During the Memorial weekend, I decided to pull the plug on the CMS related news feeds we were streaming into Planet CMS. One of CMS Report's biggest strengths has always been pointing people toward the right direction in their search for content management systems. Knowing that one site couldn't support all the stories that needed to be written about CMSs, we began to rely more heavily on using a news aggregator within our Drupal CMS to provide you the links and excerpts to articles written elsewhere. I did this all with good intentions, but Google apparently disagrees.
Google constantly changes their search and ranking algorithms intended in part to weed out sites that lacked original quality content. The algorithm, Google Panda, does this in part by penalizing sites that artificially raise their onsite content by using the content of others. Sites that aggregate content from other sites get hit pretty hard in Google's search rankings. I thought I was in the clear by only providing a short excerpt and not the full content of the article, but the drop in referrals over time from Google Search tells me otherwise.
Last year, I ignored Panda because I knew my intentions were good, but the experts tell me that good intentions are not enough. I was naive and CMS Report paid the price. This has been a brutal year for traffic to CMSReport.com. My rankings and referrals from Google have dropped significantly the past several months.
The irony with Panda is that for the first time, I have had to stop focusing on providing good content and good services on this site. Instead I've spent my last week focusing on making changes to my site for the sole purpose of search engine optimization (SEO). This action is the opposite of what I think Google's Panda intended to do. I should be more focused on content and less on search rankings.
Am I angry at Google for being mean to me? I may be a little frustrated with Google, but I am not angry. What Google is attempting to do is provide search results that send their users to the original and relevant content. The problem is that Google's algorithms can't decipher whether a site aggregates content with good intention or for the evil purpose of stealing one's work and trying to game the system. Until Google's algorithms can distinguish this difference, CMS Report is not going to provide an automated news aggregation service to our readers.
I am most angry at me. In 2007, I wrote an emotional but important article titled, Under the shadow of the news feed. In that article, I talked about the positives of manually aggregating news stories verses the lack of value when you automate the process.
The manual process for aggregating news that I just described takes a little more time than even I had expected. The negative result is that the "constant stream" of articles and links I intended to post never really happened. My hat off to those quality sites out there that are able to pull this off. However, while my process for posting the news isn't as efficient and it could be, I think such a process makes site such as mine and Linux Today not only more interesting for the reader but also genuine and honest.
Unfortunately, not every news site visited by the Internet surfer is found to be so honest. In fact the dirty little secret out there is that some sites provide content that is not reviewed by a real person but by automated software. These sites just pull articles from feeds of other sites and post them online without the reader even being aware that there really isn't anyone steering the ship. This is all done by software used for news aggregation found in some of the better CMS out there. News aggregation via the CMS is neither good or bad...it's just software. In fact, in the back pages of my site I also provide news aggregation from feeds focused on CMS and information technology. So what's my complaint with some news aggregation sites that I label as bad competition? I have a problem with sites out there that are there for the sole purpose of using other people's work. They really don't advocate a particular opinion or cause except the cause of using other people's work in hopes of making a profit for themselves.
So dear readers, I failed in not recognizing that the more I began relying on a more automated approach to delivering content to you, the more I lost the heart and soul of CMS Report. You deserve better than that. We can do better than that. A new version of CMSReport.com is coming online this summer. As we migrate over to the new site, there will be growing pains but I'm hoping to learn not only from the mistakes of the past but also our successes. There are a lot of good things CMS Report has provided our audience and will continue to provide so in the future. For good or for bad, automated news aggregation just won't be one of those services. The Panda and my own good advice is just too strong to ignore any longer.
Bryan Ruby is the owner and editor for CMS Report. He founded CMSReport.com in 2006 on the belief that information technologists, website owners, and web developers desired visiting sites where they could learn about content management systems without the sales pitch. Besides this site, you can follow Bryan at Google+ and Twitter.