I noticed some strange reductions in my web traffic starting on Thursday morning. The small changes I noticed are adding up to big changes for large websites like the Huffington Post. Google's own blog describes the major changes they've made and the reasons behind them.
Specifically, the new algorithm/s are 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."
I have to point up some web language - for example "low-value add". I think this means "worthless" or "of little worth or use."
Even though I had a small amount less traffic for a couple of days, it sounds to me like the algorithm improvements are overall a positive. Check out their rationale:
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.
I think this means that they worked to produce more of the type of results Bing advertises (in those uncomfortable ads - like the Vampire "let's go to dinner" ad - ugh!). I phrased that carefully - because Bing doesn't do what the commercials say. Bing just gives poor results either aimed at the lowest common denominator, or yes - results that look suspiciously like exclusive paid placement. I think the joke's over, but someone advised typing "Bing" into Google's search engine. Here's my favorite result:
Notably, the algorithm change seems to have impacted Demand Media - and other junky content aggregating sites.
From a teaching perspective this is also good news. Students can easily get poor information from content aggregators like "Suite101" and Associated Content. The problem with sites like this is that they are like an internet game of info-"telephone." They are written by free slave labor for the most part, and "you get what you pay for." When poorly-prepared writers are cutting-and-pasting from others' original work, it can produce a lot of the confused, misinformed articles found on content aggregating sites. In certain topics, Wikipedia is bad enough (it's hard to imagine which topics aren't poor - I guess I've seen some strong European history topics and I like the city/county/state-related topics for basic information).
Reportedly, Google's new algorithm is not downgrading the search results for sites with page ranks of 4-8 (this one-person blog has been PR 4 for a couple of years now). As to Wikipedia often showing as the top search result for various people's names, well . . . who knows what's up with that? Onward and upward with the new, healthier web ecosystem. Another excellent article from Number Crunchers about which sites lost search rankings . . . very complete. Looks like it whaled on Technorati, too - a site I've "low-value add" for some time.