On February 24, 2011 Google has announced a major algorithmic change to its search engine.  This change targets content farms – low quality sites whose main goal is to attract search traffic by piling up (mostly) useless content, usually by either producing large amounts of low-quality text or by copying it from websites with original content.

According to official Google Blog post by Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts:

Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

As mentioned in our prior posts, Google has been plagued by black hat SEO practices for a while now, and content farms play a major role in enabling  search spam.

According to Search Engine Land‘s Danny Sullivan, Google’s announcement doesn’t explicitly target “content farms” by name, instead preferring coy adjectives like “low-quality” to describe their detested target. But as as Google’s head spam-fighter Matt Cutts told Sullivan, “I think people will get the idea of the types of sites we’re talking about.”

These “types of sites” include publications like Associated Content and Demand Media’s eHow.com — sites that Google says “copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content. It would be interesting to see how this will affect properties owned by AOL, which recently purchased the Huffington Post – another site known for copying others’ content and re-publishing it under SEO-crafted headlines.

Last week, Google launched an extension for its Chrome browser that allowed users to block certain sites from showing up in their search results — another move made to combat sub-par content. Google receives information about which sites Chrome users block, helping them to fine-tune their search algorithm. Google points out that this “Blocklist data” was not used in this update, but says they were “pleased” to discover that the update does address 84 percent of the top 12 sites blocked by users of the Chrome extension.

Regardless of which specific sites will be affected by Google’s algorithm update, 11.8 percent of all searches is a huge number, by any standard. So if Google manages to put an end to content farms or at least significantly reduce their influence in search results, it will be an important step in regaining the trust of its millions of users.

6 Responses to “Google’s War on Content Farms”

  1. NM says:

    I, for one, am really happy to see this change be put into place. It’s so frustrating to be searching for an answer to something and to keep getting these junk sites. Beyond the inaccuracies, most are so rife with spelling and grammar errors that they are barely even readable.

  2. This is great news. It is very frustrating to see bad websites written for Google’s spiders only, ranked higher than your own informative site and thereby chasing potential business away. A lot of time is wasted on keeping your own website ranked higher on Google than the content farms. Is this problem more prevalent with Google than the other search engines?

  3. ML says:

    So happy to hear Google is doing this. As a user, these content farmed sites are really annoying to effective searching. Regarding SEO for Top Massage Tables, we work really hard on original and useful content, so this will help legitimate sites like ours.

  4. I too spend a lot of time writing quality content for my site and find it very frustrating to be lower down the search results than a lot of “junk” sites (IMHO). I think this is a good thing overall.

  5. fe fefe says:

    What about content provided by manufacturer, most shopping site has to follow the same content as authorized reseller

  6. It’s great that there was a move toward those sites who offer quality content…but the backlinking system and article marketing does encourage these sites as website owners try to get their backlinks for higher SERPS

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