Google

If People Don't Link to Porn Sites, How Does Google Rank Porn?

By Elisa Gabbert April 02, 2014 Posted In: Google Comments: 18

In his latest Webmaster video, Matt Cutts answers the question: “How does Google separate popularity from authority?” (This question came from a “Blind Five Year Old,” by the way! That’s our friend AJ Kohn unless someone stole his alias.)

It’s an interesting question, but I’m particularly interested in an offhand comment that Cutts makes at the beginning of the video. To distinguish between popular sites and authoritative sites, he uses the examples of pornography and government websites. Porn sites are more popular than government sites, he says, but government sites are more authoritative:

If you were to look at sites that are popular – for example porn sites are very popular – but people tend not to link to porn sites. On the other hand if you take something like the Wisconsin real estate board, probably not a ton of people go there, but quite a few people do link to government websites. And so popularity is in some sense a measure of where people go, whereas PageRank is much more a measure of reputation; it's much more a measure of where people link.

This is fascinating to me because of the admission he isn’t focusing on – there are verticals (if we can call porn a vertical) where links are not important. This is probably why, as Cutts said in a recent Webmaster video, Google has tried ranking sites without consulting the link graph.

So the question becomes, if people don’t link to porn, how does Google rank porn sites? People certainly use Google to search for porn (protip: turn "safe search" off), and they must have some method of ranking those sites. And in a space like porn, “simple popularity” would trump authority.

Do People Even Want Authority?

The thing is, I don’t think porn is the only exception to the “authority” rule. I’d argue that there are a number of spaces where popularity should far outweigh links. Take restaurants for example. As a diner, I don’t really care which restaurants have the most press, I care which restaurants serve the best food. There might be better ways of measuring the signals of true popularity for a restaurant (social buzz, brand searches, mobile check-ins, etc.) than links. These are the kinds of signals that would figure into a Quality Score–type algorithm for organic rankings, versus standard-issue, link-based PageRank.

But restaurants are just one example. I think Google – at least in PR like Webmaster videos – is overselling the importance of authority to users. Assuming that people want authoritative content is kind of like assuming they want vegetables and whole grains, when in fact they’d rather have junk food most of the time. In other words, people want porn.

Journalism Porn

They want the porn equivalent of journalism (quizzes and listicles from BuzzFeed, for example) just as much, if not more, as they want the New York Times. And when they’re looking for general information, they often want Wikipedia.

We know Google knows people want Wikipedia for two reasons:

But the truth is, Wikipedia isn’t really “authoritative,” it’s just popular. The content on Wikipedia is biased and always in flux. At any given time, any “fact” you find on Wikipedia could be utter bullshit. Plus, most of it is scraped, AKA copied and pasted, and "stitched" from other sites, something Cutts has told us content creators is a no-no. Still, it’s what people want (simple, familiar, to the point), so Google gives it to them. Of course, Wikipedia also happens to have a killer link profile, but this is somewhat circular – people keep clicking and linking because it’s always one of the first five results.

Closing Thoughts

  • Google is forced to rethink rankings in verticals where links aren’t the going currency. I think it’s inevitable that Google looks to ranking signals outside the link in other query spaces. However Google ranks porn is the future of search.
  • When it comes to content, “quality” is defined by the people. Unless you’re a government website (in which case you probably don’t need to worry about SEO), define quality by what makes your users happy. If they are clicking, reading, sharing, and coming back, those are the quality signals you need, whether or not they’re linking. Be addictive. Be like junk food to your audience.

Google Alerts RSS Feed




If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment.

Comments

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Overton (not verified) Said:

Google gave up on indexing the web almost 10 years ago. They mostly link sites similar to that which

you've linked to before, or better yet +1'd. After that they shove a wikipedia link as chances are it won't be complete

nonsense. The result is that people think they are getting relevant results when in reality they are being gamed.

 

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Ha!

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Derek Devlin (not verified) Said:

I have worked with a few if the big porn sites and I can tell you that links are very much still the main signal for ranking. There's no secret. it's true that people don't link to porn sites, so what do you do if no one will link to you? Go get artificial links of course! porn is dominated by who can build the most "natural looking" artificial link graph. Just another vertical that undermines the existing Google ranking paradigm.

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Yeah I think what Google really meant is that HIGH-AUTHORITY sites don't like to porn sites. I'm sure they have plenty of paid links! The question is, does Google care at all about ranking "quality" porn? Are they looking for real signals, like time on page, bounce rate, etc.?

Thursday April 03, 2014

Philip Tomlinson (not verified) Said:

I think we both know the answer to that. There are HIGH-AUTHORITY porn sites and they rank, I'm sure you can name a few production companies yourself. 

I don't think Google looks at anything else other than links for porn and payday loans. They just are more severe when they catch something unnatural. 

Paid links and spam still win most of the time in non-porn verticals if you just make sure they remain natural looking. 

Thursday April 03, 2014

ashutosh kumar (not verified) Said:

this seems to be the most legitimate answer

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Weng (not verified) Said:

Well porn is one of the most lucrative business in the net. So owners have the luxury to buy the links they want to get.  Bounce rate is and CTR rates is not a problem in porn sites. Users usually stays in that kind of site. So links would be the determining factor who ranks first. I have not yet work on optimizing porn sites but you can check out some jobs sites and there are a lot of people who are looking for specialist to help them rank their site in search engines.

Wednesday April 02, 2014

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Well if that's true then Google knows the difference between paid links and "natural" links because when Cutts says porn sites don't get links, he is basically admitting that all porn links are paid links. But they're counting/using them anyway? Something is fishy. I stlil think Google will eventually move away from links. I'm sure plenty of big brands act like porn sites -- they buy links and get away with it because people want what they're offering, so Google has to rank them.

Thursday April 03, 2014

Weng (not verified) Said:

Eventually. But I guess Google still have to rely in links to crawl websites in order to gather more relevant pages. Maybe Google uses a special algorithm for porn sites (maybe!), 

Thursday April 03, 2014

Jon Rhodes (not verified) Said:

Do porn sites really rank that well? If you search for the term "sex", there's not a single porn site that appears in the top ten.

 

I'm guessing that they rely more on people searching for their brand name. Facebook doesn't have to rank high for the term "social network". People type in "Facebook".

 

Porn sites only seem to rank for very specific search terms where only other porn sites will be competing with them. 

Thursday April 03, 2014

Elisa Gabbert Said:

People searching for "sex" aren't necessarily looking for porn. But use your imagination. There are many queries that a porn site would want to rank for, and Google has to rank them somehow. It would be absurd for them to only want to rank for their own brand search.

Thursday April 03, 2014

Sunday (not verified) Said:

There is a thin line between popularity and authority when it comes to Google's rankings. The examples on pornography and government websites are quite revealing. A lot of people would contest Google's take on where best to link and rank between these two options. However, I still think that vertical links should not be ignored!

Thursday April 03, 2014

AnonymousEmergency Pizza party (not verified) Said:

The premise is flawed. People absolutely link, and link copiously to porn sites. They just don't share them on Google+.

Tuesday April 08, 2014

Megan Marrs Said:

I agree, I think it's unlikely that porn sites are never linked to - we probably just don't witness much linkage because the links are happening in some seedy web spaces that we don't frequent (giving the collective "we" here a lot of credit : P )

Friday April 04, 2014

Lorne Fade (not verified) Said:

Spot on analysis with popularity based ranking for special industries.  I see it all the time for insurance as well as heavily spammed industries like diet and viagra.  Google is looking at social trends and measuring signals more than ever and I think as long as the results are consitantly relevant they wont be looking to change this trend.

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Anonymous (not verified) Said:

Simply throw a big porn site into majestic and tell me links don't matter, you could probably bring down half of the webs largest private networks with the top ten alone.

Monday May 19, 2014

Ian (not verified) Said:

Its easy to rate.

Monday June 02, 2014

free cams (not verified) Said:

I run a adult site and I think being popular must rank higher than any links, so i agree with your article about links over popularity. If more go to porn sites then this should rank higher than even non porn websites. Google go on about being popular is a good way to increase your rank, but they pick and choose what ones are popular in the non porn sense, so add this all up and you get double standards. Porn is very popular but Google don't rate this high, but the visitors to  these sites do, and if your going to rank popular sites you have to rank the porn sites to, if not Google or matt your talking rubbish

Leave a Comment

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.
 
Free Keyword Tool

Get thousands of relevent keyword suggestions - more,
faster, free!

Free Keyword Niche Finder

Discover profitable pockets of keywords for your
business.

Free Negative Keyword Suggestion Tool

Identify wasted spend before it happens and increase
your paid search ROI.

Contact Us | Company | Support | Site Map | Trademarks | Privacy Policy © 2007-2014 WordStream, Inc. All rights reserved.