Again my question is when will Google’s words match their actions. I started noticing several websites changing dates to manipulate their SERP rankings. Sometimes they would make the date more current so the article shows up as a recent news story and sometimes they would back date so it looks like the website was first to publish something. Sometimes they would do both. Either way these sites were violating Google’s guidelines and not being penalized. In fact in some cases listed below you can see a site has their two duplicate stories at the top of the cue.
Here is the infamous Wetpaint. I couldn’t figure out why the same article “meet the contestants” by Wetpaint… kept showing up in my Google News alerts. I noticed the date change countless time but was only to screenshot 3 of those changes. You can see 4/20/2015, 4/22/2015, and 3/16/2015 are the EXACT SAME article and finally 3/11/2015 is slightly different but contains the exact same information reworded. None are the original publish date. You can see on the bottom example all they do is change the title a tiny bit from “meet the guys” to “meet the lucky guys”. Both try and coerce you to “click through their gallery”–same gallery. The March 16th date is a lot earlier than that article was published. Look…. the date of all the photos isn’t until 4/2015. How can the photos have a later publishing date than the actual article?
Because Wetpaint is changing the dates of their articles. Notice they created one that would be really early even before the official spoilers were released so they look like they are first, then one that they change to keep current so it always shows up in recent news. So their strategy is to have at least two duplicate articles. One to be first, one that they can continuously change to keep in news. Here is another one of my favorite Wetpaint changes. The article name is “Who is Eliminated contestant Carly Waddell?”. The article is dated January 15th, 2015, 1 week after the show premiered. Carly did not get eliminated until week 7.
Wetpaint needs to be more careful when they backdate so they don’t back date a story so far back that it is before it even happened!
Here is another big site that follows the same pattern as Wetpaint called Heavy.com…
Here is another one from Bustle.com. You can see its from 13 hrs ago screenshotted May 4th. EXACT same article below dated April 16th. You can also see it’s being reissued as “news” on May 4th.
You can see each of these examples are “news” sites. Bustle kept changing the date of this article up until early May. BTW Bustle.com is a Google Venture project. They received $100,000 in seed money from Google. The rest of their $6.5 million in seed money came from telecomm giant Time Warner so are these “start-ups” getting special treatment since big tech owns a stake?
As a side note, one of my favorite parts about this news story is where the writer claims she doesn’t know whether Craig passed the BAR or even took it! Talk about click bait!
Here is an instance where the same site, The Inquisitr changes a few words but writes the same article and both articles are at the very top of the cue. Is this seriously acceptable for a “news” site? This is clearly manipulation designed to deceive the user. And none of these are small sites. Wetpaint recently sold for $30 million dollars and has been getting away with this sort of behavior for years.
UPDATE 1/2016: The parent company of Wetpaint aka Viggle recently filed for bankruptcy after taking millions from investors. I suggest the investors and their attorneys look at Google for artificially inflating the value of Viggle–keeping Wetpaint at the top os SERPS despite black hat techniques. Also look at the connection between Adwords PPC campaigns and how they ranked for search terms. If there is a connection (and I strongly suspect there is) that would show that Google conspired to artificially inflate the value of the company.
The other sites are very highly ranked despite this behavior in addition to other manipulative tactics. The Inquisitr has been caught plagiarizing content and printing hoaxes—not to mention their painfully slow page load time…over 4 seconds! Slower than 93% of other sites yet The Inquisitr tops the cue every time multiple time with duplicate content. So does Heavy.com and Bustle.com.
These sites are making millions of dollars off of this coercive and deceptive behavior. How much longer will Google look the other way?
I have started putting a list together of very spammy sites that do not belong in Google news. If you have any to add let me know.
- Bustle.com (a Google venture comp)