Google is beginning to lose its firm lead in search relevance category and they don’t know what to do about it. They’re in a state of panic. The first sign was the release of the Nofollow tag. Originally created to allow publishers to battle spam on sites with user created content, it was quickly twisted into a tool to improve their algorithm. Google may have some methods of detecting paid links, but they know it isn’t very hard for marketers to figure out how to fly under the radar. They need the webmaster community to help them fix the issue by using nofollow on paid links. We all know about this tactic and it’s been discussed (2005) and debated (yesterday) for many moons. Part two of this specific scramble is the constant FUD about paid links that’s being pushed around by their engineers. They claim to be able to detect paid links, yet they are on a constant campaign to get people to use nofollow and trying to scare web marketers into not buying links. That tells me they aren’t very good at detecting paid links, and they think it’s hurting their relevance.
Part two of the relevance decline was the announcement of the unavailable_after tag. Again a blatant acknowledgment of their algorithm flaws. They can’t determine when a document is no longer relevant and out of date, so they’re asking the webmaster community to help them fix it. Let’s expand on this idiotic tag for a moment…
On the Google blog and elsewhere, people were all so excited about this new tag, claiming it would do wonderful things by allowing them more control over what pages are indexed. What a mind-fuck Google brainwash. One example given was running a promotion of some kind that would expire on a certain date. So, here I am selling widgets and I have this great promotion on “Super Human Green Widgets”. It’s an unheard of promotion and generates a ton of buzz in the widget community. I get loads of links (editorial links naturally) pointing to my promo page. After the promo I’m just going to have Google remove that page and lose all that link juice? You’d have to be insane to do something like that. 301 redirect that page to your normal super human green widget page and keep all the value you gained from running the promotion.
Part two of this nonsense tag is your competition. You really want to take your pages out of the index leaving the space open for your competitors who aren’t using this tag? If those outdated pages are ranking well, update the page, send them manually to a more relevant page, or 301 the page so you keep the value of those links. Using the unavailable_after tag is just plain stupid and a sneaky ploy by Google to get you to do their job.
Let’s summarize. This comes straight from the Google Webmaster Guidlines: “Make pages for users, not for search engines.” What it needs to say is “Make pages for users, not for search engines (unless we need help fixing our crappy results! If you need help, buy AdWords!).” Everyone stay the course and go buy some links.