After a recent core upgrade, Google is sending noticeably less traffic to crypto sites than others, reportedly causing one site, CCN, to shut its doors for good.
Google put out its periodic “core upgrade” on June 3, which is intended to broadly improve its search algorithms to yield more “relevant” content to users. Though these upgrades are meant to improve search overall, virtually every crypto site has reported major declines in the amount of referrals coming from the search giant.
A company spokeswoman, who did not want to be named, said she was unable to discuss specific sites and how they fared in the upgrade, and referred us to a series of tweets by Dan Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search. Sullivan had written that Google had adjusted sites' rankings based on the "relevance" and "quality" of their content.
In light of these updated guidelines, the Google spokeswoman acknowledged that some sites might not perform as well as they had, and claimed that other sites might perform better.
If any crypto site is suddenly doing better as a result of the upgrade, it has yet to show itself.
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Indeed, most crypto sites are reporting double-digit declines, with six-year-old CCN seeming to suffer the most acutely. Earlier today, the company put out a press release announcing its imminent closure, writing that the size of its teams had outpaced the revenue generated from ads in the wake of the algorithm change.
“CCN’s traffic from Google searches dropped more than 71% on mobile overnight,” wrote CCN editor Jonas Borchgrevink.
The Google spokesman said that the reason the sites might have been penalized could have been because they flouted certain guidelines that determine where traffic is directed.
The litany of SEO crimes (listed in full here) includes publishing “automatically generated content,” adding “hidden text or links,” “loading pages with irrelevant keywords,” “participating in link schemes,” “creating pages with little or no original content” and “sneaky redirects”—in other words, a pretty good description of the many sleazy crypto sites that proliferated during the recent bubble.
However, which of these sins—if any—CCN was guilty of isn’t clear. The company did not respond to Decrypt’s request for comment and Google declined to get into specifics.
There are still potential clues. Marc Beharry, search manager at ConsenSys (which funds Decrypt), crunched the numbers and said that CCN had likely flouted the "no participating in link schemes" rule. A link scheme is when a site builds up a portfolio of "backlinks"—referrals from other websites—to boost its search ranking. But Beharry says that CCN's backlinks (25 million of them) mostly come from low-ranked, "toxic" sites, with names like "bitcoinweasel.com."
Just look at that graphic. The sites listed, says Beharry, have humiliatingly low "authority scores," which means Google doesn't consider them reliable. So it's unhelpful that these "toxic domains," as Beharry puts it, are republishing CCN's RSS feed—i.e., aggregating its content—which burdens it with low quality backlinks. "CCN should disavow those domains in their Search Console profile," said Beharry.
But that doesn't feel wholly satisfactory. CCN, citing data from Sistrix, asserts that other, more reputable sites such as the crypto standard bearer, Coindesk, and newcomer The Block, also appear to have lost traffic (The Block's Mike Dudas confirmed a slight downtick to Decrypt, while Coindesk didn't respond for comment.) And indeed, your beloved Decrypt suffered a marked drop, too, and we don’t do any "link schemes," and indeed wouldn't know how.
So, the question must be asked: why does Google hate crypto?