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Google: Parked Domains, Scraper Sites Targeted Among New Search Changes

In what’s now to be a monthly update on search changes, a new Google “Inside Search” blog post today tells us that life is getting tougher for those with parked domains, life may get better for those plagued by scraper sites and those hoping to “push down” negative listings may have a tougher challenge.

New Monthly Search Update

The news comes from a post to the Google Inside Search blog, itemizing ten search-related changes that have been made.

Google did a similar post like this last month, and now it confirms this will be a monthly update on what it considers to be noteworthy changes but ones not big enough to merit blog posts of their own.

From the post:

Today we’re publishing another list of search improvements, beginning a monthly series where we’ll be sharing even more details about the algorithm and feature enhancements we make on a near-daily basis…

We’ve been wracking our brains trying to think about how to make search even more transparent. The good news is that we make roughly 500 improvements in a given year, so there’s always more to share. With this blog series, we’ll be highlighting many of the subtler algorithmic and visible feature changes we make. These are changes that aren’t necessarily big enough to warrant entire blog posts on their own.

While Google calls these all algorithm changes, some of them are really related to the search interface, while others impact how Google crawls, which is different from the algorithm that controls how Google ranks pages (to understand more about search algorithms, see our What Is SEO / Search Engine Optimization? page and watch the movie).

On to the changes:

Parked Domains Get Ticketed

One of the most significant changes is that Google says it has a new algorithm to detect parked domains. From the post:

New “parked domain” classifier: This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites that are seldom useful and often filled with ads. They typically don’t have valuable content for our users, so in most cases we prefer not to show them.

That’s a pretty easy change to understand. Many domainers I’ve spoken to have understood over the years that it’s become harder to rank on Google without having some substantial content on their sites. This is a clear sign life is getting harder.

Ironically, Google’s own AdSense For Domains program has fueled much of the parked domain industry that its web search team is now penalizing against.

Rewarding The Original

Another big change is that Google says it can now better detect which is the “original” page when confronted with several that seem similar:

Original content: We added new signals to help us make better predictions about which of two similar web pages is the original one.

Within a web site, a variety of things can cause a page to be duplicated. However, a bigger issue for many publishers is when people copy or “scrape” their content without permission. These scraper sites sometimes can even outrank the original site for searches.

Google doesn’t specifically say this change is aimed at scraper sites, but it should help with that issue — and it’s an issue Google’s been especially been battling against since launching its Panda Update earlier this year.

Our previous post from August also talks more about this battle: Google Signals Upcoming Algorithm Change, Asks For Help With Scraper Sites.

For Google, it’s also another reason why publishers may want to consider using the canonical tag. The posts below have more about this:

Stop Crowding Me

A third big change was Google saying that it’s pulling back on allowing a single site to potentially occupy too much of the top search results. From the post:

Top result selection code rewrite: This code handles extra processing on the top set of results. For example, it ensures that we don’t show too many results from one site (“host crowding”). We rewrote the code to make it easier to understand, simpler to maintain and more flexible for future extensions.

We’ll try for a follow-up here to get further clarity, but about a year ago, Google made it possible for one site to have more than the usual single listing it might get at the top of the page. These stories, especially the second, explain more about this:

The change means that that a brand owner may occupy less of the search results page for a search on their name, so competitors or critics potentially turn up more.

Of course, brands like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola have so many additional sites, along with social media profiles, that they still do well in crowding out others.

My post from September, Should Rick Santorum’s “Google Problem” Be Fixed?, explains this more, at the end.

Rare Words Count For More

An interesting change is that if you’re searching for a “rare” or unusual word, Google is easing back on ignoring this and potentially returning matching web pages that might not contain that word.

From the post:

Sometimes we fetch results for queries that are similar to the actual search you type. This change makes it less likely that these results will rank highly if the original query had a rare word that was dropped in the alternate query. For example, if you are searching for [rare red widgets], you might not be as interested in a page that only mentions “red widgets.”

Bigger & Fresher

Elsewhere in the post, Google says that it is doing “more comprehensive indexing,” promising that this will make “more long-tail documents available in our index, so they are more likely to rank for relevant queries.”

Google also said that its blog search results are both more comprehensive and fresh. Image results were also said to be fresher.

Suggestions, Tablet Layout & Goal!

In the remaining changes, first, Google says that it will be offering more autocomplete suggestions. Second, it says it has made small changes to improve its look on tablets.

Finally, those looking for Major League Soccer and Canadian Football League scores, rejoice! Google says it will now display scores, schedules and links to game recaps and box scores for games.

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