The Long Tail has a Short Memory

(Yech – I just tried some of the searches that hadn’t been working and now they are – hence the entire premise of this post is, at best, questionable.  I’m still going to leave it up as it brings up a question we need to consider – how reliant are we on Google, and how will small changes in Google affect our online marketing efforts)

Everyone’s talking about the long tail, and savvy marketers devoting more resources to looking at blogs, buzz management and all things community.  It’s great to see, but in the background, subtle changes at Google may have forever changed our landscape. 

In the past, the web has had a very long reach.  An article posted in 1999 on Reel-Time.com still generates a lot of email for me, even though it doesn’t come up at the top of the search topic “Fly Fishing Monomoy” anymore.  The key is that our back catalog or archives were very important to us, as a place where relevance was to be found, where the true depth of our sites really shone.

Sometime in September David Churbuck mentioned in a post on his blog that I was “one of the smartest guys on the topic of publishing technologies” (I’m not, really – I can name many more worthy).  Google immediately (in an hour or so) listed that post at the top of any search for “smartest guy publishing technology” – which gave us a lot of laughs at the office.  As Lis Pennington (arguably Lis Pennington is the smartest person in publishing technology) notes, they got the suffix on that wrong…smart@$$  is more like it. 

The story came up the other day and and we redid the search.  Nothing…nada…negres.  The post has been dropped out of Google as though it never existed.  Which prompted some immediate searching on Google for topics from several blogs “previous” links. Again, they didn’t show, even when searching for exact text.  Apparently Google applies a negative weight in it’s algorithym to anything not on the homepage of a blog, or anything older than, say, a month. (note: later research shows this NOT TO BE THE  CASE)

The problem is this: while as marketers we may be trying to influence the buzz, that means that our efforts are fleeting.  If the long tail has a short memory, corporate bloggers may be shoveling against the tide.  If Google is devaluing what we have to say after 30 days, should we not consider some mashup of a traditional article structure with commenting?

It used to be that Google recalculated results monthly (if that…) – but now I am seeing results from blogs particularly showing up within the hour.  It would appear there have been major changes in the Googlescape over the past year.  It’s time to do some serious research…

Disclosure: This is based upon personal observation – not analytical research – as such any reference to changes in the Google algorithm, etc. should be taken with a grain of salt. 

2 Replies to “The Long Tail has a Short Memory”

  1. Mark,
    I think I understand what you are saying to mean that Google is not crawling blog archives? Or, discounting anything that is not on the current index.php?

    So, if a post moves to a fixed html page, like your 99 article, then it continues to be acknowledged by Goog?

    Good post.

  2. The jury is still out on exactly what’s going on. The back pages of the three I tested were missing last week and earlier this week. Suspiciously, they’ve returned today (right after this post). It hints to me that there’s some tweaking going on at Google.

    I’m going to set up a few standing searches on known archive stuff from a few varied blogs and watch.

    A single massage to the algorithm can cause massive problems for all of us…and in blogs, would it not make sense to weight importance based on date? i fear they are treating blogs differently than they treat regular html content.

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