Google Blogoscoped

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Google’s Age Delay Filters: An Ongoing Debate

Guest-writer Terrence Gordon is the CEO of Performance SEO. Living in LA, he’s been involved in handling online revenues for companies such as Sony and

There continues to be a debate regarding Google’s policy of filtering new domains from their Organic rankings. Some people call it the “Sandbox” – some an “Age Delay” – some say the two are actually separate filters. But that’s not the debate here. Google has admitted the existence of such filters so we now know they exist. However Google says the “Sandbox” refers only to their beach volleyball pit – which I’m predicting gets more use than their board room by the way.

It is a fact that depending on how new your domain is, or how competitive your keywords are, or how aggressive your linking strategy is, Google will put your domain aside for anywhere between 6-12 months before you are “released” into their Organic listings. There is proof that Yahoo! is doing the same, but we’ll keep our focus on Google for now.

So the debate lies between people who believe it is wrong for Google to put such filters in place and those who believe Google is allowed to do whatever the deuce it wants with its own search results.

Among the forums, you will see people crying their eyes that their domain hasn’t yet been ranked, or they haven’t seen any traffic for 6 months. I read one today that said, “our business model simply won’t allow us to wait 9 months to get traffic to the site”. People are actually baffled that Google is “allowed” to do this to them. One brave soul even wrote a letter to Sergey Brin telling him how unfair it is that new websites are penalized for the sake of a few spammers. Something tells me this guy is not on Sergey’s “To Do” list.

But as expected, with these complaints comes a barrage of retorts from people who consider themselves more objective. These sharp-edged comments include lines like, “Google doesn’t owe you anything”, or “Google is a ‘free democratic and market driven system’”, or “Google’s intention isn’t to help you market your business for free”. Although I too am a strong advocate for Capitalism, I have a feeling these people aren’t relying on Organic traffic to drive revenue to their new business.

The real fact is that Google’s primary intention is to deliver the most relevant results possible. And with the competition rising, it is in the best interest of the top engines to do just that as a means to being able to say “we are #1”. After all, who wants an engine that delivers irrelevant results? MSN surely didn’t when they dropped Looksmart’s distribution contract early in 2003.

But my opinion of a relevant search result may differ from Google’s. My definition of a relevant search result is also up-to-date search result. And if Google is holding back new domains for up to 12 months, then isn’t that the same as delivering results that are 1 year old?

In fact the irony is quite thick – an information technology company delivering 6-12 month old information? I thought the age of the internet has finally come to a place where we can rely on it to provide information in real-time? Google’s search spider can crawl hundreds of millions of web pages in less than half a second, but the information its bringing back must be older than 6-12 months?

My online searching is for research, industry articles, press releases, and products and services that can help my business grow. Is Google not allowing me to see new companies who have come to market with new products or services? Or companies that may be able to offer me the same service at less of a price? Am I not getting new industry resources that are devoted to delivering daily content and news? What about companies who have broken out into new industries or industry niches? Is Google actually depriving its audience from information that could potentially benefit us personally or professionally?

I personally believe Google is flying a little too close to the sun on wings of stock certificates. After their IPO, things really changed at Google in many ways including their quiet battle against Search Engine Optimization. They claim these filters are meant to fight “spammers”, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that brand new websites have no choice but to invest in Google’s Adwords (Sponsored Listings) if they want to generate any traffic from Google.

On the other hand, search engine marketers need to realize that Organic rankings must be considered only as a supplement to other avenues of driving traffic. Whether that’s PPC, newsletters, press releases, links, banners, etc., relying solely on Organic traffic to drive your business’ bottom line is suicide. And depending on it from just one engine is worse.

I have seen countless companies go under because they got comfortable with the traffic from their Organic rankings and consequently dropped all other avenues of marketing including PPC only to lose 95% of their revenue when Google updated its algorithm. Rankings change. They always have. They always will. And although a good SEO firm will help you keep those rankings where they are, you don’t want to put your faith 100% in a marketing avenue that fluctuates. And you sure as heck don’t want to write a business plan around it.

As an SEO (and a user and customer of Google), I don’t believe Google owes us or webmasters anything. They can serve up whatever results they want and can add a billion filters to their rankings if they believe it will help their relevancy. I do believe however that their size and their brand has taken them to a place where they have a responsibility to deliver a quality service to the audience that helped get them to where they are today. And if they are going to continue to deliver results that exclude websites newer than 12 months for the sake of “battling SEO spammers”, then I believe they are not only depriving the other 99.99% of their devoted viewing audience of up-to-date information but they are sacrificing the quality of their results in the process. And although Google believes they are actually improving their relevancy by excluding these results, I guess that all depends on whose definition of “relevancy” they are using.


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!