Inside Opinion

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Tag: webspam

Feb.
26th

A small victory against the info-parasites of the Web

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There are horses on the Web, and there are ticks. Google last week made life a little harder for the ticks.

The world-dominant search engine announced Thursday that it had overhauled its algorithm – the way it processes queries – to brush more of the parasites out of its search results. This is a small victory in a much larger war.

People who use Google – and that means the vast majority of people online – have been plagued by junk websites that muscle their way ahead of genuinely informative ones.

Search for a doctor, and you may wind up on an ad-saturated site that merely scraped the doctor’s name off some other site – and doesn’t tell you anything you need to know. Hit after hit provides similar results. If you’re lucky, somewhere far down the list is the actual website of the clinic.

Results like that get frustrating in a hurry. Nor are they accidental. Large, highly profitable companies exist solely to game Google’s algorithm and place content-free, auto-generated pages at the top of the hit parade.

Demand Media, for example, has struck it rich tricking Google into putting eHow and similarly skimpy sites on the first page of a search.

But even Demand Media looks good compared to outfits that assemble text almost at random to generate as many key words as possible. Your search terms lead you to the site and there’s nothing real there – except advertising.
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