How Google Handicapped a Once-Bustling Site
Brian Warner's CelebrityNetWorth.com rose and fell, and the Outline looks at why
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2017 2:59 PM CDT
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A Featured Snippet, but not one that sources CelebrityNetWorth.com.   (Google screenshot)

(Newser) – Google giveth, and Google taketh away. It's a lesson Brian Warner knows well. He founded CelebrityNetWorth.com—a site that fairly authoritatively estimates the net worth of the glitterati and beyond—in 2008. It's knowledge we apparently want, because after a handful of years the site wasn't just supporting him, but a staff of 12. Then Google pulled the rug out. In explaining just what happened over the past five years, the Outline views it like so: Google, once content to be a "librarian," started experimenting with being an "oracle." Submit your question, and instead of getting links to choose from, you'll see a box atop those links—a "Featured Snippet"—that tries to answer it.

Google in 2014 emailed Warner asking if his site would serve as an "authoritative source" on the subject, with Google culling his data and packaging it in those boxes. He said no. Google scraped the info anyway and used it to create Featured Snippets for Warner's 25,000-entry database. How he knew this to be true: He peppered in bogus listings for non-celeb friends and, yep, they turned up, he says. With Googlers no longer needing to go to his site to get the figure they were seeking, month-over-month traffic cratered as much as 65%; he had to ax half his staff. That was the injury. The insult was that in some cases the Featured Snippet's source was a site that just quoted CelebrityNetWorth.com. At the Outline, the full story explains why that's a problem using Larry David as an example.

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