Google's New Search Algorithm Hurt the Huffington Post's Google Juice?

Google rolled out a new algorithm in the U.S. on Friday to prevent so-called “content farms” from gaming the system with a seemingly never-ending supply of low-quality how-to articles. The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal decided to test the enhancement by querying the phrases “drywall dust” and “is botox safe” in the new system, that is the U.S. version of Google, and the old system by way of a proxy server that accessed Google’s overseas search where the new algorithm hasn’t been released. His conclusion? The new algorithm yielded “far superior results.”

But with most of the focus on the how-to articles produced by Demand Media and others, we wondered what about the so-called “scrapers” of the web? In the media industry, news outlets that keep a lot of reporters on staff complain bitterly that the search engine-optimized aggregators which post excerpts of their content often appear higher in search results than they do. So we wondered, was Google’s new algorithm changed with an aim to bury the the scraped content as well as all those how-tos?

To find out if there’s any effect, we chose to look at four stories on The Huffington Post–which is both an aggressive aggregator and publisher of original reporting and opinion but is usually the complainers leading example–recently excerpted from other sources. We then ran keywords for each story through Google’s new search engine and old search engine (via Madrigal’s proxy server), noting where the Huffington Post excerpt and the original story ranked in the results. In determining rank, we ignored the news module at the top of Google’s search results.

It doesn’t look like Huffington Post’s Google juice was hurt in the recent algorithm update. This little exercise, to be sure, is not exhaustive, and we could have picked different search terms and stories or looked at a different news aggregator. But the preliminary test suggests that Google’s new search engine is not markedly better at detecting original reporting than the old one. However there was one bit of good news for publishers: the original version of the stories that the Huffington Post excerpted did seem to rise a bit in the search rankings under the new system. So publishers may still lag the finely tuned SEO-machine that AOL recently purchased, but they do seem to be getting a bit more visibility.

HuffPo story: Food & Wine’s Best Pizza Spots in the U.S.
Original source: Food & Wine
Search terms: food & wine best pizza spots
HuffPo rank (old): #1
HuffPo rank (new): #1
Food & Wine rank (old): #2
Food & Wine rank (new): #2

HuffPo story: Mitch Daniels Talks Past Drug Use, Arrest
Original source: CNN
Search terms: Mitch Daniels drug arrest
HuffPo rank (old): #2
HuffPo rank (new): #1
CNN (old): #30
CNN (new): #13

HuffPo story: Genderqueer Chicago Launches Trans-Friendly Bathroom Initiative
Original source: Windy City Times
Search terms: trans-friendly bathroom
HuffPo rank (old): #1
HuffPo rank (new): #1
Windy City Times (old): #12
Windy City Times (new): #7

HuffPo Story: Mike Huckabee To Chris Matthews: ‘You’re Out Of Control, You’re Off Your Meds’
Original source: Mediaite
Search terms: Mike Huckabee Chris Matthews
HuffPo rank (old): #2
HuffPo rank (new): #1
Mediaite (old): #4
Mediaite (new): #2

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