To kick off the new year, the Google Operating System blog spoke about the downside of their ability to index pages faster: artifically boosting the rankings of newly created pages. New pages obviously can’t rank normally because they have no backlinks, so instead, Google will artifically inflate the rankings based on historical data and any of the few backlinks they can detect.
An example of how this might work is a hot-off-the-presses news story. As websites begin to cover this new story, new pages are created. But because these are new, they would not normally rank high in the SERPs. Google, on the otherhand, notices that there are suddenly a lot of searches for a certain query that wasn’t all that popular before and assumes something has happened. Then, Google shows more recent results, which would include some of these newly created pages.
While this feature has been designed to deliver the optimal relevent information to users, like anything else, it has the potential to be gamed, and is. An example of this being taken advantage of was described at the Google OS blog:
If you go to Google’s homepage and click on the special logo that celebrates 25 years of TCP/IP and the New Year, you’ll be sent to the search results for [January 1 TCP/IP] and you should normally see a Wikipedia page as the top result. But the first page of Google’s results has changed dramatically in the past hours and all the results are new: most of them are from spam sites, pages that discuss Google’s logo and quote from Wikipedia. Most notably, the top result is a Digg page that links to a newly-created blog with a meaningful address: january-1-tcp-ip.blogspot.com and a highly-optimized title: “January 1 tcp/ip”. Obviously, that blog hoped to take advantage of Google’s new logo and succeeded: the two top results are Digg pages that link to that site and they’re followed by that blog’s homepage and a post from the same blog.
Google also discusses how this can also occur when there is an earthquake somewhere in the world, and then people start searching for it. But really, the same is true for any hot new searches. Have you ever utilized Google’s “Hot Trends” feature? Many, many sites take advantage of knowing the hot searches of the hour/day and create all kinds of worthless, spammy posts that litter the web, yet rank high.
While I love that I can search for something timely at Google.com, and not have to neccessarily conduct a “News” search, it would be nice if they could figure out some sort of way to weed out the spam from the actual legitimate stories and sites.