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February 26, 2011

Google changes algorithms to favour high quality sites

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by Darren Allan

Google has announced that it’s altering the algorithms by which its search engine prioritises returned results.

Naturally enough, Google is always tweaking its search processes, but this change is big enough to get an official announcement on the engine’s official blog page.

Google says the change will noticeably impact over 10% of queries, although we won’t be noticing anything over here in the UK just yet, as it’s a US-only measure currently.

The update is expected to be rolled out globally soon, and it’s designed to push low quality sites (content farms that spam out a mass of articles) further down the Google rankings.

At the same time, sites which carry higher quality original content will be pushed further up the Google food chain.

Google also reckons the switch correlates with user feedback the company has received using the Personal Blocklist extension for Chrome. Comparing the data gathered on blocked sites, the new algorithm tuning tackles 84% of the top 30 or so most-blocked domains.

Google notes that the search engine update hasn’t used this data, but merely correlates with it.

The company wrote on its blog: “We’re very excited about this new ranking improvement because we believe it’s a big step in the right direction of helping people find ever higher quality in our results.”

“We’ve been tackling these issues for more than a year, and working on this specific change for the past few months. And we’re working on many more updates that we believe will substantially improve the quality of the pages in our results.”

Early reaction from US sites who have tested the new search scheme indicate that it has a tangible effect on results.

Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, conducted a test run on searches for “drywall dust” and concluded the results returned were superior under the new algorithm.

He used a proxy server to access the old Google results as if he was abroad, which returned six sites he judged to be content farms (well, one was “content farm-like”).

On the freshly-tuned American Google results, only one of these sites was highlighted on the first page. The majority of sites returned instead were forums offering advice.

Hopefully he got his drywall dust problem sorted, too.

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