Was Snooth crushed by Google’s new algorithm?

Google reshuffled its proprietary algorithm recently to favor quality and penalize “content farms” that were gaming the system, producing content optimized for search engines, rather than humans. The NYT had a discussion of the changes, and here’s a list of 25 sites severely affected. (Arianna Huffington should count 315 million lucky stars these changes came just weeks after she sold her site to Aol.)

When I read about this development, I wondered what would happened to Snooth.com, the wine web site that seems to be a champion of SEO, ranking high in the organic search results yet providing so little useful information that they were found to be scraping cellartracker.com content since 2007 to populate some pages. For web ad sales, more page views can mean higher ad revenues.

I searched for a few specific wines and the results returned a few snooth pages in the top ten so I thought they hadn’t been affected. But according to quantcast, their (directly measured) pageviews have slid significantly over the past week. I guess time will tell the fuller story.

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26 Responses to “Was Snooth crushed by Google’s new algorithm?”

  1. snooth is evil i hope they all catch on fire

  2. Fascinating post. Thanks for sharing. I had not heard about this.

  3. Very interesting. Thanks Google for putting the scrapers down where they belong. Should include Snooth.

  4. When I heard about the Google algorithm change, I immediately thought about Snooth. Thanks for showing a bit of the numbers side. It’ll be interesting to see if their strategy changes down the line if their traffic drops significantly.

  5. Google’s latest “improvement” is the new recipe search. In order to get into it, you need to know how to code microdata, microformats, or RDFa. Of course all the big food sites, food network and epicurious added the new codes, but most great recipe writers, small fervent food bloggers, etc. will get left by the wayside. Sad.

  6. Meathead Goldwin, you are right, some fantastic informers will certainly be negatively affected by this change, but can we hope that the “fervent” food bloggers will be informed by the web and savvy enough to figure out how to apply these codes? I hope so.

  7. Snooth has obivously created a very poor
    image, one which the wine industry doesn’t
    need or want.
    Good bye to these irresponisble business

  8. Snooth did make a mistake by (apparently) forgetting to delete their code that scraped cellartracker notes and turning it into simple tags on Snooth. This was wrong (morally and legally) but I reckon it was it was an honest mistake.

    They are also a likely candidate for a drop in ranking given the best information about wine brands are on other sites (the winery’s, bloggers, magazines etc). So it will be interesting if this is the algorithmic change from Google that does this.

  9. Ha! And I was just complaining about Snooth to some friends of mine who are engineers at Google. Coincidence? I think not! 😀

  10. Snooth is virtually useless. Pointless to continue its existence.

  11. The amount of venom at Snooth is fascinating. Recently coming from to wine from outside the industry, I’m continually reminded how insular, and because of that, behind the times this industry is. Folks, the issues of content portability are as old as the TV networks originally trying to sue Yahoo! (before Google existed) because people were going to Yahoo! to find the news network’s news. The networks were saying all the things about Yahoo! you are all now saying about Snooth.
    What happened?
    As soon as they spent some time with the medium, they figured out the value of content aggregators, and now can’t farm out their content to enough places. They realized that the internet is a non-linear conversation rather than a liner production of information.

    Snooth’s use of some code is iffy, those sorts of mistakes can happen in the frenzied dot com environment. If you’ve never worked inside a dot com company, you can’t understand how that could happen, but it can. Easily. And, when told about it, they came clean, apologized, and changed it.
    There is controversy in this area of content, and some companies do some shady things. But are you really willing to let Google’s algorithm define what must or must not be “moral” behavior. Wake up folks, Google changed the algorithm because BING is taking share by having a more relevant algorithm. This is about nothing more than Google’s profits, NOT morality.
    Snooth does a lot of good for wine consumers by consolidating a TON of information about wine that most consumers can’t easily find. That’s why it is so popular. Consumers would LOVE to easily find a really informative and creative blog post about a wine. Snooth makes it easier for consumers to find all the millions of posts and reviews consumers wouldn’t otherwise easily be able to find.
    People like Paul Mabray who are affiliated with a company that is trying to do nearly the same thing as Snooth, but are being crushed by Snooth, are jealous and greedy, and unhappy at being beaten at a game they are trying to win. All of their moral indignation is just, pardon the pun, sour grapes.
    And, no, I don’t work for Snooth (though I have met one person who does, and he’s actually NOT the devil).
    Some context would be helpful.

  12. Tom,

    No offense, but what a silly load of hooey.

    VinTank is not doing the same thing as Snooth. They caught Snooth doing something that was clearly wrong. It’s really that simple.

  13. Google claim these web site are mostly content farm website without original content. The truth is, the existing of these company are deemed to be threaten to Google. What Google itself really is? Does Google use its own original content all the time? Absolutely not! Google crawl, organize and index other website’s content and present them to the user, and name it “SEARCH”. This is exactly what these content farm website doing. I do believe Google did this so that they can be the only gateway to all the content over the internet. This is unfair competition, and all people impacted by this should united and take action. Join us at http://google-algorithm-ruins-my-business.blogspot.com/ for action

  14. […] Vino wonders if Snooth will be crushed by Google’s new […]

  15. My approach starting 2 years ago was to put the term “-snooth” in the search terms. This got rid of all the snooth stuff. This works for any site that you don’t want to show up in a Google search.

  16. […] of the most popular and highly ranked wine review site, Snooth. One of the most popular wine blogs, Dr. Vino, reported yesterday on Google’s announcement, wondering “what would happened to Snooth.com, the […]

  17. VinTank shouldn’t really have much to do with this except they started the entire thing and blew it out of proportion to what happens online every day with companies collecting and consolidating content for consumers, including GOOGLE, the ultimate consolidator with no original content.

    The fact is that VinTank has had a relationship with Cruvee for a long while and they strongly encourage all of their clients to use Cruvee (rather than Snooth). And they just happen to, out of their concern for the wine industry, start a fire under Snooth? No. Their self-interest was at play, and when many of the posters above are deciding whether or not Snooth is ‘evil’ they should be aware of the business relationships and intentions of those who started all of this.

  18. Any scraping issues aside, the bigger issue with Snooth is what they do to Google search results: they present doorway pages claiming to have information about a certain wine, an unsuspecting user clicks on it, and is told “be the first to rate this wine!” – that’s clearly in violation of Google’s webmaster policy, and, well, it’s spam. Pages like that clearly should be demoted, if not removed, by Google’s algorithm. I hear many wine industry professionals complain about these. It’s silly on Snooth’s part: a grab for extra traffic that is really only tarnishing their brand.

    That said, there are a few Snooth pages that have good, original content, and these should probably rank just fine.

    Unfortunately, Tyler, the graph you show is for much too short a period to draw any conclusions about what’s happened, or will happen, with Snooth’s content in the new algorithm, for several reasons: one, there’s a lot of natural variation within any week of traffic; two, traffic data is inherently noisy. If you look at a longer period, e.g. the “pageviews” tab on Alexa’s site info for Snooth, you see that the picture is less clear. It’s also good to remember that Quantcast, Alexa, and Compete are estimates from certain samples (e.g. people using the Alexa toolbar) and will have their own error and possibly measurement bias.

    At the slight risk of self-promotion, I might add to the users adding “-snooth” to their Google searches, you might give Able Grape a try. It’s editorially curated, and we try pretty hard to avoid sites with doorway pages. There’s very little Snooth content, and everything from Cellartracker…

  19. My anecdotal experience of looking through various individual wine queries is that Snooth results have been dramatically affected by this update.

  20. Alder, it looked like that to me as well from a few queries, but my point was that the effect on Snooth’s overall traffic is inconclusive from the above graph.

    For example, it’s possible that a lot of spammy Snooth pages were demoted, but I would expect that spammy pages from other “content farms” were demoted as well, which might well increase the traffic to some Snooth content.

    I remain cautiously optimistic about Google getting rid of Snooth’s spam, but I’d wait a little while and show a graph over a longer period before I drew any conclusions.

  21. First, to all, I do recommend you check out ablegrape.com – it’s the best wine industry search engine hands down.

    Tom –
    First, your anonymous posting says a lot about your commentary.

    Secondly, I am an avid supporter of Cruvee. I am the Chairman of the BOD, I have invested a significant amount of VinTank money into the organization and more. And I have ALWAYS been transparent of my relationship with that firm, even in my post about Snooth that pertained to the use of data issue.

    A few points of clarification against your absurd accusations.

    1. Cruvee is in no way competitive against Snooth. They are a social media monitoring company while Snooth is a media company. They are B2B while Snooth is B2C.

    2. Cruvee does have a product that takes winery data and distributes it for FREE. Any site (INCLUDING SNOOTH) can take that data, use it without attribution, and focus on building better software and services to help wineries succeed online instead of harvesting data. They use tools like a FREE Facebook applications to add wines to to their Facebook fan page to turn fans into customers and much, much more.

    3. It is due to our intimate knowledge of the use of winery data that called that subject into question and help educate wineries on what was really being done with data they contributed. Knowledge is power.

    4. Cruvee has been very successful with this FREE service and has over 700 wineries who have entered their data. They are not losing, they are winning and helping the industry succeed online.

    In regards to your the Google algorithm change, the answer is very easy. Your comment that Google is the same as Snooth in this example is absurd (“including GOOGLE, the ultimate consolidator with no original content”). Google organize the complex data on the web and LINKS back to the originator of the content. Snooth took CellarTracker’s original data, created tools to transpose it, and leveraged it as their own original content without attribution. Moreover, Google’s “content farm pesticide” was a much needed change to combat sites that are scraping data or creating SEO spam to draw undeserved content to their site. As Doug Cook stated, “Any scraping issues aside, the bigger issue with Snooth is what they do to Google search results: they present doorway pages claiming to have information about a certain wine, an unsuspecting user clicks on it, and is told “be the first to rate this wine!” – that’s clearly in violation of Google’s webmaster policy, and, well, it’s spam.” As he also stated, Snooth has a good amount of quality original data that should help their SEO and that is what Google is trying to do, reward original content, demote content farms and SEO spam techniques.

    These changes are good for our industry and hopefully will help people creating original content.

  22. As a consumer I stopped clicking through on Snooth links about 6 months ago as the ‘content’ from a Google search was ususally non-existant or poor at best. Nice to hear there will be less clutter (for now) with the change.

  23. […] subscribe to my RSS feed for instant updates or sign up for email updates. Yesterday, Tyler Colman posted an interesting bit of information on his blog that connected the dots in both my business and wine blogging worlds. Since much of […]

  24. Strong echoes to everything that Doug Coo(k) says. (Hi Doug!) As Doug notes, his site INDEXES CellarTracker which is very different from SCRAPING.

    Doug mentions above that Compete, Alexa and Quantcast are all estimates. While that is in PART true, you do need to keep in mind that Snooth is directly instrumented for Quantcast. No estimates there. That said, the chart for the subsequent two days does show a slight up-tick for Snooth. Daily numbers on all of these sites do bounce around a lot. Also, the Google algorithm change has not rolled internationally yet, so I think it will take a month or two for all of this to really play out in a meaningful way.

  25. Paul, congratulations on the outright purchase of Cruvee that was announced yesterday.

    Based on your points above, I’ve looked into this a bit over the last couple of weeks. As you state, Cruvee is in a different business than Snooth at some level. But as you also hint at, there is a race to see who can build the biggest database of wine products. And as it turns out, that is where the real rub is because that is where the real money is made.

    In businesses like Cruvee (and Snooth), the size of the database is one of the most crucial success factors. The company with the best and biggest database can then monetize that data, and apparently, that’s where the real money lies – the relative size of the wine database.

    And that is exactly where Snooth and Cruvee compete, and where, as you revealed above (though not in your article about Snooth), you have a vested interest in Cruvee “winning”.

    That relationship between you and Cruvee, and the competitive issues around database development between Cruvee and Snooth have NOT been made clear. That would have been bad enough to omit that information if you just had a stake in Cruvee, but now we know you were most likely in the process of negotiating to buy Cruvee outright when you wrote the article.

    In the race to build the largest most valuable database of wine products, you and your company will gain direct benefit from any damage done to the reputation of Snooth, which is also building a big database of wine products. Who is “winning” is clearly of great financial value to you.

    Claiming the ethical high ground of looking out for the industry, you did not reveal the potential financial benefit you would gain through Snooth’s loss. This wasn’t an altruistic effort on your part, and suggesting so while not mentioning the value to you personally of Cruvee “winning” the battle to build the largest wine database is an interesting omission from an article that dealt with ethical business practices.

    To reiterate my overall position, what Snooth did with their code was sketchy at best, though their less than complete removal of the code is the type of mistake that is more common than people tend to understand. What they do in “scraping” is controversial. They certainly push the envelope, at best. And, I actually appreciate and value that someone discovered what they were doing and made an effort to have it corrected. MY ONLY ISSUE is what seems to be a lack of ethical communication and transparency by you while you chose to address this issue in a very public manner by writing an article questioning the ethics of a company with which you compete to build a potentially very valuable database.

    While the industry is deciding which company they should most trust with their product data, I feel like ALL the facts should be known.

    Last, to your question of my anonymity, given behavior like that, there really should not be a question as to why I wouldn’t want to risk having you know the company I work for…

  26. Tom,
    Thanks for the kind words about the acquisition and your commentary. However, I think you are a bit misinformed with some of the information.

    First – we have always been transparent about our relationship with Cruvee (even in my first blog post http://bit.ly/et4t6P).

    Secondly – We initiated the purchase of Cruvee.com after we recognized that in order to really show our commitment to the industry it was imperative that our entire team was focused on Cruvee as a product.

    Third – How is a database of wine valuable when you give it away for free? Our idea of “winning” is helping the entire industry succeed online. Data is one of the key friction points and if we can help solve that for our industry, we truly have won. In my recent blog post – http://bit.ly/fKfg7a, I reiterate my commitment to keep that service free. In regards to trust, you can look at our history, our intentions, and the reality that this is truly a free service meant to catalyze success for the wine industry. Moreover, any wine tech company, including Snooth, can apply to use the API for free so once again, the notion of competition is a moot point.

    In terms of truly valuable data, the real value is in the 13 million online conversations they have measured and the business intelligence we can extrapolate from that to help wineries navigate the online ecosphere.

    Fourth – The value of buying Cruvee is around their ability to monitor the success of our online campaigns, catalyze more wineries being successful in the digital arena thus increasing our pool of potential clients, and bring greater understanding to the new and powerful frontier of social media and how it relates to wine.

    We also have used the Cruvee engine for firm and our clients (social media monitoring, data syndication, business intelligence and more) and we have seen actual results for all of our clients that increased their success online. Seeing that power in action was what endeared us to the company in the first place and led to the subsequent acquisition.

    As a service organization we now have the ability to leverage our success and continue the commitment to the industry started by the founders of Cruvee.com.


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