Google Declares War on Content Farmers

by Charity on January 30, 2011

Old Cannon - Google Declares War on Content Farmers

First, what in the world is a content farm? According to Wikipedia, a content farm is a company that employs large numbers of  writers to generate content. Although the content is generated by humans, it is typically low in quality and created for the sole purpose of generating higher search engine rankings. This type of content has been compared to fast food, as it is typically produced quickly and made to order with little passion and lack of knowledge of the topic at hand.

Regurgitating content and sharing brief updates will no longer help with search engine rankings on Google. Because Google is determined to reduce the amount of content spam, they are releasing a new on-page spam detection technique. They are targeting sites with duplicate content, shallow or low-quality content.

So, prepare yourself if you have a site that produces low-quality content. Even if you’ve previously established stable Google rankings, you may be just about to lose them. Some companies are reporting 40-60% drops in traffic from Google already.

Image Credit: Taras Kalapun

  • Sondrah L.

    This is actually great news. I posted an article link the other day and pondered who wrote the crap and further wondered if I had ever believed an article from a crappy site on a subject I was not well versed in.

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  • Charity

    Sondrah, Google is cracking down. Some within our industry only have blogs for the purpose of generating SEO. They will see a decline in their rankings… especially if the posts aren’t written well. This will be interesting to watch.

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  • Tim Grace

    Charity, not at all trying to flame you here, but weren’t you deeply involved in a product that essentially leveraged a content farm to create it’s value, which primarily promised improved organic search presence to customers? Please correct me if I’ve misunderstood that product.

    As I said, not trying to call you out here, but feel like this is important point for you to comment on. I think you’d agree it’s difficult for the apartment marketer to choose between the products & services that add value to their digital marketing goals and which may have a more predatory intent. You’re uniquely positioned to help tease that out, so I guess I was hoping you’d tackle that more directly in your post/comment.


    • Charity

      Tim, thank you for reading and sharing your comments. I don’t feel flames at all, quite the contrary. 

      The product you mention did not begin as a content marketing service, if you recall it was positioned as a turn-key social media service. When I joined that team, social activity was my primary responsibility. Over time, that program was modified by management to reduce social engagement. The limited focus on content marketing was defined. Social activity and engagement, as an objective, became the lowest priority in spite of the fact that a majority of customers signed on for exactly that service. We have since parted ways and I wish them the very best in their new objectives.

      I have yet to see definitive proof that content marketing without social distribution and network building increases SEO. Now that Google is filtering search results by content quality, anyone with a blog should be aware that they should be closely monitoring their content and search results.

      Thanks again for commenting!

  • Tim Grace

    Charity, thanks for the thoughtful response. It’s refreshing to hear your honest take on the previous role & evolution of their product offering. Clearly, their loss.

    Also, totally agree with the analysis re: content marketing and impact on organic search. Google isn’t going to stop with the content spammers. They’ve made overtures that poorly constructed transactional sites are going to get dinged too. Anyone with poor conversion funnels, deriving from sub-optimal UX, is likely going to find themselves struggling to compete to similar sites that emphasize user-centered design. Site speed is already a ranking factor with last year’s Caffeine release. Google is getting killed right now for it’s questionable search content, so I’d view this is only the beginning of a war they are waging on the dark underbelly of the web. A high-level of consumer-centricity is the marketer’s only defense.

    Finally, lots of credit to you for dealing with this head on and not reading my comment as a threat. I was nervous it would be interpreted as a personal attack, which I clearly did not intend it to be. You response is exactly why you’re going to kick butt in what you’re doing.

    I don’t deal much with the apartment space anymore, but if anyone there were to come to me asking for a helping hand in their social strategies, I’d enthusiastically give them your name. Glad I spent a few years in that industry to have interacted with smart and ethical folks like you.


  • Charity

    I wanted to share this article with you all, it was released today and discusses the real issues behind content marketing, otherwise called webspam:

    “Our acceptance of articles generated in massive quantities by people who have questionable qualifications, and where there is no human review of their work is a part of this pattern. It is worth repeating that it is acknowledged that some of the content will in fact be good, or even quite good, but its a crap shoot, and that means lots of it is bad or of no unique value.”

  • Ellen Thompson

    I’m part of the management team of the main competitor of the above mentioned former employer. I never really thought of what we are doing as building a content farm, but rather a communication platform that has a base of hyper local content. Although there is an ancillary SEO benefit and we do mention it in passing during the sales process (~19% of our traffic came from search engines in January), it’s not the main benefit of our site.

    I believe that in an ideal world, it’s best to have all social media activity coming from inside a community/business. But the reality is we don’t live in an ideal world, and our customers are very happy to have an affordable social media solution that includes blog content (which is of high quality in the opinion of some of our most picky customers). By the way, the person who manages our content development told me my writing is not quite good enough to blog for our product!

    Just looked at Google Analytics and traffic is up 25% week over week (whew). I guess long story short, not all outsourced content development is bad.

  • Charity

    It appears content farmers are safe for now:

    The algorithm has not yet been implemented, “the new algorithm that went live last week is related to blocking low quality content scraper sites and not content farms.”

  • Carol Flammer

    Charity, I sure hope that as this is implemented it rewards those of us that create unique content daily! I get so tired of seeing our content ripped off entirely on other sites. All you have to do is Google Atlanta Real Estate Forum to see all of the posts that folks have borrowed. 

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