Google is always on the lookout for ways to combat search and web spam. In an effort to include crowdsourced information in its algorithm, the company is asking for user input, and is likewise considering adding Google+ +1 shares as a factor in search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
Search spam comes in various forms, which includes low-quality content, scraped content and overly-optimized content. While Google wants search rankings to be as natural as possible, the company has found reason to implement tweaks in its algorithm to prevent the flooding of undesirable content in the search results pages.
The most recent update -- dubbed "Panda" -- targeted so-called content farms, or sites that churn out pages of low-quality content. The update had some negative effect on some legitimate sites, though, much to the consternation of web publishers that earned traffic and advertising revenue.
Google Targeting Content Thieves
As a followup, Google has announced plans to implement a new algorithm update soon, which will target content scrapers. These are websites that pull content from other websites word-for-word, and pass these off as their own, often inserting ads and earning revenue in the process. While most publishers' recourse would be to issue a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice, this can be tedious, and the damage would have been done once content is stolen and re-posted.
With the new system, web publishers are asked to fill out a form with details including the URL of the original content, URL of the scraped content and keywords used for search. The information will not be used for a copyright infringement notice, but rather, Google will be using submissions to test the effectiveness of the new algorithm tweaks.
Google is testing algorithmic changes for scraper sites (especially blog scrapers). We are asking for examples, and may use data you submit to test and improve our algorithms."
Crowdsourcing Content Favorites
Meanwhile, Google is also adding a social dimension to search. While the search engine has incorporated some social aspects to search before with +1, this only went as far as sharing recommendations with one's social network. This time around, Google plans to use +1 data in determining the ranking of a website or webpage in the SERPs.
Google believes that the purpose of ranking is to help improve the quality of search results. With this, search engineers will be studying the relationship between +1'd content and good-quality sites.
For +1's and other social ranking signals, as with any new ranking signal, we'll be starting carefully and learning how those signals are related to quality."
Should There Be Concern About +1 in Search?
With this news, though, some have expressed concern about the possibility that Google's inclusion of +1 in its search algorithm is bordering on being anticompetitive.The FTC is already looking into the possibility that Google might be using its search dominance to give undue advantage to its own products, and thus edge out competitors like Facebook. But Google says +1 is only one of the 200 signals that are factored into the search algorithm and ranking.
As always, though, Google is mum about the exact mathematics behind its search algorithm and when exactly it will roll out an update. But keen observers will be able to watch for these changes and how these affect search results once implemented. In the meantime, users are advised to keep on liking and +1-ing (is that a verb now?) good-quality sites, and likewise reporting content scrapers to help Google in the fight against web spam.