Google red cards Privila for gaming search engine
Articles of bad faith?
Google has removed Privila sites from its index after the firm was caught attempting to hoodwink the search engine giant.
Chicago-based Privila has built "portals" designed to have relatively high search engine ranking scores while presenting nothing but ads. The firm's modus operandi involves buying sites after the original owner forgets to renew a registration.
Examples in the network include wallofdove.com, previously owned by a stoner metal band called Dove; bustem.com, the one-time website of a brand-protection outfit; sailjworld.com, the former home of a Maryland sailing school; and soccerlove.com.
Privila fills these bought-in sites with custom-written material, generated by unpaid interns. These articles are strangely worded affairs, distorted so as to include the maximum number of keywords. Each site on the network contains a score of "articles" each around the 600 words mark.
These sites are promoted by link exchange spam. But following a recent refinement in the technique users who visit these sites will see nothing but banner ads, created by unpaid graphics interns, unless they set their browser’s user-agent to match that of Google’s spider. By dropping the "articles", Privila was able to fit in even more ads.
The ruse came to light after researchers at Cambridge University's Computer Lab received a link invitation spam email from a Privila-run site. Steven Murdoch of Cambridge Uni discovered 329 websites in the Privila network after he investigated the business model behind spam emails unwisely sent to his colleague, Richard Clayton.
"Curiously, the Windows Live Search, and Yahoo! spiders are presented with an almost empty page: just a header but neither adverts nor articles," Murdoch writes.
Google purged Privila sites from its index on 8 March, a day after Murdoch wrote about the scam on Cambridge University's Light the Blue Touchpaper blog. The sites remain unavailable.
We dropped Privila an email to get its take on the matters, but we're yet to hear back from the firm. ®
It's Light Blue Touchpaper, which neatly combines the Cambridge colour and the imperative for igniting a firework. Light The Blue Touchpaper doesn't work half as well!
I don't see why people object to Google choosing to drop, block, suppress or otherwise inconvenience a spammer.
My own experiences have led me to dread searching for anything mainstream, particularly if I'm in a hurry, simply because I seem to be a magnet for these sites. I am fed up of wanting an answer and instead having a pile of ads, another search site, or whatever thrown at me, and if Google can get rid of the blatant trash, I'm happy.
I freely admit to being a firm disciple of Google, although I am wary of them deciding to be evil after all, but even after dropping my biased viewpoint, I can't see a downside to them blocking this stuff.
What's the problem?
All good search engines will filter and rank results. There's a lot of crap out there. Generally speaking they will try to present the most relevant results first - and Google never claimed, as far as I know, that they would present absolutely everything on the web that could imaginably match your query, so some potential results will be missed out for a wide range of reasons.
Also, all search engines will occasionally index crap and present it as a relevant result, especially if it has been crafted to suck in the search engine. This crap might stay indexed and be presented as a relevant result for a while - this doesn't necessarily mean Google are deliberately indexing it for the ad revenues (though I don't have all the facts and I wouldn't entirely rule it out). It could just be that nobody noticed for 6 months.
I'm not a big Google fan and have some doubts about their data retention, but let's not overdo the Google-bashing here. This is not exactly the most evil thing they do. Also, if we all move over en-masse to bashing Google, who's going to carry on the good work of bashing MS? :)