Google's Big Pap Attack, Part 1
February 27, 2011
Posted in Ken's Blog
Leave a Comment
Thirteen days ago, I posted How Google May Knock You Out This Year, And What To Do About It.
That was preceded by a 3-Part Series on "All That Pap".
Google is indeed off to the races to knock out content farms (BigCo or Little Guy, whoever has a business model that finds keywords that pay well with AdSense, and then creates regurgitated pap on those topics, plus-or-minus even-worse pap that links to the "money pap").
Think of pap as "nuanced spam."
The worst spammers simply copy the content of others with
little change. Another form of spam is the following...
There is software that creates sliced-n-diced content from
several pages related to any given keyword you choose. It
then submits those keyword-optimized pages (with links to
the "money pap page") to article sites and anywhere else
that does not check quality.
What's the difference?
Pap goes to greater lengths to create low-value content,
most often paraphrasing the work of others and/or making it
up "the best you know how." There is no original thought in
the content, nor is it based on any true expertise.
Let's summarize the pap business model like this...
Content Pap + Link Pap = Fool Google = Undeserved Income
Obviously, the pap must be made as cheaply as possible.
But when it comes to content, you get what you pay for.
And that is the fatal flaw in the content farm model.
Why Is Pap an Issue All of a Sudden?
For years, pap has had a free ride, intermingling with real, high-value content because engines can't actually read a page and say, "that lacked any useful, original material, and... gosh what boring writing!"
It started slowly with the highest-money keywords, keywords with the highest Commercial Intent, such as specific camera models. Clever marketers latched onto review sites as "easy money"...
1) those keywords had high commercial intent (i.e., AdSense paid high)
2) reviews are easy to paraphrase from other reviews since information is cut and dry, and
3) all that's left is to work in some inbound links.
They made substantial amounts of money. And while Google worked on solving content and link spam, pap continued undisturbed since it was "content of a higher level."
Easy-money ideas that work spread rapidly. So easy-money-for-pap spread fast, as larger and smarter companies developed scalable content-creation models to outsource tons of content, cheap.
Such is the evolution of any trick, moving slowly from the first stage where "a few make out like bandits" and then steadily accelerating into the final stage where "everyone and his uncle's dog is trying it."
Sadly, we are at the endpoint. Tens of thousands of people have invested thousands of dollars and hours into a scheme that is about to disintegrate in front of their eyes. Major companies are regurgitating increasing oceans of pap.
Google is shutting it all down.
We were the first to write about keyword research and niche
selection, as soon as Overture released its keyword tool.
We created the concept of...
Even before those early articles became the "Affiliate
Masters Course," which grew into SBI! (a system that has
added 80+ modules to make it all do-able by the regular
person), the fundamental underpinnings have always been...
"Keep it real."
Of course, it takes more work to do it right, especially
when you see "tricks" working for a while. However, the
tortoise philosophy has stood SBI! owners ("SBIers") strong.
They grow their e-businesses smoothly, unworried by any
"Google Dance." No tricks = no worries.
Who Do Pappers Hurt?
There are two major functions to the web... Search and Social. When we search, we expect to find the best information possible.
Pap is "nuanced spam," both content and link spam. Its level of sophistication is beyond Google's ability to detect it.
So all those companies (and little guys) who turn out endless quantities of pap hurt...
If Google gives us, its searchers, pap, we won't be happy. There have been many complaints lately that Google quality is hurting. That scares and activates Google because the company's future is put at risk when the public loses confidence in their search quality.
2) We, The Searchers
We want the best search results possible. Sploggers ("spam bloggers") and pappers want to come between us and that goal. "Pap" can be considered to be the subtle form of spam, where content is generally paraphrased with varying levels of sophistication.
You almost have to read the entire bit before you realize, "I got nothing out of that." They waste our time while they make money. And we get mad at Google, which brings us back to why Google is now publicly taking notice of pap.
Interestingly, Google is not actually out to "get" them. Google prefers to improve the algorithm until those bad guys are identified and ranked correctly.
We may perceive that as a penalty. So, while Google did "slap" the sploggers last year and the pappers this year, there is a more positive way to say all this...
This Is Actually Step 3
As mentioned in my earlier posts, we are now all taking the next big step forward with Google. It's the third step in this series. Google made its first important change last year...
Sploggers are folks who (used to) work micro-spam-sites and spam links to the max. They didn't take the time to paraphrase "up" to the quality level of pap. Some of them had 800-1000 micro-sites. It was all spam... content spam and link spam (to push the "money content spam" to the top of the Search Engine Results Pages or "SERPS" for high-paying keywords).
Starting around March 2010 through June-July, Google turned the screws on splogging. By late summer and fall, the disorganized and demoralized sploggers were singing the praises of authority sites.
Next, in late January of this year, Google released another change that was designed to get rid of copied content (it hits sites that copy others, affecting about 0.5% of all search results).
Now we take a more serious, larger step. "Step 3" is squarely aimed at "pap"... the low value stuff, generally paraphrased from others, material that adds nothing to the web or the searcher, which I discussed in this 3-Part Series.
Pap is not as obvious as splogging or duplicate content. And it's more widespread.
This new improvement impacts 11.8% of all search results, according to Google, which means that we can expect to see about 1 search in 8 result in the following actions...
1) "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"
2) "provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."
Both good and bad content finds its rightful rankings. A great opportunity for quality sites!
There will be mistakes and panic at the beginning, as there always is.
Google fine-tunes until it gets it right, steadily stomping out the pappers.
All this brings us back to "Search Engine Reality #1"...
No Search Engine trick wins forever.
The engines always win in the end.
Re-read that second sentence... Sooner or later, "the engines always win in the end."
SEOers and marketers tend to think like that... "beating Google." Google doesn't. It merely tries to improve the algorithm to bring more high-quality content to the top, pushing low-quality stuff to the bottom (excellent news for SBIers, by the way!).
It thinks in terms of "the algorithm."
What HUGE Step Should Google Take Next?
It's time for a major change.
We are already beyond that point in time when Google should have become far more pro-active. For example, they should have been crowdsourcing competitors for years by now.
Encourage competitors to make sophisticated, well-documented submissions about who effectively abuses their guidelines. Charge a submission fee of $2,000 to discourage frivolous nonsense.
What would this cost Google?
If Google hired 7,000 people at $60,000/year, it would cost $420M. That is approximately $100M per quarter, which amounts to 1 decimal point in Google's multi-billion dollar quarterly profits ($2.5 billion in its most recent quarter).
Publicize the competitor-sourcing system.
Publicize that 7,000 people evaluate serious submissions.
Publicize the fact that they make manual changes on the spot when a serious abuse of Google Guidelines is proven.
Use the loads of high-value data from sophisticated marketers and employees to make the algorithm better.
The knowledge that competitors will "out" you will deter folks from trying to "fool Google."
The publicity constantly reinforces that Google can't be beat and that it constantly improves on perfection.
Why does it not do that? Corporate DNA.
Corporate DNA led to the failure of Yahoo!. Yahoo!'s DNA was "stuck" on the human-compiled directory. It stalled so badly at "the human" that by the time they got "the algorithm," their purchase of search technology was too little, too late. Yahoo! even had the opportunity to buy Google and didn't!
DNA is powerful stuff. If Google can't break free of the "thinking" caused by their DNA...
Google Deserves Part of the Blame for This and Future Messes
We are in the "social Net." Google must use humans, use the social Net, use social tools, to detect and defeat ever-smarter, more sophisticated tricks.
Work socially, openly, with those who have something to gain... competitors. Yes, there will be "sabotage efforts." Those can be managed by the fee and possible penalties. I'm sure Google can work out an algorithm for sorting out these wrinkles. ;-)
Instead, Google continues to work quietly, secretly (aside from its basic guidelines) on its algorithm, much like Search Engines did 15 years ago.
We all know that Google's private actions for defending its guidelines are substantially different than its public ones. It's time for Google to make public and private action one and the same.
Google's incredible market dominance and power carry tremendous financial reward, and on the flip side, a great social responsibility. Google is fiercely protective of "fixing" problems algorithmically. Its secrecy and its "ITAS" attitude ("It's The Algorithm, Stupid") result in serious problems...
1) Get Rich Quick flourishes in secrecy, hurting millions. Eliminate the secrecy, without giving away the "secret sauce" of course. Publicize the crowdsourcing program, and what is being penalized, and why. You'll stop most "make money online" scams. The dishonest may still try to do article-marketing, splogging, or papping. But they won't try to sell it (if they do, they won't last long since competitors should also report those who sell systems for breaking Google Guidelines). That eliminates 99.9% of the problem.
2) A variety of bad techniques do damage to good businesses online. It can be as mundane as regular "black hat" stuff that pushes down "the good guys." It can be as sensational as an elaborate link bomb built to defame a company's product. Google, when it's your algorithm that does damage, don't skirt the issue by hiding behind "ITAS" and telling the company to pursue the defamer in court. Enable competitors to help you restore rightful order instead of waiting for the algorithm to catch up to ever-more-sophisticated tricks.
High-quality search is good, Google. Now it's time to do more good. Eliminate the Get Rich Quick scamsters who have preyed on "traffic secrets" for 15 years. Publicize that no trick lasts, that competitors will "out" them, that the best way to succeed is to deliver great content within the Google Guidelines. Right any clear and evil wrongs.
There is tremendous long-term potential to crowdsourcing competitors. If Google doesn't do it, I'd love to see Bing prove it up.
So... How Is Google Going To Sort This Mess Out?
Optimizing on-page criteria and inbound links for AdSense profit is how the Pappy Boys and Google got the web into this mess. What can they do better, in the short term?
From Google's viewpoint, there's not much room to improve upon on-page analysis. Links still have weaknesses, so this is likely an area that Google will concentrate upon. That means the following, to all...
Re-evaluate the quality, quantity and diversification of your inbound links program.
I'm "expeculating" ("expecting + speculating") Google to make more and more use of all its other off-page and non-link criteria to definitively sort it all out.
There are hundreds of ways that people react to content before, during and after a visit. How they react depends on whether the content was good or bad. Those criteria are going to have a bigger "say" in the algorithm.
And just think of all the tools that we all use, free from Google. The data flow is near-infinite.
One way or another, Google will get smarter at recognizing regurgitated pap. Solid, creative, well-written material will rise to the top. The sploggers and the pappers will be pushed progressively lower, where they belong.
Tricks will continue to bite the dust.
And hopefully, Google will replace the private, self-centered "ITAS" with an embracing "help us help you."
Bottom Line Advice?
Re-read my original posts above (for SBIer owners, see the updated article in the TNT HQ). If you have been "keeping it real" and "adding value" throughout, following the SBI! Action Guide to a tee, ignoring the "noisy marketers" who were pushing the very strategies that Google is now clobbering (remember automated article-marketing?), you'll be fine.
If you have any gray zones, clean up your site (content and links) before the algo really kicks into gear. Here's what to do...
Review your site. What's strong? What's smelling just a little "pappy?" Drop anything "gray zone" that slipped in. Improve anything that is borderline until you are proud of the article, story, review, or whatever.
Ditto for inbound links. No spam. (It's odd that it's suddenly "all about content." Google probably has more problems with links.) In any event, this is a good time for you to review your inbound links program.
-----TEST TO SELF-----
Check each page, post, link. Are you proud of it?
If not, it needs work.
-----TEST TO SELF-----
Think of this as a kind of exam, one that is never "final."
Keep working at it, to make your site or blog as sharp, original and valuable as possible.
Finally, here's the best news for those who already do it right...
If you have been following core concepts of "add value" and "keep it real" while executing C T P M with excellence, you are going to gain some nice free traffic from the pappers this year. :-)
All the best,
P.S. On any given day, some sites drop in traffic, others stay roughly even and other sites rise in traffic. Overall, SBI!'s traffic-per-site steadily increases year after year after year. Many SBIers have highly profitable businesses that approach 10 years in operation...
When news like this comes out, the first thing everyone does when they read news like this is panic!...
Check the traffic!
Those of us whose traffic is the same or has bumped up, well, we are happy and move on to other things.
Those whose traffic drops immediately conclude that the drop and the change at Google are related.
But if you have built high value content and links and have not abused Google's Guidelines, it is more likely to be a coincidence. Like I said...
On any given day, some sites drop in traffic.
For SBIers, see my 3 posts in the forums about the more SBI!-practical, ground-level aspects of this...
If you have questions, just ask there. :-) Fabulous SBIers are always around to help.
To all, SBIers or not... If your content and links are pure, this entire issue does not affect you (except that you'll be happy to see more traffic). If your traffic happens to have dropped since February 24th, keep on keeping on. You will almost certainly find the traffic return in the next few weeks.
We have found that basic instruction (for a traffic dip) to be true so many thousands of times. Growing traffic online is almost never a straight line -- it has its bumps and blips, and even an occasional catastrophe. But overall, if you keep doing the right thing, your e-business keeps growing.
Tomorrow, Google's Big Pap Attack, Part 2 -- How To Track Google's Pap-Effectiveness