It shouldn’t take playing silly games with Google for its search engine to pay attention to content

News broke in geek circles not long ago that stalwart technology site CNET has been deleting many of its oldest articles to try to make search giant Google see its site as more up-to-date and relevant, and rank its articles higher in search. Gizmodo has the story here.

In short, Google prefers fresh content. When you have a lot of old content on your site, Google sees your whole site as less relevant, and ranks your content accordingly.

Google is on record as being not amused with CNET’s action. You’re not supposed to game your site that way, they protest. But Google stops short of saying that this sort of gaming doesn’t work.

That’s because it does. Or at least I believe it does. A couple years ago I did something similar on my site, and since I did, this site gets more pageviews from searches.

My site is pretty old at 16 — not as old as CNET, but still up there. It’s also far more eclectic than CNET, as I write about whatever I want. I like old film cameras and old roads best, and they feature heavily here. But if I want to write about history or cars, or tell a personal story, I just do it.

I wanted Google to see my site as being about film photography and transportation history, and I wanted it to see my articles as fresh and relevant. But I didn’t delete any articles. Instead, I tagged every article not about film or roads with “noindex,” which search engines interpret to mean, “pretend I don’t exist, and don’t include me in searches.” It was boring and tedious work that took hours.

I think it worked. A lot of things beyond my control goes into how much search traffic my site gets. But since I “noindexed” all of those articles, my articles about film photography rapidly moved up the Google ranks. Many more of my camera reviews are now in the top 10 results when you search for those cameras. Because Google favors fresh content, most of my reviews from the last few years are in the top five, My road-trip articles appear to have benefited as well, but not nearly as much.

Another thing I’ve started doing is updating old camera reviews and republishing them. I don’t delete the original review, but I noindex it and set a redirect on it so that anyone who finds that page is automatically sent to the updated review. Two of my oldest camera reviews are of the Minolta X-700 and the Kodak Retina Ia, both originally published in 2009. I refreshed and republished the Retina review last year, but I’ve not done the same for the X-700 review.

Because I’ve linked my site to my Google account, when I search for something that I cover on my site, I see a box in the results showing how Google currently ranks my article. Here’s how Google sees my Retina review these days. “Avg. Position” is where it has ranked, on average, for people when they searched for “Kodak Retina Ia.” Its average position is about 7.

Kodak Retina Ia search result on 11 August 2023

My X-700 review, however, has not fared nearly as well: its average position is about 64.

Minolta X-700 search result on 11 August 2023

Again, many things beyond my control go into search ranking. One I’m aware of is that there are a lot more articles on the Web about the X-700 then there are about the Retina. But before I republished my Retina review and redirected the old one, it, too, was ranked very low.

I dislike playing these search-engine games. I would rather my entire article archive be available for search. But I really want to bring more attention what I think is my most useful and valuable work, so I play the games.

After CNET’s action, the online commentary I read consistently wished that Google would not penalize longtime sites with lots of content. I agree, as it would benefit my (obviously much smaller) site as well.

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15 responses to “It shouldn’t take playing silly games with Google for its search engine to pay attention to content”

  1. Brian Purdy Avatar
    Brian Purdy

    This one opened my eyes, Jim. Thank you.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


  2. matt Avatar

    I don’t use Google personally, but this is a pretty stupid approach to things. Old questions and answers to them often solves problems we discover today.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes. So true. I’m not sure what it is about Google that makes them favor newer content. It looks to me to have the effect of incentivizing content mills.

      1. matt Avatar

        I know this’ll probably sound a little nuts, but I think they’re losing relevancy. And I think, probably for the first time since they’ve become the powerhouse censorship shop they are, they’re not sure what to do.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Google, Facebook, et al, will all eventually fade away, supplanted by something new and better/fits the time/etc.

          1. matt Avatar


  3. Marc Beebe Avatar

    Search engines in general have gone from (+)/(-) to further evidence of chaos theory being correct to substantiating that AI is harmful to society.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


      1. Marc Beebe Avatar

        In the beginning search engines were mere workhorses which the user could control: I want to search for -this- and (+) -this- but not (-) -that-. Then programmers decided to make them more complex and we had the era of results which left many users asking “what has that got to do with anything?’. Now we are in the realm where the results they return are determined more by what the company (advertisers) want to push rather than what we are looking for. Your inclusion of “noindex” tags to leave posts out is a wonderful paradox against the typical “as many tags as possible so no matter what users look for it will be seen” procedure.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar


          Yes, now the results are crammed with ads. Videos are given preference. Anymore I have to scroll at least one screen’s worth down to see anything I care to see.

    2. Daniel Brinneman Avatar

      Marc, aside from Google there’s DuckDuckGo and The latter shows anything you’re looking for. On Google and possibly other search engines, you can use advanced search to whittle down the search results or use quotes for exact phrases or a hyphen preceding a word to eliminate it from the search results.

  4. Bob Avatar

    “Silly games with Google” describes exactly what SEO is. Today’s search results are dominated by paid ads and paid key word placements. I have a small niche photo accessory shop ( and 20 years ago had products that regularly placed at or near the top of relevant searches. Today it’s basically invisible. A lot of that is I haven’t spent the time to “improve” the site with a bunch of content and SEO manipulation, but mostly my bump in sales never justified the cost of advertising, SEO, etc. So I stopped that and went to word-of-mouth, repeat buyers, and eBay. Chinese competitors with cheap “knockoffs” (and almost free shipping), many more US competitors, etc. obviously have had an impact as well.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, Google really has shaped how we all experience the Web — for better and for worse.

  5. J P Avatar

    I had noticed that some of my top Google performers have faded in the past few years, and now I know why.

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