Dear Google Gods, Matt Cutts, et al,
I have a situation. Google keeps giving me the craziest results in their search engine…..
The Google Gods keep talking about updating their algorithms to weed out low quality content in an effort to deliver the highest level of quality content to their customers, yet somehow the craziest stuff keeps showing up in my search results. Low quality, well-funded sites have gamed their way to the top of Google’s Page-Rank and have mucked up the interwebs with worthless, mediocre drivel that keeps getting delivered to me as “news”.
In short, for all the nerd power Silicon Valley can muster they still have not created an algorithm that recognizes quality and penalizes rubbish.
Let me share my personal experience….
Admittedly I spend an excessive amount of time surfing the web looking for information on my favorite D-List celebrities. It is a guilty pleasure of mine and it’s why I started this website–because I wanted a place that I could go to to find the actual nuggets of intel sans all the garbage. So I am not just looking for stories. I am a fan and am scouring the interwebs for nuggets of info on these characters–real nuggets, not information about a character contemplating getting bangs or adopting a puppy.
So long story short, I get exasperated when I Google and I get the exact same non-stories again and again and again by the same sites.
Talk about “content fatigue”!
Recently I decided to try “Google News” instead of “Google web” thinking the quality would be much higher, but I was dead wrong.
As an example, I Googled “Emily Maynard” since she recently got engaged to see if there were any updates on her upcoming wedding. I clicked “News” and the top 3 stories were all Wetpaint—exactly who I was trying to avoid!
And the thing about Wetpaint is that they are a content sweatshop pumping out non-stories all day long just to get key words in the search engine, but for every 99 non-stories they print they always have 1 actual story. So of course I have to click on the seductive headlines in the tiny off chance it may be a real story.
But lemme show you what shows up in the top of the “Google News” cue.
Ok so click on story one…”Major life decision….” and it’s a story about whether or not she should get “bangs”–no joke. This is what passes for “news”.
Then click on the # 2 story. It looks like Emily has decided to adopt a baby boy. Click…”her and her fiancé have adopted a puppy”
Do you wanna guess what the 3rd one was? They are outsourcing “wedding bands”?
It’s pretty easy once you get Wetpaint’s strategy. Emily sent a tweet asking if anyone knew of any good ”wedding bands” as in music.
I’m sorry Google. That is NOT a news story. This is a non-story.
And I get it occasionally we all find something on Twitter and write about it but we do not mislead readers with a bait and switch headline. They know darn well “wedding bands” alludes to rings which is what everyone is googling. No one really gives a darn about what music band they will hire.
Here’s the switch:
And I’m sure Wetpaint’s response will be “well we are just being cute and funny and self-deprecating”…Ok fine, but let people KNOW you are just being cute and funny before they click and get barraged with ads. Tell them in the headline the “major life decision” is bangs. Tell them in the headline the “baby boy” is a dog!
This is downright manipulative. They know what people are looking for in the search engines and write a headline accordingly. But the headline is intentionally misleading. It is intended to get you to click. PERIOD.
And Wetpaint continues to monopolize search engine results thanks to some primo proprietary software that allows them to know exactly what words the public is searching.
The bottom line is that if Google wants to get rid of the bottom feeders and unclog their indexing machine it has to stop rewarding them. They wouldn’t keep doing this unless it was profitable.
Some ideas for Google:
1: Penalize highly monetized sites. Sites that are monetized to the hilt are likely bottom-feeders. They are clearly designed for one thing — MONEY. I’m sure someone can show me an exception, but by and large they are assembly lines pumping out content just to get clicks. Sites that do not overly monetize are likely much more concerned with the user experience. I know Google supposedly is punishing sites with top heavy ads but I still get those sites at the top of my results. TheHeavy.com is a good example of a top heavy site still at the top of the cue.
In my opinion Google is way too easy on these ad whores. They haven’t done anything to punish in text ad links (that is an excellent indicator that a site is not concerned with high quality content). They also have done nothing to punish the sites that force you to watch a 20 second video before you can read anything. I’m not referring to Youtube. I’m talking about sites like Radaronline.com. It’s not fair to force me to watch a 20 second video before I can even read a few sentences to know if the article is even what I am looking for or not.
Again if Google starts punishing this parasitic behavior sites will change and will deliver a better quality experience to users.
2: Reward the sites that publish the story first. I know this could get tricky because Wetpaint will swoop in with headlines like the one about Emily Maynard adopting a baby boy so that should Emily ever adopt a real child they will look like they broke the story first so I don’t know but this is a good one to work on. Google needs to reward creativity and innovation not big sites who operate like an assembly line.
We came up with the idea to research the ethnic backgrounds of the D-list celebrities because we were interested in it. We had no idea if anyone else would care. But the posts blew up and the second they did they were copied by Wetpaint and the big search engines and we were banished to the bottom by Google. So now WP ALWAYS does the story on the ethnic backgrounds which they never did before us.
3: Ditch the social media sharing idea!!…WAY too easy to manipulate Google!!! These multi-million dollar companies like Wetpaint and the Examiner have been paying people full time to tweet for years! They have acquired huge numbers on Twitter just by virtue of manpower. Plus they have “networks” and tons of people on staff to “retweet”.
Check out this amazing offer from an Examiner writer. This shows you how easy it is to get your stuff shared on social media for a few bucks.
“—–Original Message—– From: [EXAMINER WRITER] Sent: Wednesday, July 03, 2013 1:10 PM To:
Hi I could post this for you if you write me 250-300 words with pics (I can take up to 20) beginning with the line:
“San Francisco world travelers heading for (your place) should be sure to check out….(continue with rest of your piece)
It CANNOT be a press release word for word and it cannot be found anywhere else on the web or my account will be deleted.
There should be no mention of the word “Our”, e.g. “Check out our local fall colors” should be “Check out the local fall colors in the region.” The mention of “our” makes it sound like a press release written by the local tourist board and that is a huge ‘no, no.’
Photos must not be larger than 512KB. I need at least 5 and up to 20 works.
The piece will remain online for as long as you want it to, even indefinitely if you want that. An editorial mention like this can increase bookings and sales and make you more money.
My fee for this is just $29 (or a press trip or a product sample), payable to [REMOVED] . For an additional fee of only $10 (recommended) I can post it out on my social media sites. This will reach over 300,00 people on Twitter, Facebook, Stumble Upon, Google Plus, Gather.com and Pingler.com. Total for this would be $39. Social media is a great way to get the word out – and we do all the posting for you so you don’t have to and can, instead. get back to your core business!
I am happy to accept Paypal [removed] (Paypal charges an additional $5 fee so please add that in).
You think this is an anomaly? Oh no, I’m sure these writers are pimping out their services all over the place. The Examiner has 1000s of writers around the country.
I know Google will say “yeah, but a small percentage of sites will affect ranking that way”…NOPE, nope, nope. Look at Twitter…have you seen all the product pimping of every A,B,C,D and even E list celebrity? Yes, you can pay E list celebs to tweet your posts to their 1000s of fans. It’s easy. This will be an epic disaster. Just ABORT now.
4: Pay attention to how much time people spend on posts. Sites who keep readers engaged for long periods of time should be rewarded (although I can already see the big guys manipulating this as well…I’m sure you will be able to pay a company to get people to read posts, but this still may be a place to start.)
5: Assign a team to examine big sites with high ranks. It is worth your time and energy to assign your staff to re-review the BIG sites like Wetpaint and The Examiner on all their niches because some niches may be covered better than others and determine if they have really earned their sky-high page-rank. Think of it like a college course. If someone submitted one of these articles for a grade what would you give it?
Because I swear I would give their articles D’s and F’s. Does the article answer the basics…”who?, where?, what?, why?, how?” I swore the first time I read an article on The Examiner website that the author was drunk when they wrote it. I thought it had to be an anomaly but oh no, it was standard operating procedure.
Did I mention how much I hate The Examiner? Seriously Google. They get like 60 million hits a month for producing this garbage. It’s bad and worth your time to audit them.
Obviously you can’t review every site on the internet but the sites who get millions of hits a month should be reviewed by actual humans to see if they are delivering real quality. It’s time for Google to do an audit and clean house.
The Epic Challenge for Google
I was thinking the other night about the momentous challenge Google has on their hands weeding through copious amounts of shoddy, vapid content stuffed with search terms, sans any intrinsic value. I was thinking about all the internet content farms that pump out 1000s of posts a day engineered to game the Google gods and achieve top ranking with minimal effort. I get that this is a daunting and ambitious task.
But Google must address this, because these sites have found loopholes in the algorithm and ways to trick Google into thinking they are serving high quality content. As a result they have become highly profitable and thus continue to grow exponentially, jamming the Google engine with an tsunami of lackluster content that always seems to show up at the top of their searches and frustrates and infuriates web surfers.
The trajectory of this behavior will be disastrous! Imagine how much content we will have a year from now–10 years from now, if you continue to reward bad behavior. And for all your ideas about how to gauge quality content they have ways to get around it and manipulate it.
You have to attack the big guys now before they get even bigger and you have to start thinking like these bottom-feeders.
I’m not talking about sites like Us magazine or TMZ or even the Enquirer for the love of God! I mean these content farms make the Enquirer look like a Pulitzer prize winner. You have to attack the sites that follow the same aggregator content-farming model–the sites who hire writers like day-laborers–writers with zero experience or education in journalism, sites that don’t edit their work before they publish, sites that plagiarize regularly and that erroneously give authority links to their “partners”.
I know you went after DemandMedia and that is great but it’s not good enough. There are a lot more sites who follow an identical model that are passing as high quality. You are being way too timid and naïve with these new algorithms.
And you have to be hard on them and make an example of them so they will change their behavior. They will hem and haw and talk about how they are being unfairly penalized. No, they have been unfairly rewarded for years. They are just being properly rewarded now. All of your big Penguin and Panda changes have done little to change behavior. Those updates affected a tiny percentage of search results when Google needs to start flipping tables over. They need a much bigger gesture to show that it is serious about delivering quality and fixing this situation!