Based upon several recent warnings from Google, it looks like they may be planning to target autoblogs this year in an attempt to clean up search results.
Autoblogs are blogs that use automated software routines to extract content from other sites without human intervention. Literally thousands of these sites exist on the web and many of them generate significant advertising commissions for the site owners.
There are basically two types of autoblogs. Some use legitimate methods for extracting content. This can be through syndicated feeds or RSS feeds where the authors have granted permission for others to republish their content. There are also illegitimate or rogue autoblogs that steal copyrighted content from sites without the owners’ permission. If Google pursues this, what is not clear is how they will differentiate legitimate autoblogs from rogue sites.
Most site owners who operate autoblogs make their money through advertising. Google AdWords is a primary source of income for a large percentage of these site owners.
The warning shots about Google’s intentions started with a posting about Unoriginal Content in their Inside AdSense blog on January 11, 2011.
The warning explicitly states that AdSense ads are not allowed on web pages with duplicated content. This is probably a surprise to people who have been earning commissions from AdSense using autoblogs for several years; however, it does indicate that Google may finally be getting serious about enforcing the policy.
They followed up with a warning in the January 27 AdSense newsletter where Google inserted a comment:
A third reinforcement came on January 28 when Matt Cutts, a Google Quality Engineer, posted the following in another blog post entitled Algorithm change launched: “we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.”
Targeting autoblogs would make sense if Google plans to clean up their search results. It is not unusual to find that eight out of the top ten search results for a search for a hot news item are duplicates. Removing the duplicates would make room for alternative viewpoints.
When further targeting duplicate content this would not be restricted to autoblogs. It would also include any sites that use the cut-and-paste method to copy and post content from other sites to their sites. However, there are so many automated sites on the web that they are likely a primary target. They are fairly easy to target because almost all of the content on the site is a duplicate of content found elsewhere.
The real problem will be in determining which site has the original content. In the past Google has used a duplicate content filter to weed out and eliminate much of the duplicate content on a random basis. The filter appears to run separate from the normal ranking algorithms. It looks like the new algorithm plans to take this a step further. It is very likely that in many cases Google’s algorithm may target the wrong article and accidentally flag a duplicate as the original. In many cases, the same people who run autoblogs are also very experienced hackers, so a battle of wits may be in the works.