Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Is Mahalo Having An Identity Crisis?

According to a recent article by Allen Stern over at CenterNetworks Calacanis and crew have made another change of direction. Now the "human-powered search" is a "research engine".

The move as I see it can only be a direct response to leaked Google documents regarding spam and the amount of original content per page.

"Final Notes on Spam
When trying to decide if a page is Spam, it is helpful to ask yourself this question: if I remove the scraped (copied) content, the ads, and the links to other pages, is there anything of value left? if the answer is no, the page is probably Spam."

According to CenterNetworks an email was sent to greenhouse workers last week with Jason demanding a few changes. They are now mandating a minimum of 300-400 word guide notes, a direct attempt at adding some of their own content to each page. Jason reportedly stated, "No guide notes, no google/yahoo rankings, and no traffic. No traffic, no money. No money, we all go home."

Aaron Wall over at SEOBook.com recently used the "Best Computer Speakers" page from Mahalo as a point of reference for his article "Official - Mahalo is Spam, According to Google's Internal Spam Documents" so to be fare we'll take a look at the same page.

In response to the article Jason defends the page as being "sort of experimental" and adds "Over time I think you’ll see our pages grow to be over 50% original content, 20% links, and 20% UGC (i.e. reviews, votes, comments)."

Several issues arise here but one is being that they are counting on 20% of their content to be user generated. If you look at the page in question (which has been revised since the article) you'll see there is zero UGC, zero Mahalo generated content on the main context of the page and what little original(ish) (thanks Aaron) content they do have is relatively unrelated to the rest of the page.

The page is supposed to be about the "best computer speakers" however all we see is a list of 5 speaker sets and where to buy them. Reviews are listed but there is no factual based information provided that tells me why or by whom the speakers were selected. Mahalo generates zero information in relation to what makes these the "best" they simply scrape tid bits.


So what makes Mahalo a "research engine"? Clearly it can't be seen in any of their recent pages looking over a few newly created pages listed on the daily serp list shows that. If they are going to scrape content to add to the guides notes to extend them to 400 words then they are missing the point of "original content".

Aaron Wall said it best, "Scraping content is not just about how many unique words are on the page. It is more about weather or not you add value. If you felt your original content added any *real* value (or was actually *here to help* - as your slogan suggests), I would suggest placing it in the left rail above all the ads."

Obviously time will tell, I'm sure Jason will will probably shift gears yet again and Mahalo will don a new label before long. The question is what is next? Obviously Mahalo is generating traffic, and even though Jason original said they had enough money to last years without advertising he must be worried about revenue generation. 75% of their traffic comes from Google, fear of loosing that will obviously force the team to get creative and make some changes.

For more reading I suggest checking out "Jason Calacanis and his human powered spam" from derekville.net and "What Is Going On At Mahalo?" posted on Profy.com by Michael Garrett.

Some Final Thoughts

After writing this post I noted a few things that raised some rather interesting questions.

Search engines don't typically index SERPs from other search engines, you don't get a Yahoo results page in your Google search and vice versa. So why do Google and Yahoo index Mahalo pages? Shouldn't they be excluded in the search results? What will happen to Jason's little pet project once they are excluded, after all 75% of their traffic is Google generated?

The second thought was the direct correlation between Jason's blog post about the example page and the pages Google ranking. I thought it was rather funny Jason's blog post ranked as high or higher than their SERP. Obviously Jason's not going to "nofollow" his links from his blog to the Mahalo SERPs, he wants to lend his PR to their pages. But that page and Jason's blog post are hardly the best results out there for the subject. Hell I'd go so far as to say Jason's blog post could be considered SPAM, which we all know he loathes so much!

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