The Implications of Google's Algorithm Change
Google announced a change to its search results algorithm that will help improve the quality of content delivered in search results. The goal is to filter high-quality and relevant content from low quality content in order to improve search engine efficiency.
The algorithm change, while benefiting searchers, is an attempt to moderate the prevalence of content farms. Most Internet users have experienced content farms at one point or another. What these sites do is generate useless but SEO-heavy content that achieves high search engine rankings. Content farms will also sometimes copy content from other sources. The problem with content farms is that they disrupt the openness and relevance of the Internet. Sometimes publishing low-quality or incorrect information, the information can even be dangerous to users. Low-budget content farms frequently lack the resources to implement quality control checks and balances, and the end result is content that is irrelevant to users, and it's up to the users to discern the good from and bad as well as the correct from the incorrect. What Google's algorithm change does is streamline the process further, giving users relevant results from the get-go.
According to CNN, Google's algorithm change impacts 11.8 percent of queries. Right now, the change will only affect Google's U.S. search engine. Once implemented, this change will affect website rankings in an already-competitive space: some rankings will increase and some will decrease. Some website owners might even perceive the changes as unfair. Regardless, Google asserts that the changes are for the better as an attempt to create a healthy online "ecosystem."
So how does this change relate to social media?
For one, Google based its decision--in part-- on user feedback. Although Google did not use the recently-released Chrome personal block list extension, they did cross-compare information between that program and other user feedback data. "If you take the top several dozen or so most-blocked domains from the Chrome extension, then this algorithmic change addresses 84% of them, which is strong independent confirmation of the user benefits." Even though Google did not use social media in the colloquial sense of Facebook, Twitter, and forums, they did engage with users from a technical standpoint.
Furthermore, the algorithm changes directly influence the social media space. By promoting a competitive atmosphere, Google is further streamlining its search engine's focus to user experience. Frequently, forums, bulletin boards, and blogs rank high on Google, especially when there are a number of relevant comments surrounding a particular post. Will Google's algorithm change redirect search results from static content-farm pages to user-generated discussions? Are we movingtowards a more open Internet or a space that is dominated by a few powerful voices? It's a balancing act worth exploring.