Google Is Losing Its Grip On Relevance

by TheMadHat on August 23, 2007

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 They can’t determine when a document is no longer relevant and out of date, so they’re asking the webmaster community to help them fix it.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 If those outdated pages are ranking well, update the page, send them manually to a more relevant page, or 301 the page so you keep the value of those links.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.

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{ 14 comments }

Jake Matthews August 24, 2007 at 8:28 am

Agreed all around. From the 10,000 foot view, the results quality and relevance is declining…

TheMadHat August 24, 2007 at 9:28 am

Hey Jake, thanks for your comment. I don’t think everyone is aware of what’s happening. It’s apparent Google is making desperate moves to keep ahead of spammers but they seem to be losing.

Michael Repplinger August 25, 2007 at 6:16 am

yes, Google is becoming progressibely worse. Most people by now accept that you cannot simply search for an arbitrary term if this term has also some commercial value.

then again, no other search engine that I know of handles things better, so maybe it’s not Google getting worse (or not trying hard), but the sad truth might rather be that business interests are outrunning other interest on the internet.

TheMadHat August 25, 2007 at 8:15 pm

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Michael. Google isn’t scaling fast enough to control the business interests except for the business of itself making money!

CatherineL August 27, 2007 at 2:37 pm

I used to think Google were serious about improving content quality on the Internet, but now I’m not so sure.

They get nearly all their revenue from ads, so it would be more worthwhile for them to show less useful organic content, and sign up more Adwords advertisers.

I noticed they’re even trying to get people to visit local area business and sign them up for Adwords – paying them peanuts of course.

How long will it be before we’ll see the first ten pages of a search being all sponsored ads?

TheMadHat August 27, 2007 at 2:58 pm

I think they still want to increase the quality in their results, I just think they want to play on both sides of the fence. They do get nearly all of their revenue from ads, but remember that if the organic results are bad, people will use other engines resulting in fewer ad clicks.

The takeaway from this post is that Google is either getting lazy or just doesn’t know what to do to both improve results and battle spam. They are trying to get the webmaster community to do their jobs for them with these “unavailable_after” and “nofollow” tags.

As for the local thing, I thought that was for getting listed in Google Local and not Adwords, but I could be mistaken.

InternetZing August 30, 2007 at 11:40 am

Paid links work and webmasters know it, and google knows it. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a huge market for them, even for the ones that just pass page rank.

And what is a webmaster to do? Put nofollow on paid links, but then 90% of the other webmasters won’t or don’t (many don’t even know what nofollow is)? Yeah, THAT’S going to happen…

TheMadHat August 30, 2007 at 12:55 pm

That’s the thing, Google wants webmasters to intentionally hurt themselves and their business just to improve their algorithm. And unavailable_after is a joke too. Even if everyone who had ever heard of nofollow complied it’s not a large enough percentage to improve anything. Paid links are always going to be around and will be until Google figures out a way to rank pages based on something other than PageRank. Which I find it difficult to believe they will do anytime soon.

Thanks for stopping in InternetZing!

InternetZing August 30, 2007 at 4:31 pm

> Paid links are always going to be around and will be until Google figures out a way to rank pages based on something other than PageRank. Which I find it difficult to believe they will do anytime soon.

Well, they could take a step in the right direction by not showing toolbar page rank. I think it means very little to most people and webmasters use it as a gage to buy and sell links, sometimes without consideration to any othe factors (traffic, relevance, etc).

This page rank update is taking forever, so I hope they didn’t do this already (I’m a webmaster filled with much noobishness; I could use the crutch for about another 6 months…).

> Thanks for stopping in InternetZing!

NP. BTW – like the hat.

TheMadHat August 30, 2007 at 4:53 pm

“Well, they could take a step in the right direction by not showing toolbar page rank.”

You’re right in a sense. Google initially created the marketplace by creating the PR bar. Myself and a lot of other webmasters don’t pay much attention to it anymore (unless for some reason it’s blank, then panic can begin).

You’re right about the PR update I think. I haven’t seen movement in a long time, but then again I’m not really paying attention.

PS: Everybody started out with a lot of noobness but you’re ramping up quickly! I like the Zing too, it adds zingyness :)

Prechha Narongthai December 12, 2007 at 3:07 am

Thank you for sharing. I would say they could take a step in the right direction by not showing toolbar page rank. I think it means very little to most people and webmasters use it as a gage to buy and sell links.

cctv February 16, 2008 at 11:45 am

That is great. Thank you very much for sharing. You know Google initially created the marketplace by creating the PR bar. Myself and a lot of other webmasters don’t pay much attention to it anymore.

David Jonata February 18, 2008 at 10:25 pm

That is right. You know paid links are always going to be around and will be until Google figures out a way to rank pages based on something other than PageRank.

Nai March 29, 2008 at 10:25 am

I can see where you’re writing from and I do agree on many of your arguments. It’s natural for Google to protect their most precious system (pagerank) because their very existence depends on it.

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