As Google Retools its Search Engine, Content Farms Lose Traction

4/5/11

If you’ve noticed a recent change when you do an Internet search using Google, you’re not alone. Google is trying to improve the quality of the results it delivers to Web searchers and in a major way.

Google is so focused on search result quality that they’re paying extra attention to items they believe negatively impact search results, including so-called “content farms” like Associated Content and eHow, as well as the practice of paying for links to help a site boost its Google rankings. So while people won’t necessarily change how they use Google to search the Web, if Google has its way, what users get back from Google is going to be markedly different.

In the search field, there is a term known as the “long tail,” which is somewhat subjective. But let’s say for a moment that we’re talking about searches with three or more words in the query. Such searches have been steadily rising in frequency and often generate results from content farms that are able to churn out lots of content of questionable quality.

Content farms typically leverage user-generated content, non-paid content contributors, or outsource content creation to low-cost producers. The result is often vapid and poorly produced. Very often searchers see these content farms ranking prominently for long tail searches, but Google would argue that searchers aren’t necessarily finding what they’re looking for when they select these results.

For Google, the solution to this problem was to rewrite its search algorithm to lower the relevance of these large content farms, and allow smaller niche sites to flourish on many of these long-tail searches. This change affected 12 percent of Google’s U.S. search results, and although searchers may not easily recognize these changes, they are certain to have a significant impact on the user experience.

Among online marketers it’s common knowledge that links are the gold standard for getting a site to rank high on the non-sponsored Google listings. This is the reason that many online marketers spend so much time and money trying to acquire links to content from other sites. To simplify a major part of Google’s strategy in revising its algorithm, a page with a lot of links from other sites and pages around the Web must be relevant to users.

Links have become so important that companies will pay … Next Page »

Jeff MacGurn is the director of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at San Diego-based Covario, a venture-backed software and search marketing services firm. Follow @

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