Specifically, Google is now apparently cross-checking link text with the linked site, and discounting or ignoring links whose text does not appear in the linked site. This all but kills off Google bombing. Searching for "go to hell" no longer takes you to microsoft.com; searching for "talentless hack" no longer finds ohmessylife.com, although it finds a lot of people who were previously participating in the Google bombing. No definitive word yet on whether Google is actively penalizing such sites.
Unfortunately, the algorithm tweaks necessary to stop these two techniques have caused a wide range of collateral damage, apparently coming down hardest on medium-to-large sites that had previously been doing everything right (as far as page structure, link structure, accessibility, and general honest hard work putting together a usable and useful site). The Webmasterworld forums are alive with complaints and speculation: (see Mark's site for the links)
Regardless, Googleï¿½s search results in general appear to be significantly degraded in many key areas. The forums are full of people complaining that spam sites, doorway pages, and obvious cloaking attempts, which Google used to be so good at filtering out, are now popping up in top spots with disturbing frequency. Nobody in the forums wants to talk about which keywords theyï¿½re tracking, so I tried to find my own concrete example of crap search results. It didnï¿½t take long.
Just as a general comment it doesn't surprise me that Google's results have been degraded with this change -- but I doubt that this is permanent. Google has actually changed their algorithms a bunch of times and there is always a "issue". This type of stuff is hard and it's even harder when people are actively trying to subvert you (i.e. Google bombing). Google will (almost certainly) fix this.
I've told countless clients over the years that the best search engine optimization is this:
Build a good site.
Create relevant content.
Extensively cross link it.
Regularly update it.
Worry about meta tags and optimization a little but not a lot.
You can definitely spend $$$ on search engine work and sometimes it will pay off but it's a constant battle and you may just want to focus your efforts on building a better site. That pays off in the long run a lot more than countless tweaking. It is, however, substantially worse for the web consultant.
Note: Google's one of the few companies that I really "trust" and it seems like we're all jumping to conclusions way too fast (some people are actually saying "Google's reign is over" with these changes). Come on people ! Give them a chance to fix their bugs.
Posted In: #google