If you quantify over the entire Internet, Google does a very good job. So let’s give them their props before we look at how they can improve. Despite their great successes, there are some places where Google could really improve. Here’s a list of seven things I’d like to see them work on.
1. Less False Positives
This is really my biggest gripe with Google right now. Way too many false positives in their filtering algorithms. Quality sites that did no harm are getting caught in the wide net.
2. Faster Re-Checks of Penalized Domains
To solve the first problem, Google might consider building a better algorithm for doing penalty reconsiderations. Especially for sites that have lots of quality indicators and might have gotten just one or a few things wrong.
3. Higher-Resolution Communication via Webmaster Tools
Webmaster Tools made some great progress in 2007. Still, I’ve worked with at least 4 sites that were receiving an obvious SERP Penalty, yet according to Webmaster Tools everything was just fine. Since there are so many false positives, it would be really nice if the more serious filters (such as blanket SERP downgrading) were mentioned in Webmaster Tools so that legit webmasters could work for a faster resolution.
Penalties that I know are being assessed but not reported:
- keyword spamming
- a pattern of titles that are too long
- a pattern of urls that are too long
- a pattern of unnatural linkage
- unnatural ratio of social media to content situated links
- wordpress dup content (the disappearing act)
Even if you had to cluster these issues together to avoid giving the spammers too much information, it would be good to identify “classes” of issues so that webmasters would know what the general area of the problem is:
- unnatural semantics
- unnatural link portfolio
- internal duplicate content
- external duplicate content
4. Give the little guy a shot
One of the really cool things about Reddit, which they do better than Digg, is that they have a nice randomized story display pattern that takes into account total votes, etc.
One thing I’ve noticed over the last year is that Google has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. By this I just mean that it’s much harder for a little site to get its quality articles on the front page SERPS. It would be cool if Google reserved the bottom five results on the front page for some SERP randomization in a similar spirit as Reddit. Give the little guy a chance to get noticed.
5. Better job at following redirects from syndication to their sources
There’s this sophisticated syndicator splog called Speeple. They syndicate all the content from my site CelebrityCowboy. They also syndicate all the content from lots of other sites. Take a look at Speeple and the first thing you notice is that they look authoritative (both in design and PageRank). But they don’t produce any original content. That’s fine.
The problem is that Google is identifying the Speeple content as the *original source* in many cases. Why? Well, I’ve noted 2 possible reasons. First, Speeple has managed to obtain a strong perceived authority (at least partially via a fancy 301 from an old domain -> xmlmania.com). Second, Speeple uses internal redirects rather than standard, PR passing links.
Whatever the case, it’s really upsetting that Speeple is getting rewarded for the content that I and others produce. As evidence, here is a google search on a title that originally appeared at Celebrity Cowboy:
6. Less “I’m your homie” Fixes
One thing is clear. If you’re Matt Cutts homie, and you get nailed by a false positive, you’re about 1000x more likely to get a quick resolution. Evidence of this was clearly seen after the PageRank crackdown where certain unnamed people managed to resolve their PageRank penalties almost immediately.
Further evidence of this state of affairs can be seen when Matt shows up in the comments of a legit complaint post. Kudos to Matt for trying help out, but isn’t this an uber-primitive method for correcting false-positives? Especially for a billion dollar company?
This environment creates a feeling of hopelessness and fear in the webmaster community. Without a straightforward lifeline to Matt Cutts, what’s the average webmaster to do? Well, you might say its best to just keep building a great site. But how long do you wait? One week? One Month? Six months? All the while the people who know the right people are safe?
7. Don’t be evil
Don’t succumb to the evil that seems to be inherent in scale.
I’m always reminded of the US principles surrounding criminal justice – “Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be convicted.” I hope that’s how Google does things, too, but I suspect that’s not the case.
Bonus Request: A better way to monetize video.