Feeds

Full-up Google choking on web spam?

Buddy, can you spare a server?

Security for virtualized datacentres

Webmasters have been seething at Google since it introduced its 'Big Daddy' update in January, the biggest revision to the way its search engine operates for years.

Alarm usually accompanies changes to Google's algorithms, as the new rankings can cause websites to be demoted, or disappear entirely. But four months on from the introduction of "Big Daddy," it's clear that the problem is more serious than any previous revision - and it's getting worse.

Webmasters now report sites not being crawled for weeks, with Google SERPS (search engine results pages) returning old pages, and failing to return results for phrases that used to bear fruitful results.

"Some sites have lost 99 per cent of their indexed pages," reports one member of the Webmaster World forum. "Many cache dates go back to 2004 January." Others report long-extinct pages showing up as "Supplemental Results."

This thread is typical of the problems.

With creating junk web pages is so cheap and easy to do, Google is engaged in an arms race with search engine optimizers. Each innovation designed to bring clarity to the web, such as tagging, is rapidly exploited by spammers or site owners wishing to harvest some classified advertising revenue.

Recently, we featured a software tool that can create 100 Blogger weblogs in 24 minutes, called Blog Mass Installer. A subterranean industry of sites providing "private label articles," or PLAs exists to flesh out "content" for these freshly minted sites. And as a result, legitimate sites are often caught in the cross fire.

But the new algorithms may not be solely to blame. Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt has hinted at another reason for the recent chaos. In Google's earnings conference call last month, Schmidt was frank about the extent of the problem.

"Those machines are full," he said. "We have a huge machine crisis."

And there's at least some anecdotal evidence to support the theory that hardware limitations are to blame.

"The issue I have now is Googlebot is SLAMMING my sites since last week, but none of it makes it into the index. If it's old pages being re-indexed or new pages for the first page, they don't show up," writes one webmaster.

The confusion has several consequences which we've rarely seen discussed outside web circles.

Giving Google the benefit of the doubt, and assuming the changes are intentional, one webmaster writes: "In which case Google's index, and hence effectively 'the Web as most people know it' is set to become a whole lot smaller in the coming weeks."

It's barely more than a year since Yahoo! and Google were engaged in a willy-waving exercise to claim who had the largest index. (See My spam-filled search index is bigger than yours!)

Now size, it seems, doesn't matter.

There's also the intriguing question raised by search engines that are unable to distinguished between nefarious sites and legitimate SEO (search engine optimization) techniques? The search engines can't, we now know, blacklist a range of well-establish techniques without causing chaos. In future, will the search engines need to code for backward bug compatibility?

And lingering in the background is the question of whether the explosion of junk content - estimates put robot-generated spam consists of anywhere between one-fifth and one-third of the Google index - can be tamed?

"At this rate," writes one poster on the Google Sitemaps Usenet group, in a year the SERPS will be nothing but Amazon affiliates, Ebay auctions, and Wiki clones.  Those sites don't seem to be affected one bit by supplemental hell, 301s, and now deindexing."

With $8 billion in the bank, Google is better resourced and more focussed than anyone - but it's still struggling. Financial analysts noted that its R&D expenditure now matches that of a wireline telco.

Only a cynic would suggest that poor SERPs drive desperate businesses to the search engines own classified ad departments - so if you want to play, you have to pay. Banish that unworthy thought at once.

(Thanks to Isham Research's Phil Payne for the tip).®

Bootnote: Something called OneWebDay - we're not kidding - is encouraging you to celebrate the web with a "special hand signal - you extend your middle three fingers and have your thumb and little finger touch in a circle. Not the gesture many webmasters are making this week.

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.