Google announces big change to search algorithm

Google makes hundreds of changes to its search results algorithm every year with the goal bringing you the most relevant, valuable search results. Rarely are these changes announced or discussed, but yesterday google announced a change big enough to affect 11.8% of their search queries. Considering that google gets hundreds of millions of queries per day, that’s a lot of search results being affected. Google says:

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

Although google hasn’t mentioned any sites by name, many believe this is a direct response to ‘content farms’ like eHow. A NY Times article says:

Mr. Cutts [Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webpam Team] has spoken in recent weeks about the problem and said Google was working on algorithm changes to fix it. “In general, there are some content farms that I think it would be fair to call spam, in the sense that the quality is so low-quality that people complain,” he said in a recent interview.

While the content on these sites can be useful, much of it is closer in value to the eHow article on making friends in college, which includes tips like “consider joining a sorority or fraternity” and “remember to have a good time, smile and laugh.” Many of the articles on these sites are phrased as how-tos, and even after Thursday’s change they still show up as top results in searches for how to do something — if someone phrases a search query that way, they might want to read such an article. In the blog post, Google said the updated algorithm rewards high-quality sites, so the effect will become clear over time.

This should help physicians, not only in that they’ll get better search results when they use google, but also in that some of the poorly designed physician profile sites who use physicians’ information to get traffic will be buried more. These sites have no benefit to physicians, and often have out-dated, inaccurate, negative, and plain wrong information which can hurt physicians’ online reputations.

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