Here is the first of a series of case studies I plan to publish here in SEW. Our first volunteer is Follow the Drinking Gourd. First published by Joel Bresler on January 17, 2007, The site tells the story of an American folksong.
What this case study will show is the rate of adoption of this site by the three major search engines, and the rankings achieved by the site for the search query: “Follow the Drinking Gourd” (to replicate, use the query phrase without the quotes).
It should be noted that there are numerous books and sites with information on this song. According to Mr. Bresler, he launched the site because there are a lot of myths and inaccuracies regarding the song.
After he published his web site, some of those sites that had incorrect information either removed their page, or linked to his site. This may have been a small factor in the advance of his site up the rankings charts.
So let’s take a look at the raw data on the rankings in each search engine:
Used by Permission.
Notice how quickly Yahoo and MSN moved the site into the top 10 in their rankings. It took Yahoo and MSN only 19 days to do so. As of today, Google still has not done so (the 3/5/7 ranking was #30).
From this data, it looks like Yahoo and MSN are much faster to accept what their crawler finds (in terms of content and links) at face value. Google is much slower to do so. This is consistent with the general industry belief that Google puts more weight on temporal factors, and needs to build trust in a site before giving it higher rankings.
The speculation about why Google does this is to reduce its susceptibility to SPAM. A side affect of this, however, is that it may not always carry the most authoritative content, particularly when that content is new.