As you may have heard over the news, Google implemented a new algorithm around February 24th–“lovingly” called the Panda-Farmer algorithm–that targets “content farms” on the web who have top listings in the search engine ranks. The basic concept for the algorithm is this: Google wants to shuffle out sites that have what they call “shallow content” for higher quality sites. I had noticed that my clients’ sites suddenly jumped in the ranks, especially with local search, but I thought it was all due to my search engine expertise. It turns out that that was only half the reason; the other half was that competing sites that had what was deemed as shallow content were bumped down the ranks.
Personally, I could not be happier about this change. I’ve talked before about how much users hate it when sites sound like they were written by robots shelling out keywords, and even though Google in general frowned upon this, it looks like they have finally actively taken a step toward cracking down on it. It’s a cheap way of writing, and it sadly punishes those who take time to actually produce well-written content.
The question is, though, what is Google really targeting with this algorithm?
According to one of their press announcements, Google vaguely explained the following:
We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content. We’ll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites.
As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content.
From the DFW SEM meeting last night, panelists who were able to attend the Search Marketing Expo last month went into a bit more detail from what they gathered from talking to Google representatives and from their own observations. They gathered from Google that the algorithm really targets content farms, such as sites like EZine, eHow, AssociatedContent, and HubPages, as these sites often literally “toss up” content about a specific topic and litter the article with keywords. Due to these sites’ large libraries and the fact that several articles are often about the same topic, they pretty much hoard the search engine ranks. If you’ve read any articles from these sources, you know that there isn’t always the best quality control in terms of writing style or even information produced. So if a smaller site writes about a topic that one of these content farms also writes about, but gives better information and sounds like it was written by a real and talented person, that article may never hit up in the ranks due to the farms overcrowding the top spots.
On the same token, Google doesn’t want ten high quality sites producing the same ten high quality articles. That’s just a set of high quality content farms according to their new algorithm. Original (not niche, original) content is the key, particularly search engine optimized content that doesn’t sound like it was written by a search engine.
Now, the panelists were also very quick to point out that eHow was not really affected, especially in comparison to EZine. When looking at other sites that were also affected negatively, the panelists noted that sites heavy in ads tended to be negatively impacted more than others.
So what’s the ultimate lesson here? Google wants you to improve the quality of your site. Give it an appealing design that makes it easy to find information. Don’t clutter it up with ads so that users have to scroll down quite a bit just to see the content. And of course, produce well-written, original content. Don’t rehash an article you’ve found elsewhere.
If you don’t consider yourself a skilled writer and want to produce high quality content that the search engines will take notice of, well, that’s exactly why we’re here. Contact us for a quote!