Google promises searchers less spam, fewer content-farm results
If you've been searching for a sign that Google recognizes that its search results don't always steer you right, look no further. Search engineer Matt Cutts posted a note to the Mountain View, Calif., company's official blog on Friday that acknowledged problems with its results and pledged improvements.
Cutts wrote that while Google has done a good job in scrubbing what he called "pure webspam" -- completely irrelevant links -- out of its results, more subtle junk has been sneaking in. To deal with that, Google is adjusting its search algorithms to screen out such offenses as outbreaks of spammy content on isolated pages and sites that employ plagiarism to boost their visibility:
To respond to that challenge, we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly. The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words -- the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments. We've also radically improved our ability to detect hacked sites, which were a major source of spam in 2010. And we're evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others' content and sites with low levels of original content.
Those should be comforting words to Web authors who have complained about seeing their work pushed down in Google's results by sites that reproduce it with minimal or no changes. But they may also provoke further arguments that by exercising editorial discretion, Google does not provide "neutral" results.
I suspect some of those complaints will come from sites that stand to lose from another set of changes forecast by Cutts. Toward the end of the post, he notes that Google users don't appreciate seeing the low-quality, information-poor fare of "content farm" sites that mass-produce articles to match up with search queries. You could call their output the fast food of the Web. But fast food is still made for people, while content farms target not humans but Google's search algorithm.
Cutts promises unspecified action to deal with these sites:
Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content. We take pride in Google search and strive to make each and every search perfect.
One of the best-known sites in that category, Demand Media, is supposed to launch its initial public offering next week, and the prospect of its content dropping out of top search results could make many potential investors nervous.
Just how much work does Google have to do in upgrading its search results? You tell me: Take the poll, then explain your choice in the comments.
| January 21, 2011; 5:11 PM ET
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