

    Very Nice. Really this post means something. Now Google is playing game to earn high…Really it takes a lot much time to create links and rank the website but Google ruined all the work.

  24. Raimonds

    I don’t think author of the post really thinks, that google just wants to maximize profit from adwords. He just tries to be provocative to start the discussion.

  25. Asim

    I have seen this myself across many many keywords… Its obvious that google wants to discourage seo and shift as many of us to adwords as possible. However, in the process its destroying the asset that it took years to build. While searchers may click on ads in the beginning, they will soon get rid of google if all it serves are ads and no organic results.

  26. jim

    quote “while Google did manage to cut a lot of dross, they also managed to destroy some perfectly legitimate businesses which they seem to forget.”

    Let’s be honest here, a lot of the businesses who got hit by this were buying poor SEO services from agencies (I used to work for one of those agencies that does this, many of our clients got hit).

    The new company i am at does no link buying, no aggressive optimisation and just produces good content. We saw a 20% increase in SEO traffic overnight after Penguin, this fluctuated over the next week and we are currently stable at 15% up.

    I do think though that they are changing the SEO results to display more information-related content, and push ads for commercial businesses and products. WOuld make sense to Google to have the ads pushing the best products and the SEO pushing the best information pages.

    If SEO is unreliable for your business as a source of income then find other ways of getting traffic. Google isn’t the only source of quality traffic out there!

  27. Alex

    I don’t really get the logic of saying it’s Google’s website, they can do whatever they like. Google is one of the most recognized words in the language, and to see them start offering up terrible search results (as indeed they have, even on the first page) is very sad. Other people have pointed out, the search sucks now. It used to return relevant results, not any more.

  28. Tabletop Wealth

    How can the common people who is new to the internet and want to start a business online survive. The person who does not have a copy editor to write the perfect content for their site. This would may newbie startups completely turn away from the internet. Google is presently losing money because some are embracing social media networks like Youtube and Twitter for their marketing and search. If they continue, the mobile platform will be the next search giant. Opps, they are now…

  29. Chris

    There used to be a time when the top 3 results for anything were really the best sources, and you could click on them and be sure you’ll really find great stuff… that’s why I switched from Webcrawler to Google.

    Now, it’s a mix up.. I don’t even bother clicking #1 any more, it’s always some giant company that managed to amass a huge amount links.. sometimes the little guys have great stuff, and not everybody wants the super commercial massive sites.

    I really liked the small more focused on one thing kind of sites. The way people like the small shop Vs. Wal-mart for example.

    The guys who were making great content and pretty good sites are gone and will keep leaving as the major players get the top ranks. You can blame a lot of factors, sites like eHow, the google changes, especially the Bigfoot update, and the fact that a ton of copycats emerged and copied all those great sites to bits leaving Panda to do the rest. The sad truth is that giant corporations will be in top 10 of everything very soon…. coincidence?

  30. Alyssa Marie Don Gon

    Good stuff, I look forward to hearing more and staying up with ever-changing G updates.The landscape has changed drastically and it can be quite difficult to keep up on just what is and is not acceptable.

  31. Jitendra

    Your post is excellent and looking forward to get more from you. Clearly for years Google has been sabotaging the foremost vulnerable, why I dont grasp. If its not sabotage they need a workers that produces what seems to be stupid choices. I will ne’er work out their direction.

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