Cripes, I’m getting tired of everybody running around screaming like their hair is on fire every time Google does an algorithm update.
In case you’ve somehow missed the uproar over the last couple of days, Google has done another algorithm update that has shaken up the results quite drastically.
There are a few examples of “problem” search terms that seem to be making the rounds.
One is the search phrase “bicycle wheels”. It’s bringing up this site in the top 10 (currently at #5 for me):
Here’s what the site looks like:
A lot of people are saying this site shouldn’t be ranked high because it screams “amateur” and doesn’t create a sense of trust with the visitor.
Sure, it looks like something straight out of 1995 but you know what else? It’s full of helpful content. And the guy who created it was an authority in the field (he passed away in 2008). In fact, here’s his Wikipedia page:
That seems to me like it’s just the type of site that should be ranking in the top results. And I’m not the only one who feels that way – Mark Thompson posted a bit of a rant to his blog today too – The Hypocrisy of Internet Marketers – Rant!
Another search that’s getting a lot of press is “make money online”. At the moment, for me at least, this is the site that is coming up at position #1:
Here’s what you see when you visit that site:
Yup, no content at all. Just a headline “make” and “No posts” as the content.
Seems like a bad result to return as number one, doesn’t it?
Well, let’s look at it a little closer. Here’s the Archive.org “Wayback Machine” archive of the site:
There aren’t a lot of archive entries, but as you can see they go back as far as 2007. Which means that site has been around at least that long. And picking one from 2008, here’s what was on the site then:
The more recent entries (July 2011) look like they are mainly linking back to older articles, but most of them aren’t indexed in the archive so it’s hard to tell for sure.
One of them worked though, and it’s a long article with good content, and you know what else it has?
Yes, 141 comments which on a quick scan look like they’re actual comments, not a bunch of people looking for backlinks.
The blog also has a lot of backlinks pointing at it. I didn’t go through them in depth, so I don’t know if there are any of particular value, but it looks like there has been a fair bit of promotion done over the years.
You know, after poking around the blog for a few minutes I swear I’ve seen it before, or at least heard of the guy who wrote it – he goes by “Grizzly” on these archived posts. I did a quick search and didn’t find anything, but I have a niggling feeling that this site – or another one by the same person – was reasonably popular at one time (if you know more about the specifics, I’d love to have this question answered so leave a comment!)
There aren’t any recent archive entries, so it’s hard to know when the site got wiped clean, but for all I know it was just a few days ago. In which case Google might not have updated the site’s ranking according to the lack of content yet.
Sure, it might be a glaring hole in Google’s new updated algorithm but it might also be an anomaly. And even if it is a hole, I’d like to see 20 or 30 more examples of blank pages ranking for competitive keywords. One example is hardly proof of anything.
These updates always create a big uproar when they happen. People’s websites drop out of sight in Google, weird things show up in the top results and everybody runs around crying that Google is out to get them.
In fact I saw a post on one forum this morning that went something like this:
Since joining a popular link service a few years ago I’ve been ranking well and now my site is nowhere to be found. Thanks Big G.
Google has always been clear that they don’t like linking “schemes” that are meant to manipulate their results. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, and you sure as heck shouldn’t act like they’re out to get you when it happens.
But here’s the bottom line as far as I’m concerned…
Google doesn’t exist to help us get traffic to our sites. They don’t care one bit about the webmasters of the sites in their results. I don’t believe they even care about their searchers, beyond caring whether they actually use Google or not. The only people they really care about are their advertisers.
They’re a money-making business, and they make their money by selling advertising. Whatever gets them more revenue is what they ultimately care about. They need to maintain reasonably good results to ensure their users don’t jump ship, but beyond that it’s all about the revenue.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, most of the people complaining about their sites getting hit by these updates are mad because they’re making less money as a result. They can’t very well turn around and criticize Google for wanting the same thing as them – more revenue.
Here’s a question for you – who do you think Google’s customers are?
There are basically three potential answers – website owners, searchers or advertisers. I think it’s pretty clear that the only answer that makes any sense is advertisers. That’s who Google cares about, and even then they really only care if you’re big enough. Plenty of smaller advertisers get the boot, just like website owners.
The next logical question is really the scary one – what is Google selling to their customers? I hate to tell you this, but they’re selling you and your content. They scrape your websites and put your content in their results and they sell advertising based on your personal data, which they collect through all their various “free” services like Gmail and Google Docs.
But that’s a post for another day…
The only way to stay ahead of Google’s changes is to have other sources of traffic to your site. Social media, paid ads, your email list – there are lots of options. When you diversify your traffic sources, suddenly Google becomes a lot less important to you and these updates don’t matter so much.
But as long as Google is your primary source of traffic, you’re never going to get off this ranking roller coaster.
So what do you think about this whole thing? Am I out to lunch and Google is actively trying to screw us all? Is this another tempest in a teapot? Will Indy live to fight another day? (Wait, sorry – wrong post…)
Let me know what you think in the comments.