I'm breaking my usual pattern and will write this post in English.
As you might have heard, many of my websites* were blacklisted by Google about two months ago. These "wiki-style" Google Maps mashups sites previously had around 50.000 weekly visitors in Sweden, which is quite a lot for a small country. They have rapidly become really popular, with a lot of people adding reviews and pictures and helping out with updates and additions. The sites are, after about a year in existence, by far the most comprehensive in Sweden when it comes to listing for example sushi restaurants, beaches, cafés and churches.
The main reason the sites have become popular is because each specific "interest" has it's own specific web site. **
The blacklisting came as a real surprise to me as I was quite sure my sites didn't break any of the Google Webmaster Guidelines. The issue has since been discussed in the Google Webmaster Support forum, and Swedish Google employee Fredrik Andersson (based in Dublin) referred to the blacklisting as being due to duplicate content. Most people agree that this was incorrect. The sites have very little duplicate content, and Fredriks arguments were not actually about duplicated content, but about "too many of the sites turning up in the search results". Which is basically a result of their popularity.
A lot of people in Sweden thought the blacklisting was unfair, and that the search results in Sweden became a lot worse when these sites were excluded. One Google employee even claimed in Dagens Industri (a major business newspaper) that the blacklisting was a mistake. Nothing happened, however. Yesterday swedish journalist Andreas Ekström blogged about it again.
Now here is what is really exciting. In the comments to Andreas blogg post is Matt Cutts:
" Hi Andreas, my name is Matt Cutts and I’m the head of the webspam team at Google. Although we haven’t communicated as much as people might like externally, we have been discussing this situation quite a bit within Google.
One of the key things that we want Google’s search results to have is a diverse set of different websites. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we were seeing an unusually large number of Ted’s sites showing up for some searches, which can cause a poor user experience if the results aren’t diverse. I hope to have a chance to discuss this situation with all the relevant people within Google over the next few days.
Google might not always communicate as often as some people would like, but we do listen to the feedback that we get and appreciate it–even when it comes in the form of criticism."
This seems to be the real Matt Cutts, for sure. Wow. Obviously these questions have gone along way, and it seems like the jury is still out on the whole issue. Oh, how I hope the "relevant people" that Matt mentions are Larry Page and Sergey Brin!
So, Matt, if you are reading this:
- First of all I want you to know that I love Google. I am a vocal supporter of the Google ecosystem and try to encourage developers in Sweden, young and old, to join it.
- I agree with you that too many similiar sites on the same search result page is a problem, and I should have been more attentive to these problems from the beginning. Now I have taken a bunch of measures to fix these unintentional results. It is my goal, too, that the Google search results remain relevant.
- However, I think it was wrong of you to kill my business without notice, because of a somewhat vague problem that was not mentioned in the webmaster guidelines.
- Next time you see a problem like this, wouldn't it be better to change the guidelines first, (and give people a chance to adapt) before you start blacklisting websites.
- And I know this might sound like something against your policy... but; wouldn't it have been easier to send me an email asking me to fix this, in the first place, if I wasn't actually breaking any guidelines? I'm sure the people who reviewed my sites know quite well that I'm not a "black hat" SEO. I would have been happy to comply to any suggested changes.
* Cafekartan.se, Sushikartan.se, Badkartan.se, Kyrkokartan.se, Hotellkartan.se, Wifikartan.se, Campingkartan.se, Gymnasiekartan.se, Vintagekartan.se, Studentrabattkartan.se, Jobbkartan.se and Minkarta.se were all blacklisted, and can not be found even when searching for very obvious search terms like cafekartan. They are still left in the index but their value has been set to close to zero.
Annonskartan.se, Vandrarhemskartan.se and Flygkartan.se were not blacklisted.
** There's even a website for swedish air plane enthusiasts, where Swedish pilots review landing fields in Sweden! All these different sites have a common user login, so people can easily review things from different maps. The goal has been to in due time open up the platform so that anybody, anywhere, can create their own map-communites. A lot like Ning.com, but for maps. (My working name for this is Maploving.com. As with Ning.com and Blogger.com, you can let your community reside on a subdomain, like sushitokyo.maploving.com or wifispots-in-goa.maploving.com, or you can connect your own top domain to it, like I have done with these initial maps.)