Monday, April 04, 2011

Google sets the menu...

I had no idea so many people use the whole Internet as their recipe book. (What would Jan do without her clipping files from food mags?) Anyhoo, like most foodies I seldom go past the first page of search results, so when Google changes the rules for search, a whole lotta suppers are decided differently.

In late February, when Google announced that it was adding a new kind of search, specifically for recipes, it seemed like good news for a site like ours -– at last Google was shining its searchlight on content we deeply care about. But then came the bad news: once you get your new recipe results, you can refine the results in just 3 ways: by ingredient, by cooking time and by calories. While Google was just trying to improve its algorithm, thereby making the path to recipes easier and more efficient, it inadvertently stepped  into the middle of the battle between the quick-and-easy faction and the cooking-matters group.
Before these new changes, Google recipe results favored sites with lots of content and good Search Engine Optimization (that is, those that organized their pages and chose their words with Google's preferences in mind) – e.g. AllRecipes and Food. Now, recipe results favor these sites, but also those with lots of additional information, such as ratings, calories, cooking times, and photos.
Imagine the blogger who has excellent recipes but has to compete against companies with staff devoted entirely to S.E.O. And who now must go back and figure out the calorie counts of all of his recipes, and then add those numbers, along with other metadata. That’s not going to happen. So the chance that that blogger’s recipes will appear anywhere near the first page of results is vanishingly small. (See Craig Goldwyn's piece on this in the Huffington Post.) [More]
It seems to me the accumulated nudges of such minor information flow influences could be considerable. Given the intensity of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts by businesses, all those plans by the myriad of "ag advocates" planning to use search engine results to tell their story might be a tad naive.

While we have been worrying about the right and FNS or the left and the MSM, geeks have been undermining both on the Web. It also presents a real challenge for ag organizations who are deciding what medium to communicate through to various audiences.

I have always depended on Google and have been satisfied with the results and efficiency. But the rise of content farms and similar "first-page hogs" has diluted the results for even my arcane searches.

I may have to go to page 2!

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