Google search results easily manipulated?
Google Inc. is penalizing Overstock.com Inc. in its search results after the retailer ran afoul of Google policies that prohibit companies from artificially boosting their ranking in the Internet giant's search engine.
Overstock's pages had recently ranked near the top of results for dozens of common searches, including "vacuum cleaners" and "laptop computers." But links to Overstock on Tuesday dropped to the fifth or sixth pages of Google results for many of those categories, greatly reducing the chances that a user would click on its links.
The incident, according to Overstock, stemmed in part from its practice of encouraging websites of colleges and universities to post links to Overstock pages so that students and faculty could receive discounts on the shopping site. Overstock said it discontinued the program on Feb. 10, before hearing from Google, but said some university webmasters have been slow to remove the links.
Internet search experts say that sites associated with educational institutions, which come with ".edu" in their Web addresses, are often considered by Google's search algorithm to be more authoritative than commercial sites. Experts say educational sites rarely link to commercial sites, so a shopping site can surge in Google rankings if an .edu page links to it. . . .
Another article is available here. Of course, Google previously denied that this had been occurring.
Google said Thursday that it had made a major change to its algorithm in an effort to improve the rankings of high-quality Web sites in its search results — and to reduce the visibility of low-quality sites. While the company did not say so explicitly, the change appears to be directed in part at so-called content farms like eHow and Answerbag, that generate articles based on popular search queries so they will rise to the top of the rankings and attract clicks.
Google has been facing criticism from some users for allowing articles that aren’t useful to appear prominently in search results. That has now changed, according to the company. . . .