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[icon] Google becoming less useful? - Patti
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Subject:Google becoming less useful?
Time:05:37 am
Is it just me, or has Google become largely a spam pit over the last few months? There are so many sites out there that are essentially spam sites with some cheap content that was either written by a non-native speaker or maybe even machine-generated.

Let's take an example search: "how to treat a stye"

#1: http://www.beauty-cosmetic-guide.com/stye.htm -- There are 14 Google ads above the fold, the page is a mess, the content is crappy.

#2: http://www.howtoall.com/Healthfiles/howtotreateyesty18.htm Fewer ads, content still crappy.

#3: http://www.ehow.com/how_2107785_treat-stye-home-remedies.html eHow.com is actually a reasonably decent site.

#4: http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/tc/styes-and-chalazia-home-treatment WebMD is a reputable site, IMO.

#5: http://www.eyestyetreatment.net You can tell by the URL that it's a spam site.

#6: http://www.health-disease.org/eye-diseases/eye-stye.htm Spam site.

#7: http://www.bestincosmetics.com/popular/stye.htm Spam site.

#8: http://www.wisegeek.com/how-can-i-treat-a-stye.htm Wisegeek is a spam site that seems to show up all over the front page of search results.

#9: http://www.howtosite.net/articles/how-to-treat-a-stye.html I can't even get to the page, but it's not like I need to. I looked at the cached version, though, just for good measure.

Bottom line: seven spam sites, two real ones.

A better search, for fairness: "how to take a picture of the moon". A real site (mine, in fact!), spam, spam, real, real, real, real, spammy (but seems like it should have been legit at some point), real.

It's easy to look at these sites and see a huge sweatshop of people in India or China or Russia cranking out articles that are either cut-and-paste or slightly paraphrased from other sites, all of them designed to be highly search engine optimized. There's some simple tech on the backend to build out pages, buy domains, etc.

Yeah, I know it's a constant cat-and-mouse game-- spam sites figure out how to game Google's algorithm, Google adapts, the spammers adapt, lather rinse repeat. Still, it seems especially bad right now. I wish there was an easy way to tell Google "never show me results from this site again."
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adb_jaeger
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 01:43 pm (UTC)
You're not the only one who has noticed
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(Deleted comment)

clutch_c
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 02:30 pm (UTC)
I use the Adblock plus add-on for Firefox which seems to cut down a lot on the number of Google ads and some other ads as well.
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 06:56 pm (UTC)
Adblockers violate my personal ethical standards. I don't use them.
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 06:54 pm (UTC)
Actually, adblockers violate my personal ethics boundaries. Plus, wouldn't change the search results at all.
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rightkindofme
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 06:57 pm (UTC)
Hm, why?
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 07:02 pm (UTC)
Most web sites are supported primarily by ads. I feel like there's an implicit contract-- they give me content that I want to see for free, and I see ads on that content. Plus, if I like the site and enjoy the content I want to see it stay in business.

When there are alternate methods of paying for content that I want (e.g. LJ's paid accounts) I'm happy to use them.
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rightkindofme
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 07:11 pm (UTC)
Fair enough! I don't bother to download adblocker stuff because I'm a lazy git not because I have an ethical position. :D
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clutch_c
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 07:13 pm (UTC)
So you don't use a popup blocker either? The mind boggles.
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 07:18 pm (UTC)
Only what's built into FireFox.

I perceive a difference between "ads" and "obnoxious ads". If (completely hypothetically) I was watching television, I might mute an ad that was obscenely loud compared to the program I was watching.

And surprisingly, this position has nothing to do with the fact that I work for an online ad network. I've felt this way about blocking ads for a long time.
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rhiannonstone
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 08:55 pm (UTC)
Do you feel the same way about timeshifting live network TV with a DVR so as to skip commercials? Or more primitive recording devices? You're already paying for cable TV, so I can see how you might not have a problem with skipping ads there, but network TV is free and ad-supported.
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adb_jaeger
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 08:57 pm (UTC)
Patti and TV..... hmmmm........
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 08:57 pm (UTC)
I haven't given it much thought, since at a practical level it affects me not at all. I watch fewer than ten hours of TV per year, I don't have cable, and while I do own a DVR it hasn't been plugged in for several years-- it has a couple hundred hours of shows on it that I never watched.
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whitebird
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-05 05:17 am (UTC)
Oddly enough, I had an instructor recently make a request for ad blocking ad-ons installed on the classroom machines. Feeling like you do, I then caused the district's official policy to be not to use them, for just that reason.

Ah, here's what I sent to the requestor:

The District is also concerned with issues raised about making use of external website material without allowing the websites in question to receive the compensation they request for the use of their materials.
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-05 06:56 am (UTC)
Excellent!
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(Deleted comment)

whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-05 06:57 am (UTC)
What do you mean?
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(Deleted comment)

whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-05 07:17 am (UTC)
I'm not certain that I would agree with that.
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(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)

elfs
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 04:33 pm (UTC)
Jeff Atwood (StackOverflow and a bunch of other respected initiatives) noticed the same thing. I had the same reaction myself last night; trying to find relief for Storm's persistent winter cough, I found myself flipping through site after site looking for something relevant. Lots of spam, lots of "look at us now," lots of miscellany that's not obviously farmbait.

Google's much-vaunted "We don't respect duplication sites" is also going by the wayside; I've found many instances of the same site with slightly different art gumming up the works.

It sucks, but... use Bing? Blekko? Dogpile? Duck duck go?
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misterajc
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 05:16 pm (UTC)
Article spinning software is getting better, which makes generating unique content as easy as cutting and pasting from wikipedia and pressing go. You don't even need the cheap offshore labor any more. Now that criminal prosecutions are taking place for cookie stuffing the Black Hat Internet marketers have decided to move on to real traffic rather than completely fake. If you want to keep track of what is going on in the Dark Side of the Internet, check out the forums at BlackHatWorld.com .

Incidentally, I think that AdBlock will become more and more common because of this, until it is as standard as time shifting TV shows to skip ads. In that case our own employer will have to adjust their business model even further towards product placement.
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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 07:09 pm (UTC)
I can't say I've noticed. But then my searches tend to be more arcane.
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rhiannonstone
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-01-04 08:30 pm (UTC)
Doing autobot grunt work for a different search engine company (so it's not just Google) for the past few months has filled me with an extra special loathing for sites like Associated Content, Wise Geek, LiveStrong (especially annoying because their name makes them seem legit), and EZine Articles, and I have said often that I wish I could omit them from my search results.

Google has a partial solution now: you can limit your search based on reading level.
(Reply) (Thread)

[icon] Google becoming less useful? - Patti
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