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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Google's made some changes to the way it computes search results. The company's bumping what it calls 'low-quality websites' that are clogging up the web down lower in its search algorithm. And as happens, every time you mention Google and search in the same phrase, there are billions of dollars on the line.

Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.


Steve Henn: Companies spending millions to get their web pages to rise to the top of Google search results. And Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms so you can't game the system. Usually the tweaks are small. This latest one is not.

Matt Cutts leads Google's anti-spam web team.

Matt Cutts: About 12 percent of queries are affected to a degree that a regular user might notice.

What does that mean? Hundreds of millions useless search results should disappear.

Cutts: A lot of people want to turn this into something adversarial or want us to call out specific companies. And that is not our intent. Our intent is just to try and find the best results for our users.

In the last few years, several so-called content farms have blossomed into multi-billion dollar businesses. They did it by pumping out millions of evergreen articles designed to pop to the top of Google's search results.

Cutts won't name names, but many media analysts point to one firm in particular: Demand Media. These are the folks who created eHow and LiveStrong. Today, if you want to remove a red wine stain or ripen an avocado, eHow has literally dozens of articles aimed at you.

Co-founder Richard Rosenblatt explained the business this way on an earnings call this week:

Richard Rosenblatt: Demand connects millions of people with diverse needs and interests to the useful valuable and relevant information they want.

And advertisers love this stuff. When you click on one these articles, advertisers know exactly what you are looking for. But many critics say the actual information is often second-rate. And hundreds of eHow articles vanished from the top spot on Google searches today.

Still, Demand Media issued a statement today saying Google's changes hadn't affected its overall traffic.

In Silicon Valley, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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