Sunday, February 27, 2011

Content farms begin to see results of Google's search algorithm tweaks

Earlier this week, Google made changes to its search algorithm which would downgrade the rankings of so-called content farms. Now that some time has elapsed, which Web domains took the biggest hits?

A content farm is defined (according to Wikipedia) "a company that employs large numbers of often freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by automated search engines." To simplify things, it's a company that employs folks who output content that uses SEO methodology to try to hit high on search engines. The obvious lure is advertising revenue.

The goal, from Google's perspective, is higher quality search results. It's not simply the fact that a content farm produces a lot of content tailored to search engines, it's that a lot of that content is of poor quality.

While Google obviously won't go into details on its changes, the company said:
"You can expect sites with shallow or poorly written content, content that's copied from other websites, or information that people frankly don't find that useful, will be demoted as a result of this change."
Google said the changes would affect about 12 percent of queries. Two of the prime examples given when "content farms" are referred to are Associated Content and Demand Media. Demand Media operates a number of sites, like eHow and Trails.com.

Among a list of sites that have taken hits in their Google rankings compiled by SISTRIX, Associated Content was hit hard, as was Demand Media's Answerbag and Trails.com. The top ten losers were:
  1. wisegeek.com
  2. ezinearticles.com
  3. suite101.com
  4. hubpages.com
  5. buzzle.com
  6. associatedcontent.com
  7. freedownloadscenter.com
  8. essortment.com
  9. fixya.com
  10. americantowns.com
SearchEngineLand has started to collect data from different measurements of affected sites. It's clear, however, that the top affected sites are pretty consistent across the measurements.

Here's what Larry Fitzgibbon, a Demand Media vice president, wrote in a blog post:
"As might be expected, a content library as diverse as ours saw some content go up and some go down in Google search results. It's impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term -- but at this point in time, we haven't seen a material net impact on our Content & Media business."
Via: Quora, SISTRIX, SearchEngineLand

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