Thursday, February 20, 2014

Battling the Google Algorithms

I've learnt over a number of years how to make a modest income from developing sites that make information easily searchable and indexable.

These sites are by their nature data driven. Each page is not lovingly hand crafted but rather pulled from one or more rows from a database. That is the nature of these types of informational site and is what makes them scalable and comaparatively quick to build.

Running a number of data driven sites that are funded by advertising presents a challenging set of problems in recent years. Google has (rightly) tightened up its quality thresholds and booted out large numbers of spammy sites that fall below the standard required.

These are not however manual penalties but are instead algorithmic - that is to say a number of factors can trigger an automatic penalty resulting in either demotion or exclusion.

Google has been as transparent as they can about these new algorithm updates. Three in particular have caught the attention of publishers -

  • Penguin - penalty triggered by poor quality backlinks
  • Panda - penalty for sites deemed to contain poor quality pages, and
  • Top Heavy - a more specific update that targets sites "top heavy" with adverts at the expense of content.
The last two of these have caused recent headaches for this publisher. Whilst wanting to maximise earning potential via optimal advert placement you need to maintain the ratio of content to ads or fall foul of the Top Heavy  algo.

Likewise data driven content can produce a lot of pages with "thin" content. While you want to avoid this - a lot depends upon the quality of the data behind the site.

The trick it would appear is to dance a careful line between presenting content and promoting ads. I am still learning the bounds of this careful new approach, and still sometimes getting it wrong! Frustrating is not the word.

As I understand the patterns and potential triggers a little better I'll endeavour to update this topic, but for now if you are experimenting with advertising and content make sure you get the balance right and if in doubt err on the side of caution (and in favour of the content).

More reading/watching:

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