Some of my takeways from the fallout from Google thinkering with its search algorithm.
- There is a lot of money in the business model of creating content that rises to the top of Google results. These businesses are sometimes called content mills.
- For whatever reason, users favor the first search result. According to the source cited in the linked-to article, the first search result gets 20-30% of clicks, while the second and third get 5-10%, and results below that get 1% or less. I would love to know the explanation for this, because I am pretty sure that it’s not because search engines are regularly returning the best result first. When I use a search engine, I use the previews to evaluate what might be the best content for what I am looking for (and it is not uncommon for that site to be after the first page of results) and only then to click through.
- Google’s changes to its algorithm are leading to redistribution of revenues among and in some cases away from content mills. The fact that some content mills are actually benefiting from these changes shows that Google has a ways to go. Presumably, this will be like fighting spam and hackers, and the content mills will innovate along with Google to stay with or ahead of its algorithm.
- While it’s not impossible that a content mill could produce useful content in some situations, the prevalence of content mills are something for a user seeking information to consider. How much faith do you have in a source whose mission it is to write content that show up at the top of a search engine ranking (rather than having actual expertise in the subject that you are interested in)?
- This episode underscores why people are and should be experimenting with new ways to collate and/or present information to supplement what Google and other search engines are doing.