I don’t know, but I figured I’d ask.
Internet entrepreneur Aaron Wall highlighted a report that last month Google implemented a behind-the-scenes deal to promote associated publishers over everyone else:
The big publishers complained that smaller sites were stealing their stories. Google made secret arrangements with the Online Publishers Association & now the big companies get to rank at the top of the search results for stories that they stole from smaller outlets.
He links to this report on the Google negotiations:
“A private understanding was reached between the OPA and Google,” an office assistant with e-mail evidence told Politically Illustrated. “The organization is responsible for coordinating legal and legislative matters that impact our members, and one of the issues was applying pressure to Google to get them to adjust their search algorithm to favor our members.”
Google has in the past communicated its honorable position on proper attribution and fairness of the algorithm via Matt Cutts and the Web Quality Team. As the web grew, Google assured us it had out best interests at heart, and we should trust it.
As comment spammers interfered with blogging, Google promised us a new “no follow” tag that would help preserve blogging as a publishing method, and Matt Cutts assured us Google would not flow ranking energy if we “nofollowed”. As big brands exploited their domain authority, Matt Cutts highlighted “mom and pop” web sites over and over, showing how Google would find and properly index and rank sites publishing original content. Matt introduced us to another innovation, the “rel canonical tag”, and showed how it should be used to make sure Google knew originals from copies.
Google claims to be fair and objective, and Matt Cutts validates those claims for us with examples and assurances.
Now there are numerous examples on the web of “big brand” sites outranking smaller sites, even for content which was originally published by the smaller sites. In my own experience, I’ve seen smaller sites syndicate their content to larger sites only to get outranked by those larger sites, for their own content. In some cases, the original appears to have been dropped from the index altogether.
Is this Google cheating? Has Google decided to throw smaller publishers under the bus, since it is easier and perhaps safer to rank larger news sites republishing the mom & pop content? When a small site works hard to break a news story, only to have it republished by a well known news site, Google used to promise it could figure out which was the original. “trust us” to “sort it out”, they said. That seems to have changed.
It appears Google is cheating, taking the easy way out, and effectively imposing censorship via the no-longer-objective search algorithm.