Blogs: A Search Engine's Worst Nightmare?
Author: Wayne Eggert
Let's face it, the popularity of blogging has skyrocketed the last several years to the point where it's hard to walk into a room full of people without finding at least one person who has a blog. It's now easier than ever to have your very own piece of the web to spill your thoughts and personal views -- you don't even need to know basic HTML. The downside to all of this -- search engines are becoming less useful because their current algorithms are not actively sorting out personal blog sites from search results.
But it's my blog.. I want people to find it!
Many people run very useful blog sites, dealing with technology news or gadgets, current events, and politics -- and write their own content for them. The problem though is that for every useful blog, there are thousands of irrelevant blogs that are either personal in nature or recycling content from other sources on the web. Try to relate it to back when Geocities, Tripod and Angelfire were kings. Each of those services offered free 5-10mb websites to anyone who could fill out a simple registration form. Search engines instantly had a lot more content to sift through -- relevant sites with their own domain were being ranked lower than personal pages with pictures of family pets. The search engines recognized this as a problem and began re-prioritizing these sites. The same needs to happen with personal blog service sites.
You aren't a victim. What do you care?
Actually, I am a victim to the blogging bloom. If you perform a Google, MSN or Yahoo search for "techdose", the first few pages are for this site. A majority of the remaining top 10-20 positions are occupied by a blog site, with the same name. I'm not going to mention the full URL here because I don't want to give any more traffic to a site that's already skewing my position in search engines, but trust me in knowing how much a blog -- a single blog -- can change your search engine rankings, regardless of your site's age or PR in Google.
The guy running this blog seems to be doing everything he can think of to achieve high search engine rankings. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, he's using this site's name recognition to get clicks. His blog contains no original content, all articles are ripped from elsewhere on the internet and no citations of original sources are made. The obvious purpose of his blog is advertising revenue. One of his worst offenses is a keyword dump of 500-1000 keywords after every few posts. In addition to this he has several blog accounts setup with other free blog services and is placing a dump of links to posts on his primary blog on those sites and also on public forums. My site, with a PR5 on Google, is often being ranked less important than this blog -- shame shame Google.
The final blow
Another problem with blog sites is that it's way too easy to get on an entire network of other blog sites. Trackbacks allow your blog posts to be linked on similar-content sites. There are also many services that will allow you to place advertising or other blog headlines on your site and in exchange you become a member of the network and your site gets syndicated on other blog sites. Usually, in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you're penalized for reciprocal linking, but blog site link exchanges are a completely different animal and escape being penalized by search engines. Rather than linking directly to another site and having that site link to your site, you include code that pulls syndications or ads just as Google Adsense would do. You aren't physically linking your reciprocal link partner, so search engines don't have a problem with it. Those inbound links are picked up by search engines and your blog website quickly attains high page rank from these great inbound links.
Why should search engines segregate my blog?
If you write useful content and aren't intentionally trying to profit from impersonating other sites, spamming, etc then I don't think they should segregate. As smart as search engine algorithms are, however, there's no way for them to read your content and judge it's usefulness. I agree 100% with bloggers who get defensive about the idea of singling out blog sites, especially blogs with useful original content. These bloggers must also realize there are too many useless personal blogs cropping up each day because it's much to easy for anyone to register for an account. If blog service sites are not prioritized differently their effect on search results is going to continue in a downward spiral and all the Search Engine Optimization in the world won't help a site from being drowned in a pool of blog sites.
Are search engines realizing it?
I certainly hope so, but I have not seen any information confirming they're actively working on a solution to fix the problem. From a programming perspective, it seems easy enough to target large blog services such as Xanga and Blogspot and assign lower rank to these pages or keep them in a seperate database. Search engines could have a seperate blog search option or allow the user to actively select that they want to include blogs in their search results. For anyone willing to shell out money for a domain to host their blog, using their own hosting provider, more power to them. At least you can be reasonably sure that if someone is paying a yearly or monthly fee that they intend on making good use of their website.
Blogs are here to stay. "We're here, we're peer, get used to it!"
I don't doubt blogs will be around for a long time -- they're the new fad. It's a great way to vent, express opinions or interests and has opened the door to many new and interesting things to all types of individuals. I'm not at all against blogs (I have one too), but what I am against is the effect these blogs are having on search engine rankings. Webmasters fight hard to get their site properly optimized for search engines, but they're quickly seeing their rankings drop not because they've done something wrong, but simply because there's this mass of personal blog sites competing for the same ranking. The search engine that recognizes this problem first and is able to fabricate an ethical and fair solution will have a fighting chance at coming out on top. Will Google come out with the solution first? It's hard to say -- but they better be worried if one of the other contenders fixes the problem before them.
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