Google's sweeping changes to Web site rankings have roiled the Web industry, including the company's announcement last week that its algorithms now incorporate more "user feedback signals."
The reason Google made such a dramatic change to how it ranks Web sites is simple: Search engine optimizers had learned how to game the earlier algorithm to make low-quality writing more visible than quality content. Instead of preparing Web pages designed to benefit readers, SEO-focused content farms were writing for search engines.
To test the changes and provide a rare glimpse into Google's algorithmic workings, CNET compiled nearly 100,000 results by testing Google.com in March and again last Friday after the most recent alterations took effect.
News sites generally benefited from the changes. According to our rankings based on the number of appearances on the first page of Google results, Fox News moved up from the No. 89 spot to No. 23. ABC News had a similarly impressive uptick, and ESPN, The New York Times, and Yahoo News became more visible as well.
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The "Panda" algorithm change dramatically lowered traffic to sites like AssociatedContent.com, FindArticles.com, and EZineArticles.com, according to a post by SearchMetrics.com. It also negatively impacted some perfectly legitimate sites, including Cult of Mac and the British Medical Journal as well.
Disclosure: McCullagh is married to a Google employee who is not involved with Panda.