Search Engine Round-up: Subterfuge, Spam & Swings
Firstly, Danny Sullivan broke the story that Google was accusing Bing of copying their search results.
For a full, detailed explanation I suggest you read the story here at Search Engine Land, but the basics are this – Google became suspicious that Bing was copying when the top results for some searches were the same even for misspellings and unusual search terms. So they sprang a trap…(!)
Yes, like something out of a Robert Ludlum novel*, Google manipulated their results for nonsense words such as ‘mbzrxpgjys’ and ‘hiybbprqag’, so that a particular honey pot page would show at the top of the search results. When these exact same pages showed up #1 on Bing too, Google had their confirmation.
(*If instead of writing books about kick-ass spies who look like Matt Damon, Ludlum actually wrote about the rather more dull topic of search engine positioning. Which seems unlikely, frankly.)
Once the story broke, Bing explained their side. Yes, the results were the same, they admitted, but because they were watching their users who have the IE toolbar turned on, and that influences the results people see. They were not copying Google.
Instead Bing turned the tables on Google, claiming the whole thing was an attempt to throw up a smokescreen* to avoid the fact that their search results are plagued with spam.
(*See? That’s totally something Jason Bourne would do.)
Which brings us to the second part of this month’s search engine news – Google’s latest attempt to find a way to block spam, particularly from content farms, such as those of Demand Media.
The plan is for a Chrome plugin which will allow users to block certain sites, while sending Google data about those sites so that they can analyze them and use that information to adjust the rankings accordingly.
Will it work? I’m skeptical. The amount of spam out there is tremendous, dwarfing the number of users who will a) use Chrome, b) also have the extension installed and c) use it regularly. However, I couldn’t be happier that at least Google is trying to do something about this mess.
Finally, the latest search engine stats were just released for January and show a 2% point swing from Google to Bing. A blip or a trend? What do you think?