Google Stop The Rot Please

by Barry Welford June 29th, 2010 

Sorry For The Rant

Some may see this post as a rant, and to an extent it is.  However it reflects a feeling I have on many occasions and I am sure many others feel the same.  I will describe the trigger for this rant a little later in the post, but let us explore why anyone might be upset at some of the things that Google does.

Google Irritations

it is going to get worse

It is not difficult to find topics on which Google products generate often strong concerns.  You have for example Google Maps, which is notorious for having incorrect information.  In this part of the continent, the biggest boo-boo was the omission of the Golden Ears Bridge for almost twelve months after it was in operation.  However there are many other errors as can be seen by checking the Help Forum on Google Maps.

Nor are we talking about Google Street View with the privacy concerns that people have raised.  When it comes to even eavesdropping on broadband communications, it is not surprising that strong resentments are raised..

You also can get some off-the-wall products when you allow your engineers to pursue their own passions under that famous 20-percent time rule.

We offer our engineers "20-percent time" so that they are free to work on what they are really passionate about. Google Suggest, AdSense for Content and Orkut are among the many products of this perk.

Google Buzz was one of these frustrating diversions, which has not seemed to attract too many adherents.  This rant is not about one of these peripheral applications but relates instead to the very core of their principal business, Search.

What Is Wrong With Google Search

Google is continually making innovations in the way it displays search results.  One such was universal search where a request for a simple query might produce results not only ifrom regular web pages but also in news and in videos.  More recently it has changed the look of the search results pages quite dramatically with a three column layout.  It also is producing personalized results whereby no two people will necessarily get the same result when they do a keyword.  search.

None of these innovations are particularly irritating and indeed sometimes improve the value to the searcher.  What is irritating about Google search goes to the very heart of its algorithms.

Perhaps one of the three similar e-mails I received today can give you a clue on what is my main beef with Google.  This was the trigger that pushed me to write this post today, but it could have happened on many other days.  It started off as follows:

Dear Sir \ Madam,

We are a Delhi-NCR, India based, and leading web services company with main competency in link building.

We have a dedicated team of 30 professionals to serve you. We build the natural quality and theme based links as one-way or reciprocals links with our manual process. 

We always adopt the ETHICAL LINK building process/white hat technique; also follow the guidelines of Google and major search engine for SEO result.

Website theme doesn't matter for us, we can manage any theme, and currently we are running finance /Education / SEO/ IT/ Computer/ Gift/ law/ insurance/ Arts/ Casinos/ Automotive/Pet/ Travel and site etc.

We strictly work on performance basis and can assure you of getting quality links for your site as well. Our links building service will help to increase the link popularity of your website.

What we are dealing with here are spam messages from self-styled link experts.

The Link Industry

The actions of Google have indeed created a whole new industry.  Many people now believe that the rule for getting higher rankings in Google search results are to have as many links as possible to your website.  To meet this new demand, some webmasters even create web directories to multiply up the linking possibilities.

Given that it is tedious work, a whole new set of link experts have emerged to handle these dissatisfying chores.

How Did Google Create This Link Industry?

This link industry is very much a Google creation, even though they might wish it were not so.  PageRank, which they have promoted strongly as the defining principle of their search approach, is boosted by having more inlinks to a web page.  Unfortunately Google has compounded the problem by being somewhat mysterious about how exactly links may influence PageRank calculations.  They defend their approach by indicating that to reveal too much information could cause some to take actions to ensure that their Web pages rank higher than they deserve, given their content. 

This lack of clarity has had an unfortunate effect.  There is a prevailing view that any link is worth something, provided it does not come from a bad neighborhood.  There are as a result many people who would give credence to the arguments presented in the e-mail message above.  If anything the situation seems to get worse and worse. 

The result is a lose / lose / lose proposition for all.  The search engines have difficulty distilling the useful, original content websites from the hordes of websites created purely to generate extra links.  Reputable SEO advisors are presented with new challenges in trying to persuade their clients that many links do not justify any efforts in trying to establish them.  Thirdly searchers may well find that keyword searches produce less relevant results with this mounting tide of irrelevant rubbish.

Google Should Clean Up Its Mess

Since this intolerable situation has been created by Google, it is not unreasonable that they should attempt to clean up the mess. 

make a mess clean it up

Google maintains an aura of mystery around its methodology so it is difficult for others to comment.  However the following proposal is offered as a way of trying to give a very clear message that this ever increasing plethora of links is valueless and people should spend no time or effort on them.

The key element in the proposal is a two-step process for handling the PageRank component of the Google algorithm.

  • Step 1:  Calculate PageRank for all links as at present.
  • Step 2:  In the Google algorithm, a Modified PageRank should be used.  For all links with a PageRank value below a certain cut-off value, the Modified PageRank would be set at 0.  In effect such links are valueless in terms of PageRank contribution for the algorithm.

Clearly this proposal is made without detailed knowledge of the algorithmic mechanisms that Google is using and so may not be applicable.  However it may be that with such knowledge an alternative approach can be derived that delivers the same effect.  The effect required is that the vast proportion of links have zero value in terms of the algorithm.

In all probability, nothing of value would be lost in this approach.  Authoritative links that had attracted a significant amount of PageRank would not be affected.

Google Should Publicize This New Search Basis Widely

If Google can implement a scheme whereby only authoritative links are taken into account in the algorithm, then this is something that should be publicized strongly.  The effect on search results is also likely to be positive, but the main effect would be the removal of those who attempt to sell massive link building services.

At the same time Google could also stop showing the toolbar PageRank, which seems to have few positive attributes and many negative effects.  This too would help to suppress the linking spam agents.

While it is in a clean-up frame of mind, it might even consider removing the "I'm feeling lucky" button on its classical search page since this is very rarely used by anyone.  However since it seems to be part of the corporate psyche, its removal is perhaps no more likely than Google accepting the main proposal here to deal with spammy links.

Barry Welford

Offering practical, effective ways of strengthening Internet marketing strategy and getting bottom-line success, particularly through local SEO.

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12 Responses to “Google Stop The Rot Please”

  1. AJ Kohn says:

    I agree and have written about this a few times in the past year.

    http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/the-link-bubble

    http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/google-heisenberg-problem

    Google did create the problem and I think they're beginning to address it. They're attacking the type of links you reference – the low value, astroturf type of link generators. Have neutralized these from the algorithm? No. But I think they're making progress.

    I'm more concerned with the bigger players. Folks like Demand Media, who I see less as a content farm and more as a link factory. Bigger enterprises can create processes and networks that drive faux trust and authority, drowning out the real signal.

    How will Google address link factories, or links between parent and subsidiary companies? Or will Google find a different, or better way to measure trust and authority?

    I don't know, but Google should figure it out … and quick.
    .-= AJ Kohn recently posted: Google AJAX Search Results =-.

  2. What about small, new, local sites who would logically mainly get links from other small, local sites? Should their rankings should be based soley on content? Shouldn't such a site with more low-pr links get higher rankings than another, similar site with fewer low-pr links?
    .-= Cathy Reisenwitz recently posted: Add a privacy policy for that extra SEO oomph =-.

  3. Roland says:

    While I think that Google's algo isn't perfect, to think that you somehow hold the magical key that will somehow eliminate spam, paid links, and create a better index is simply absurd.

    Google knows more about the positives and negatives to their approach than you do, and I can guarantee that they deliberate how to improve things on a regular basis.

    Search would be nothing without taking into consideration inbound links, bottom-line. There is currently no other way to determine who ranks. Maybe you have outsmarted the entire Google search team and have a unique idea, probably not.

    Do you even practice real seo?

  4. Thos003 says:

    What you are suggesting is that Google created its own mess…? Not sure that I fully agree. Google tries to set rules to govern their search results. They have said over and over that buying or building artificial links is bad and your site will be penalized for it. Webmasters on the other hand look at the situation and see the sign that says "Sharks. Swim at your own risk." and decide to jump in and take the risk since there is a treasure chest sitting on the ocean floor.

    Can we really blame the government for speeding just because they set a speed limit? Or perhaps the speeding is a result of insufficient police officers to patrol the streets.

    I feel that perhaps it is a group effort. I believe that google is doing the best they can. I am as frustrated as anyone else that links rule the world, but I do see the logic behind it.

    And a little tip from SMX, there are many that are hearing Google's underlying message that directories and content farms are being weeded out.
    .-= Thos003 recently posted: Pest Control Links =-.

  5. Thos003, I don't feel your government example is an exact analogy. It was Google alone that said that inlinks have importance as a measure of the relevance of web pages. By saying that, rather than keeping their finding a trade secret, they caused a major distortion on the way the Internet has developed. It wouldn't matter if they were ASK and had only a minor share of the search market. It becomes catastrophic when they dominate by far the search market. They planted the seeds that would destroy the value of their approach. By now, I think the PageRank approach has little merit. However it's become their key marketing tool and they are unlikely to abandon it. If they did, what distinguishes them from Bing and Yahoo?
    .-= Barry Welford recently posted: Google Duplicate Content And WordPress – An Unresolved Problem =-.

  6. [...] Google Stop The Rot Please – total trifecta! One of my fav blogs, fav peeps and a topic that we've heard a lot of over the years. Google and the world of link spam. Will Google ever get away from the reliance on links? It's says here, YES, to a degree. [...]

  7. [...] Google Stop The Rot Please – total trifecta! One of my fav blogs, fav peeps and a topic that we've heard a lot of over the years. Google and the world of link spam. Will Google ever get away from the reliance on links? It's says here, YES, to a degree. [...]

  8. Yeah, it's a rant. And I agree that it's a mess. I get a dozen emails like that every day and I've learned a long time ago that they aren't worth the paper they'll never be printed on. But the fact is that whatever Google does, these guys will be there, riding their coattails.

    Ironically, I think Google watches more closely those authoritative sites (PR8, PR9, for example) for signs of link-selling.

  9. [...] comment volume is of very little value, most of it is spam.  As we have said before, it is time for Google to stop the rot. Written by Barry [...]