New York Times Spamming Google Results

SMS Text

The New York Times has worked to ensure that its site and search results are incredibly Google friendly, so Google friendly in fact that a search for “sex” on Google currently serves the NY Times internal archive search results for sex as #2.


Seems that the NY Times is republishing older archives as fresh and new pages, dated as “Today”, which has some influence on the Google rankings.

Since Google gives priority in search results to newly published and time relevant info, republishing old content as new is becoming a practiced Google spam technique; giving major publishers a major incentive to practic this black hat SEO technique themselves.

John On uncovers the questionable SEO tactics by the Times:

The King of Content is now dominating the Google SERPs across a wide swath of the keyword space, via the re-published, re-purposed, New York Times Archives. Each “article” is re-purposed on a clean, CSS-driven text page, clearly dated TODAY and not-co-clearly labeled as “originally published” back in 1997, 1998, or whatever all the way back to 1981. Of course cross-referenced, categorized, sub-categorized, ad-infinitum.

You can check for yourself on your own “current events” topics of interest. Look for (search results) and (archives) showing up in the #1 spot for search phrases, as if the re-published content was “fresh news”. Via Google referral, many of them are full articles. Via the New York Times archive search pages, my tests mostly returned pay-per-article results sets. Yes, there are ads on the pages.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
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  • Skitzzo

    Didn’t we also just get a warning from Google about having your site’s search results indexed? Seems like NYT is breaking more than just one of Google’s rules. Seems like maybe Matt Cutts should spend less time FUDing on the topic of paid links and focus on spam being practiced by such high profile companies as the NYT and VW.

  • Ken Savage

    I thought there was a big no-no from google about getting your local search results indexed. Whatever. I’d love to fin dout who’s doing their SEO.

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    According to an article by Chris Sherman at SEW last year, handles the SEO for New York Times:

    Marshall Simmonds is a long-time colleague who, as vice president of enterprise search, oversees the SEO work to make the New York Times more search engine friendly. The NYT acquired Marshall as part of the Times’ purchase last year.

    Prior to Marshall’s arrival at the Times, the company’s web sites, which also include the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune, had good traffic, but this was largely due to the strength of the brands. Little effort was expended on making search-friendly content, or making sure that search engines could easily crawl and index the sites.

  • Everett

    More subscription page cloaking results by the WSJ too. What I don’t get is how the cached link shows a blank page, but the SERP shows a description relevant to the actual article?

    Anyone know what’s going on there? I thought the nocache tag would keep that link from showing up at all. Has it changed so that the link still shows but the cache is blank?

  • Michael Martinez

    It could just be that Google’s algorithm is following RSS feeds. Conspiracy Theory SEO analysis just doesn’t work for me.

  • eBizMBA

    Google brought this on itself. The only reason this is happening is because of “Link Tyranny” I’m sorry I mean Link Popularity. This insures that sites like the NY Times that have nothing to do with ‘Sex” can use their high page rank to infiltrate a keyword they have no business being on. The Algorithm is dead!

  • Make Money Online

    shady shady shady…time to put NY times in supp. index!

  • Jon Victor

    How do you prevent search page results from being indexed by a search engine? Just put no index tags on them? I work for a homebuilding company and our search results show up regularly in Google searches, but I have not seen a decrease in any rankings because of it.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Yes, we got a warning against having search results indexed in March. I covered it here:

    Despite that, I’ve yet to see Google actually enforce it. Product search results pages still show up in Google, such as I covered here when Google’s own Product Search listings were appearing:

    You keep your search results out by using things like a robots.txt block.

    I’ve only just skimmed the NYT situation here (I’m fighting jet lag, as well, as having just gotten off a plane earlier this morning). But things like probably should be blocked off to comply with the new Google rules.

    On the other hand, thinks like might very well be considered category pages. For the sex search, Salon has results like this. Recently, Technorati’s come under fire for all of its tag category pages showing up this way. Back to the sex search, Metacafe has its own tagged category pages showing up like this. It’s difficult to say if category pages themselves fall into this new rule. If so — then any of us with blogs that have posts listed by category better look out. This is part of the gray area stuff I get into in my original article above.

    > Seems that the NY Times is republishing older archives as fresh and new pages, dated as “Today”, which has some influence on the Google rankings.

    I’m too groggy to take a deeper look here, but scanning fast on the category pages like this:

    I can see the date is today even though the most recent main article listed is from February. But it’s not like Google’s looking at that date. If it wants to know the “date” of a page, it will look to see when the page was last modified. Well heck, you’ve got plenty of pages without dates that get reported as last modified each time they are served up, by accident.

    Really, the date is a non-issue. The bigger issues is simply the NYT is an authority domain, and so whatever it publishes has a good change of ranking well. Putting its search results out there — yeah, that’s a step too far, from what I can see quickly.

    Putting out news category pages? Topix has had them for years: Why the NYT shouldn’t be able to do that, I dunno.

  • Biff Tiberius Farnsworth

    I think it is kind of like the movie Office Space where they make the bank software skim off a fraction of a penny here and there so it won’t be noticed but it works way better than they thought it would and got noticed right away. Number 2 for ‘sex’ is sheer comedic GOLD!

  • Biff Tiberius Farnsworth

    Sorry for the double post but I just want to make my point a little clearer.

    NYT your SEO staff did not test properly before going live. They are your scapegoats. Fire them.

  • Disposable email

    i never expected this from new york times

  • John

    Marshall Simmonds is the head SEO for the NYTimes:

    I actually attended his big in-house SEO session at SES NY a few weeks ago. He didn’t share this strategy with the audience…

  • Ryan Lash

    Maybe Mr. Simmonds is actually Kaiser Soze.

    PFFFT…and like that the NYTimes were gone from the SERPs:

  • Gerard McGarry

    Am I the only person who’s slightly worried about massive content providers ranking so highly for such basic search terms? Everywhere we look these days, YouTube, Wikipedia and all the rest are dominating the SERPs, leaving little room for everyone else.

    And with every clueless moron in the blogosphere insisting on linking to mainstream press sites, that only increases their PageRank and competitive position.

    Very worrisome for the smaller search marketer!

  • Joe

    I don’t think this is malicious that they had their search pages indexed. However, now that you pointed out the problem, I would hope NYT would remedy the situation and not exploit it.

  • Motorcycle Guy

    That guy must be a genius at SEO. If there were one domain I would exclude from my own google results it would be I hate when I don’t pay attention to the domain and accidentally go to about, half the time it is completely useless content, but I see it about 40% of the time I make a search.

  • seo

    Any bets doesn’t get banned? Wonder how long before your butt would be out of the index for a similar play if you weren’t fortune 500?

  • John Andrews

    I would not call this “spamming” and I would call it good SEO. They have archives like no one else. They are using them to draw traffic. Google says it wants to organize the world’s information, so it seems the NYT is complying and making it available. Good SEO. Last I checked it was Google’s job to organize the information, and Google was raking in billions for their efforts.

    I totally agree with the comment on But again, Google’s the one showing all those About pages as “most relevant”.

  • Pramod

    While at one hand, it can be termed as a Good SEO, the fact is NYT is simply capitalising on the legacy archival content that they have stored so well. And it is simply beacause of the sheer depth of content that media and news sites are propping up at every result. But one question raised in this forum is really relevant….what do small timers do? NYT can survive because of its size…what about other small media companies who have great content but not much money like NYT.

  • K D Mains

    No 2 for sex

    I reckon I could conquer that if I felt inclined to do so!

    And the reason for that is because I am the sexiest seo and seo writer in the world

    ampsa spama or a spammer

    None of the above

    I think spam is either one of four defined things

    1. Unsolicted email
    2. unsolicted snail mail
    3. posters on forums who do not participate after they post
    4. misleading content

  • K D Mains

    King of content indeed

    I just remembered a fifth “SPAM”

    A can/tin of um