SAN FRANCISCO, 27 FEBRUARY 2011 - Move along folks. Nothing to see here.
The Web seems to be in some sort of an uproar over Google's recent changes to search results. The so-called "war on content farms", is really just business as usual, though. It is not the first time that Google has tweaked its algorithm, and it won't be the last.
Trust me. I have been a slave to the whims of Google searches for about eight years now. Ever since I began writing as the About.com guide for Internet and Network Security, I have been compensated at least in part based on the amount of traffic generated by my writing. And, at least once a year during those eight years there has been some sort of change or update to the Google algorithm which has led to plummeting traffic...at least for a while.
There didn't seem to be nearly the backlash or outcry a couple months ago when Google tweaked the algorithm to weed out bad businesses. Apparently, it is OK to filter out businesses that try to game the system with negative feedback, but it is not OK to filter out websites that try to game the system with repetitive content that doesn't provide any unique value for Google users.
In the last quarter of last year, my traffic plunged to a fraction of what it had been. My PCWorld posts--which generally get indexed by Google News and garner at least some attention on the Google News Sci/Tech page--were virtually non-existent to Google. Various parties worked diligently to try and identify the root cause and make corrections, but nothing seemed to work.
It got to the point where I began to craft conspiracy theories that Google had somehow black-balled me because I wrote unkindly about the search giant. Thankfully, an issue was finally identified and resolved before I graduated to full-on tinfoil hat status. Now my posts are no longer invisible to Google.
And that brings me to the moral of the story. Google doesn't exist to generate traffic for me--or for the content farm sites on the Web. Google exists first and foremost to generate ad revenue and create profit for its shareholders. Its secondary purpose--which drives the primary one--is to provide value for users. The more you focus on delivering value for users as well, the better your sites will perform on Google search results and everyone will be happy.
Rest assured, though--Google will continue to update, tweak, and improve the search algorithm to adjust to changing business needs, technologies, and the evolution of the Web. Your site that is ranked so highly today may not even show up in search results next month, but if it provides reasonable value it will bounce back eventually.
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