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

By Felix Salmon
August 13, 2009
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:

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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.

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