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Google Delivers A Punishing Blow To How-To Sites

The algorithm strikes back, sort of.

As Barry Schwartz pointed out today over at Search Engine Land, Google’s now quite detailed knowledge graph has started to return step by step instructions on searches, similar to those you might find on a how-to site like eHow or Here’s a quick example of what we found:

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In some cases, Google’s answer box only displays a few of the steps, prompting the user to click through to the site, but for some, like the recipe for French toast, all the steps are conveniently laid out, making it easy for the user to stay on Google’s page:

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While Google hasn’t responded to comment regarding the change, the search giant has had a fraught relationship with how-to sites like eHow. Back in 2011, eHow, which rose to prominence gaming search engine optimization techniques, was caught flat-footed by a Google algorithm change intended to weed out content farms. Its search referral traffic dropped 20 percent over night.

These tensions aren’t exactly new. For some time now, publishers have expressed anxiety over Google’s knowledge graph and the answer box, which seems to be getting better and better at scraping quick bits of information from sites and keeping users from clicking through to individual pages. Back in Feburary, this snarky tweet from digital marketer Dan Barker to Google’s webspam head Matt Cutts recieved over 33,000 retweets:

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