Felix Salmon

The problem with the AP’s plan to goose its Googlejuice

By Felix Salmon
August 13, 2009

The AP has a cunning plan to create “news guide landing pages” which it would force news organizations to link to. The idea is that all that linking will boost the pages’ Google ranking, and thereby bring them lots of traffic from people searching for events in the news. It’s not a bad idea, until you get to this bit:

Most of the AP’s landing pages would be automatically generated, although “editorial curation” would also be possible.

PageRank isn’t a dumb algorithm; it’s a smart algorithm, which is pretty good at working out what pages are the authoritative sources which people really want to go to. And in my experience Google is very good at pointing to pages which have a real human intelligence behind them. Every so often, an SEO-optimized automatically-generated site will pop up in the first page of Google results, and when it does, that’s a failure of Google, which the engineers at Google then try to fix.

It’s conceivable, but unlikely, that automatically-generated landing pages really would be exactly what Google’s users want to see when they search for certain terms. In that case, the AP’s plan might work. More likely, however, is that people want to see real pages built by real people. And unless the AP intends to create just that, I fear its plan is not going to work very well.

7 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

This can’t be right:

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Posted by Stowe Boyd | Report as abusive

Your copy starts just below the half-way point on my screen in a maximised browser. Everything above is taken up by cruft from Reuters (and my web browser to be fair). The text is constrained to a column about 12cm wide surrounded by at least the same width of automatically-generated content.

Not sure what AP are considering, but if there’s less human content than on this page it will be awful.


One flaw in your argument is the assumption that Google will simply treat the AP like any another site.

Posted by Sterling | Report as abusive

Dominic, my Twitter feed is not automatically generated! I put work into that thing!

Posted by Felix Salmon | Report as abusive

I mean, Google has no investment in Wikipedia whatsoever.
(Actually, I’m just playing devil’s advocate on that comment. For the actual point: I think that the AP is trying to optimize content in place of site optimization and not thinking why it needs to first and how that would make a difference).


Bravo on the headline…

Posted by lori | Report as abusive

Topix ranks amazingly well across a wide array of search queries, and for the most part those pages are automatically generated through algorithms (with perhaps a bit of original comments and feedback from readers mixed into the page).


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