Google moves to shuffle down low-quality sites

A change to its algorithm should push websites with dim content down further in results

Google has made a significant change to its search engine that will push further down in its rankings websites that pilfer content from other places on the Internet or do not offer high-quality information, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

The changes to its algorithms impact 11.8 per cent of all queries, a significant change considering most people barely notice incremental changes the company makes. Initially, the change only applies to Google users in the U.S. but the company said it plans to roll it out further.

"We believe it's a big step in the right direction of helping people find ever higher quality in our results," wrote Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, and Matt Cutts, a principal engineer. "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."

Many websites will cut portions of, for example, news articles with a small summary, which is usually cut directly from the story. The publisher of the site may offer little or no original content, but the sites can rise in the search rankings.

Other websites known as content farms may generate more original content, but it tends to be lower quality. Nonetheless, the websites do rise in Google's rankings but may force better content further down. Additionally, most people who search for something rarely go beyond the first page of results.

Google said it did not adjust it algorithm on the basis of a newly launched product called Personal Blocklist, an add-on for the company's Chrome browser that filters out domains a user doesn't want to see in their search results.

However, Google found that the changes to the algorithm affected 84 per cent of those blocked domains "which is strong independent confirmation of the user benefits," Singhal and Cutts wrote.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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