Google makes major change to search results

Google has begun rolling out a major change to its search engine to improve the quality of its search results, including Google News. Low quality sites are being targeted primarily because they are “farming” news to ramp up site traffic and consequently drive their own search rankings.  News aggregation services (of which Google News is arguably the largest) will not be affected by this, but just in the last few hours we have seen (on US and UK Google) new, relatively high-quality content being removed from Google News (not Web search) from websites that have rich and site-relevant content.

This leads us to believe the move by Google isn’t just about removing the “farming” search results. It appears Google also wants to remove “copy content”, but this is surely going to harm the core of what the web stands for – everyone should have access to as wider a breadth of information if they can find it. Isn’t the social web about “sharing” too?

I understand the concerns with black hat SEO (not forgetting grey SEO i.e. those that have genuine use but are subject to unethical SEO practice by webmasters), but how do you distinguish “copy content” from genuine, well-referenced news? If one site writes the story, only that site will have the ‘exclusive’; more in-depth analysis and opinion that follows – inevitably because it takes more time to compile – will surely fall behind in the rankings. What next – will we have to pay for it? We see this happening already with online newspapers. How many of you pay for this? What if you use the news aggregator service of a reputable news provider and they don’t carry that news story – how will you ever know the news?

Seven years ago I discussed at an event the two-tiered Internet whereby one tier offered “premium content search” and the other “standard content search”. The premium content would also be delivered across a ‘clean’ from malicious file Internet. I have one eye on the Stanford University Clean Slate project: If you are interested in learning where the Internet may be going, this is an interesting read.

Safe surfing folks!

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