Saturday, February 26, 2011

Google Algorithms Modified to Sift out Dreck

Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms, hundreds of times a year, but most changes are so subtle that users cannot notice any changes. About 4 or 5 times a year, there will be a change that is large enough that users might notice. And this current change is actually being announced... That's because Google is running press conferences and blog posts about it. They wanted to improve Google's ability to rank the “best” websites. The Google engineers spent about a year trying to come up with a way to judge what makes a website high quality. Google defines quality as providing new, original content, as opposed to “content farms,” which produce lots of articles to draw readers to see ads, but may not actually have much useful or original content. I would be happy to have better results, with less of the website that you go to and find it's obviously set up just to trick you into visiting to notch up the “eyeball count.”

Google's Official Blog on February 24, 2011 posted “Finding more high-quality sites in search,” to announce the change.

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.

We can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down. Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.

It’s worth noting that this update does not rely on the feedback we’ve received from thePersonal Blocklist Chrome extension, which we launched last week. However, we did compare the Blocklist data we gathered with the sites identified by our algorithm, and we were very pleased that the preferences our users expressed by using the extension are well represented. If you take the top several dozen or so most-blocked domains from the Chrome extension, then this algorithmic change addresses 84% of them, which is strong independent confirmation of the user benefits.
The Personal Blocklist Chrome extension is a new browser extension for Chrome that allows you to select websites to block so they no longer show up in Google results. From the comments at the site, it does not yet work for Google Image. It's nice to know that this Google tweak takes care of 84% of the sites that users are using the blocker to get rid of.

The article that alerted me to all this, by Barbara Ortutey, an Associated Press writer, but that appeared in the Boston Globe today, “New Google algorithms look for quality,” specifically singles out websites by Demand Media, such as I have actually used a number of eHow articles for various topics, such as how to force narcissus bulbs, and found them to be useful and better than some other websites on the same topic. But I certainly could see that an article on “How to Tie Shoelaces” might be pushing the limits. Basic shoelace tying is not a topic that lends itself well to a website demo, even with a video. The audience tends to be young enough that they need more hand-holding than a website is going to give. Though maybe fancy shoelace arrangements might be a sell – have you seen the shoe laces that go across like a ladder? I'd like to know how to lace those. The point is, that I am not sure that they are banging on the right door with that example, which seems to be Ortutey's idea, not Google's. It does not show up on either Google's Official Blog nor is it named at the Personal Blocklist Chrome site in any comment.

It's important to note that the change is rolling out first in the U.S., and will roll out elsewhere later.

No comments: