Feeds

Full-up Google choking on web spam?

Buddy, can you spare a server?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.