Feeds

Full-up Google choking on web spam?

Buddy, can you spare a server?

Boost IT visibility and business value

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.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
Microsoft: We're making ONE TRUE WINDOWS to rule us all
Enterprise, Windows still power firm's shaky money-maker
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.