As we all know by now, Google Search is not a beast to be tampered with. Its Panda update and reissue struck more than fear into websites everywhere, it also sent them into the black hole of the Internet. While there’s something to be said for good intentions (and Google attempting to rid your search results of spam sites and content farms is a noble cause), the search algorithm tweaks have failed to universally boost good sites and banish bad ones. There’s the exception here and there (eHow has reportedly lost a significant amount of traffic), but far too many sites publishing original content have been swept into the no-man’s-land that is page 10 and on of Google Search.
Now a whole host of domains are about to feel this pain, but for good reason. According to The Register, Google has buried some 11 million URLs that end with “co.cc.” Apparently, the domain is tightly associated with spam sites and phishing attacks. In this case, Google may have a point: Co.cc is independently owned by a Korean company and is not officially authorized second-level domain name, and in 2010 nearly 5,000 phishing attacks could be traced back to co.cc URLs. The company offers two domains for free, and also allows buyers to register 15,000 domains for $1,000. It doesn’t take a genius to see this is a hotbed for spammers.
Of course, the Cocos Islands, which reside off the coast of Australia, use the top-level .cc domain, which won’t be affected by Google’s latest anti-spam efforts.
Google head of search Matt Cutts recently posted on Google+ that Google retains all control over what it promotes and bans from search. “We absolutely do try to be granular, but I wanted to mention that if we see a very large fraction of sites on a specific freehost by spammy or low-quality, we do reserve the right to take action on the freehost as a whole.”
Using its search powers to protect users from sites that want to take advantage of them is one thing – blocking results because of preference another. Striking that balance, however, continues to be a difficult line for Google to tread. Some are becoming borderline cynical of Google Search results, or on the other hand, wanting Google to crackdown even more. A few users’ personal sites were wiped out with the co.cc elimination as well. Others replied to Cutt’s post question, asking why .biz hasn’t received the same treatment as co.cc. Others completely disagree, saying Google is abusing its power and that a variety of spam sites can be traced to Blogspot, a Google web property (which also received a boost thanks to the Panda update).
Blogspot (or Blogger) has been an area of contention since the Panda update. The site was aided by the algorithm adjustment, despite its increasing position as a platform for content farms and that fact that blogs in general seriously suffered at the hand of Panda. And scraper sites will just catch on, switching to Blogspot (shortly to become Google Blogs) and enjoying the page rank boost a la Google. Which, of course, will lead to yet another algorithm tweak, and then webmasters will once again scour their sites, trying to find what exactly Google is rewarding or punishing them for. We know that updating how search results are yielded is a necessary evil, but it makes it difficult to then put our blind trust in Google when it expels a URL from the Internet — even when it seems like there is nothing but just cause.
Google holds the keys to a lot of information, and ultimately is able to decide what we access. Making that decision isn’t easy, and the more reliant on the Web we become, the more implications there are to each algorithm tweak.