I do my best to avoid giving Huffington Post traffic, even when it’s linked here at Hot Air. There are a few reasons, a lot of it having to do with not wanting to underwrite Arianna Huffington’s politics. But one thing I really, really disagree with is HuffPo’s business model, which is to serve as an SEO — “search engine optimized” — pass-through to original content elsewhere on the Internet. Ed wrote a great post explaining the HuffPo/content/traffic tension after AOL acquired the site, and if you’re unfamiliar with how SEO works, check this out. In short, some of the most asinine HTML tricks can make an unremarkable website a top tier Google Search result, which means traffic and ad dollars. That’s what HuffPo specializes in.
Make Google see you, and the world sees you.
But as Farhad Manjoo correctly noted at the time of the acquisition, the “content farm” model for Internet businesses won’t last for long.
Making a living off the news is hard, and if they’ve figured out a way to fool search engines into pushing visitors their way, I salute them. But there’s a long-term problem with their strategy: They won’t be able to fool the computers forever.
Not all SEO is bad, and not all HuffPo articles employ shady SEO, but some of the tricks that HuffPo uses to gin up search traffic are pretty sketchy. These tricks include: stuffing articles with strings of meaningless keywords (HuffPo does this on every piece), repeating potential search queries at the top of a story, and carefully engineering articles in response to rising search terms. These tactics exploit obvious weaknesses in Google and other search engines. If Google’s mission is to provide search results that you—a human being—find useful, then HuffPo’s keyword-glutted pieces don’t belong, because no human being considers a list of synonyms an interesting way to start an article.
Indeed. Which is where removing HuffPo from Google results comes in.
Last week, Google rolled out a tool that will probably end HuffPo’s word games. If you’re a Google Chrome user, you can now remove all of the spammiest sites from your search results as you do your searches, with just a click.
So to get rid of the Huffington Post from my search results, I Googled “Huffington Post.” HuffingtonPost.com (obviously) returned as the top result. With one click of the “Block” button that now appears next to search results, now I don’t have to see the site in searches again. No more accidentally-clicking inferior HuffPo content sitting in at “search result 1” when “search result 2” was what I was after. And if I ever want to click a Hot Air link to HuffPo? Can still do that. Site’s not blocked from being accessible. Just blocked from interfering.
A couple quick notes: Google “blacklist” additions are immediately reflected as you remove sites. The extension then notifies Google of which sites you’re spamming out, which I suspect is to improve search results for others. (If you’ve never really liked the idea of Google tracking your searches, you may find this extension handy, too.)
Genuine content creators should be the beneficiaries of high Google rankings and deserve top-result traffic. Hopefully this extension is a first step toward sound-proofing the Internet from the low quality content echoes out there. Make your clicks heard.
On Twitter? Me too.
Update: I’m not sure the extent of HuffPo’s Net spam could be clearer than by comparing Google results of the “remove Huffington Post” search query, forty-five minutes after this blog post went up.
Before HuffPo results removed:
Good riddance to bad rubbish.
The major tweak aims to move better quality content to the top of Google’s search rankings. The changes will affect 12% Google’s results, the company said in a blog post late Thursday….
Typically, Google’s algorithm changes are so subtle that few people notice them. But these most recent changes could be seen immediately….
The changes appear to be affecting so-called “content farms” the most, which are websites that amass content based on the most-searched terms of the day. Demand Media, AOL, Mahalo and the Huffington Post have all been accused of such tactics, including a notable “story” from HuffPo about the Super Bowl that Slate.com media critic Jack Shafer called “the greatest example of SEO whoring of all time.”
I wonder if AOL may be regretting its HuffPo purchase now?
This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.