Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Google News Growth Hack Exposed

In the past I’ve found Google News to be an acceptable source of headline news because it organizes a ton of information very efficiently and collects similar articles on major topics. For example, stories on the Ukranian crisis often include several links to news agencies in the US and Europe, thus offering me the latest content from various angles. This is great because users of Google News can synthesize the gist of recent world news very quickly.

For serious journalistic inquiry I do not recommend Google News. And now, I hesitate to recommend it to anyone for any use:

Today I was casually browsing Google News on my iPhone and I saw an interesting story about the Egyptian pyramids:

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After clicking on the Egyptian pyramid story, I learned a bit about the pyramids of money some Google News publishers are making…

I expected to be linked to a news story on “The Standard Digital News” about this interesting discovery. Instead I was redirected via the url “” to the tracking domain “”:

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I was confused, so I tapped the screen. Any click on this screen, not just the two buttons, leads to an automatic redirect to the app store:


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According to, a publisher who refers a download is paid about $1.75 for a US user. The payment is likely via the company “MobPartner” as per the redirect above.

To summarize, I was interested in reading more about the Egyptian pyramids and instead I was redirected to download a game named “Dragon City”. At this point it was abundantly clear that Google News is being gamed by some of their publishers, and those publishers are definitely making a hefty profit from this simple mobile redirect.

So how does a news organization get onto Google News in the first place? First, you don’t need to be a vetted news organization. Any site can be added once it is approved based on Google’s explicit guidelines found here.

The second guideline states:

Journalistic standards. Original reporting and honest attribution are longstanding journalistic values. If your site publishes aggregated content, you will need to separate it from your original work, or restrict our access to those aggregated articles via your robots.txt file.

Let’s go back to the original article that I hoped to read:

Scientists say they have finally solved the mystery of how the Egyptian pyramids were built 4,000 years later

You may notice at the bottom of the article the author name “Mirror” makes it clear that this article is aggregated content. Try copying + pasting the first couple of sentences into Google and you will see this story has been published on hundreds of other news outlets. Thus, no original reporting here.

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The fifth guideline states:

Readability. Clearly written articles with correct spelling and grammar make for a much better user experience. Limiting your use of distracting ads and auto-load videos also allows users to more easily focus on your article content.

For mobile users, this publisher “The Standard Digital News” practices a “sneaky redirect“. Again, a clear violation of the Google News guidelines.

Thankfully, Google has a form for submitting problematic publishers and articles found here. But you may notice that the default issues are heavily directed towards existing publishers who are having trouble getting their content properly syndicated.

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The form appears to be just a user support feature for the publishers of Google News, not a reliable Spam reporting tool.

Sounds like the wild west of news, right? “The Standard Digital News” is a real news organization based in Kenya, but I bet they aren’t the only publishers violating the guidelines. The frightening reality is that anyone can make their own news site and in just a couple of days see their content on Google News. Take a look at this thread in an online Internet Marketing forum. All a person has to do is follow a handful of steps:

  1. Setup your domain with a new WordPress news theme.
  2. Hire writers from oDesk to rewrite news articles for $2 each. (Being sure to use copyscape to ensure “journalistic quality”.)
  3. Start with 150 back-dated articles to show that the site has some momentum.
  4. Setup a nice logo and real phone number.
  5. Double check that the site complies with the google webmaster guidelines.
  6. Submit for approval.


And then boom! You could be a publisher on Google News, and you could deploy “sneaky redirects” for the thousands of mobile users referred to your site. This is a harsh reality and I sincerely hope that Google will monitor the quality of their Google News results as closely as their SEO guidelines.


05 2014

Prospective College Students Ask Google For Answers

Early last December I published a collection of rather difficult questions asked by certain college supplements. To my surprise, I saw an unusual increase in organic traffic referred to my post regarding these obscure questions.

A few observations I’m taking away from this unexpected traffic:

  • The two spikes in traffic occurred just before the application deadlines on January 1st and January 15th. I think its logical to associate these procrastinators as people who would be more likely to search the question on Google.
  • Of the 12 questions posted, the most popular incoming search was “The Admission Committee members would laugh if they knew I…”, which was asked on the supplement for Pepperdine.
  • In a close 2nd place was the question proposed by Wake Forest: “What final Jeopardy category would ensure your victory?”
  • By combining the stats from the second Wake Forest question I posted, the Wake Forest supplement referred more traffic than any of the other college supplements. (About 3-4% of the total applicant pool at Wake Forest this year has visited my blog in the last two months.)

Organic search traffic for college supplement questions.

My blog is just one of 10 different websites on the first page of Google that is receiving traffic for these college application questions. The trend is much more widespread than the visitors to my blog. Beyond what the statistical vicissitudes indicate, I think this growing trend is revealing a shift in how students react to critical analysis.

For this small sampling of just over 1,000 applicants visiting my blog, there is a present shift of mindset from relying on personal thoughts to relying on the power of Google. All too often over the course of my high school career I’ve listened to my peers cite their research by listing “Google” or “Wikipedia” as their primary source. Many kids growing up in the internet age are now first turning to Google when they are prompted to find an answer that they should be creating themselves. Instead of students taking information based on legitimate credibility, students perceive that Google has already done this work for them by ranking website sources according to its relevance.

What I’m trying to emphasize is the increasing lack of critical thinking instigated by easy access to information that can be readily searched for on the internet. The expectation that a Google search will be able to accurately predict your opinion on topics such as personal strengths or world issues is outrageous. Fortunately the questions asked by college supplements encourage a self reflection, often forcing applicants to express their true thoughts and character. Perhaps these sometimes part philosophical and part personal questions should be asked more often in the classroom.


01 2011

Profiting With SEO For Images

Recently I setup a blog dedicated to a certain celebrity, and I added a description with keywords to each picture. I did this to provide the user with some information when they scrolled over the image. To my surprise, I unexpectedly saw hundreds of organic visitors from Google Images within a few weeks. By seeing these organic visitors from Google Images, I discovered a potentially profitable traffic source, with zero competition at all, in any niche!

This is sort of an “out-of-the-box” approach to SEO, because no one thinks of recieving organic visitors from Google Images, everyone thinks of web search. However, we all search for images all the time via Google and other search engines, except very few, if any people, have ever thought of the possibility of competing to be on the first page of images in a Google Images search.

In order to profit from this technique, you must place the images on a landing page with your links. Therefore, everyone who clicks on the image will be taken to your landing page.

This may spark a few of the performance marketers out there to dive into Google Images SEO! It’s worth a shot, here are my recent traffic stats from this technique-

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07 2009