Monday, July 07, 2008

Exactly Two Cents on Google and Poker Blogs

Pretty much completely swamped and exhausted after the grind of covering the first four days of the Main Event, but here's my very quick take on what has everyone a twitter regarding Google and poker-related sites suddenly disappearing from search results, coming from someone who has been pretty closely involved in such things for going on 8 years now.

1) Google has been penalizing sites for selling links for quite awhile now. This isn't a new development and it's likely not just the poker niche that's being targeted or affected. They basically declared war on link selling sites such as TextLinkAds months ago. Inbound links and the anchor text attached to those links is still the primary tool that Google uses to order and rank search results, and they actively try to protect that by punishing sites they can identify as link sellers, since that could potentially torpedo their entire system.

2) What is a slightly new wrinkle is that in the past Google was been zeroing out PageRank for sites that openly sell links, but hasn't been penalizing them in search results. So if you sold links on a home page that previously had a PR of 5, the PR would display as 0 after you were "penalized", but your page would still rank normally for various search terms.

Their intention was to scare off advertisers that look only at PR when buying links or ad space without actively harming the site displaying the ads in search results. That sort of worked, but advertisers got savvy and realized the ads and links they bought were still effective, even on PR 0 pages, so they just kept buying and renewing ads.

3) Now Google seems to be stepping it up a bit, and penalizing both the site itself that is selling ads by suppressing their pages in search results, but also penalizing the sites that are buying links and ads. It's the last bit that's important, as those sites would continue to buy ad space on other sites regardless of the PR if buying those ads meant they continued to rank highly for the terms they were targeting. If you render those link and ad purchases ineffective, well, that's a pretty decent way of stopping the practice of selling links and ads on sites.

4) If you're confused and think this is highly hypocritical, hurrah, you're right! Large media sites openly sell ad space each and every day (just take a gander at CNN et al and note all the ad slots available for sale), yet Google allows them to merrily go about their business.

5) As far as what you, a humble poker blogger, can or should do about this, well, the sad answer is not much. Adding no follow links is pretty much all you can do if you want to play by Google's rules, but most advertisers won't renew any ads if you do that. Each advertiser is going to have to make the decision themselves as to whether they will continue their ad campaigns or not. Some will, as not all sites have been equally affected so far. Others won't. Not a lot you can do about it other than sitting tight and seeing how it plays out.

6) There's also a chance that Google will undo what's currently affecting sites, as it's almost guaranteed to be algorithmic in nature, and not penalties doled out by hand. There have been many times when Google rolls out a change to its algorithm and has subsequently backed up and undone it, reverting to the old algorithm when the changes resulted in too much hubbub or crap search results. Its highly unlikely that poker sites were targeted specifically, so other people in other niches will also likely soon start squawking, and if enough people squawk Google has been known to take heed and react accordingly in the past.

7) RIP Waffles' "bankroll".

1 comment:

Tim said...

#7: Brilliant! I'm just jealous I didn't think of it first.

The rest: Well-said.