03:09 AM

More On Panda Pandamonium: Is Blogger.com A Front For Scam Sites?

(Murray Newlands - SF Blog Club at PeopleBrowser.)

I've been helping Murray Newlands with his San Francisco Blog Club meetups, which are great for helping to educate a mostly newbie group about blogging.

Last night the featured speaker was Chang Kim, product manager at Google's Blogger.com. Trouble is he was a no show. He didn't call to say he was running late. Nothing.

Murray had to scramble and he put on a presentation about ways you can monetize your blog. He did a really good job especially given that he had no time to prepare.

At the end of Murray's presentation Mr Kim turned up but everyone had dispersed to network and chat. He still wanted to put on his presentation but I was out the door. Before I left I asked him what happened.

I got stuck in traffic, he said. Oh, well, why didn't you call? (or leave earlier for that matter -- check Google maps for traffic density).

I DM'd, he said, looking at me as if I was crazy about picking up the phone to make a call instead of a DM.

He really thinks Twitter is the best way to communicate when you are running late? Wow. I guess at Google everyone is sitting on their Twit streams all day long, so that's the best way to communicate if you can't make a meeting.

I wanted to ask him about Blogger and how it seems to have become a haven for scam sites that scrape content and serve it up as original. Google then promotes it over the original content sites in its search rankings and gets revenues from the AdSense ads it runs on the site.

And the recent Panda algorithm update seems to have had the effect of boosting this lucrative scam.

Blogger has had a scammy reputation for a long time. It is relatively easy to buy scripts that automatically create blog sites on Blogger, build up backlinks, and hook it up to Google AdSense and watch the money come in.

Sites that have been scraped in this manner can apply to have Google take down the sites through takedown notices but it's a tedious and expensive process and when you've got thousands of pages of content being illegally copied it's nearly impossible. Plus, the scammers just move location and do it again, and again.

Bt when Google announced its Panda update of its algorithm, there was a lot of hope by web masters that Panda would do what it promised: reward original quality content and punish the scrapper sites. But it didn't. In many cases, It did the reverse.

Here is a great example. Hubert Nguyen and Eliane Fiolet run Ubergizmo, one of the top gadget web sites with more than 4 million monthly pageviews. The Panda update vaulted the scrapper sites over their's in the Google rankings!

They wrote about it here:

When Google's Panda Rewards Content Theft | Ubergizmo

It seems that Google's algorithm cannot recognize Ubergizmo.com as the original source of our articles, and is treating our site as an automated spam site -- yes, that sucks.

We get it: for an algorithm, it's really hard to figure out who is the real author of the content, but it was working fine before, so we can only conclude that the "Panda" update has a hand in this.

Additionally we're in Google News, so that could be one more signal that our site does not steal/copy content. Heck, even Matt Cutts, the head of Google's Web Spam team has linked to Ubergizmo from his blog a few months ago ... Surely, that's a sign that we're not a spam site. Right?

But here we are, our content treated worse than spam and ranking below those hundreds of automated content-stealing sites. As technologists, we measure the difficulty of the task, but Google got it right before. And as far as we can tell, Google is giving our whole site a "black eye" (like a Panda?), so even new articles immediately rank lower than spam.

What the hell is going on at Google?

Google had to run an update to Panda a few weeks after releasing it because it wasn't affecting the ranking of Demand Media and other content mills. How hard can that be? They know the IP addresses!

Then Google harms the original content producers, like Ubergizmo. Google knows that Ubergizmo has been around for years yet it promotes the new scam sites over the old.

And there are many examples of this happening, you can see it on all the webmaster boards.

Yet Google stands by its Panda update.

What the hell is going on?

Is Google deliberately doing this because it boosts traffic and revenues to its sites such as Blogger?

Google missed its estimates in the most recent quarter so it certainly looks like it has an incentive to boost the scrappers over the legitimate sites.

If you look at Google's recent quarter, revenues by Google sites suddenly jumped an astonishing 32%. Yet for all of 2010 growth was in the low 20% range.

What happened in the quarter that could explain this miraculous jump?!

Google has not offered an explanation and Wall Street analysts did not ask about it on the earnings call.

Something fishy definitely seems to be happening. And it's another black eye for Google.

It's rapidly losing credibility and wearing away at the store of goodwill it used to enjoy.

It's like watching Google crumple and buckle in a slow-motion car crash -- except that as website publishers and users -- we are also in the passenger seat.

Please see: When Google's Panda Rewards Content Theft | Ubergizmo

Google's Search For Quality... And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance - SVW