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Google Algorithm Update: Attack on Content Farms
Monday, January 31, 2011
January 26, 2011, the first major Google algorithm update of the year?

Google is trying to push original content higher in its search results. Last week, Google launched an algorithmic change that is intended to rank scraper sites or sites with less original content lower. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content. I cannot wait to see this in action. What does this mean for all of those e-commerce sites that use the same vendor product description?

Matt Cutts posted the following on his blog:
My post mentioned that “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.” That change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week. Matt went on to suggest that "...less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content."

Some, over at Webmaster World are reporting major traffic declines. One person reported that "It doesn't matter if it is all 100% unique with tons of backlinks and really well laid out or simply an image. Everything got whacked.".  This same user "drall" used the following example to illustrate:
Ok here is just one example of what we are seeing.

We follow video games, pretty bigname in our industry. So in this example we have a page which we wrote a review of one of the most popular games out today. This document is 6 years old. We all have played this game thousands of hours so we know what we are talking about. Anyhow this review also had a couple tutorials we wrote to help newbies to the game with specific things.

Those tutorials have been updated over the years with each expansion of the game. They are real step by step tutorials with screens and videos. Anyhow overtime these guides built links all by themselves due to usefulness, infact the actual game company which is PR 7 alexa 2000ish links to these guides and constantly points them out to the fanbase of millions in the forums.

So for a handful of these guides we ranked 1-3 over the years for various terms. Good traffic, less then 10% bounce rate, just really good stuff. Well we are now result 25ish for all terms related to this game. Very basic SEO, basically what Google advocates. What has replaced us you may ask? Well that's the fun part.

Result 1 Wikipedia with a general about for the game.
Result 2 A Ehow article from 4 years ago with absolutely no relevant content to the query.
Result 3 A hubpages article again that is totally out of date and useless to the querytype.
Result 4-24 I dont want to even bother typing as it is just about borderline spam.

So I guess our page that was written by people playing the actual game for 5-6 years, updating the article constantly to keep it useful to the games changes and linked to by thousands of game sites and forums and social platforms and the game creator itself has now been deemed useless!

I know you are reading this Google, what in the world are you doing? How does the above example show an improvement in your results? Do you define our article as low quality despite those natural signals and find wiki, ehow and hubpages better despite them being completely unrelated to the query type and 99% less related natural signal strengths?

This is one of thousands of examples I can post. What in the world did you push yesterday? Added note, we still are 1-3 in BingHoo.

Others have reported that sites that are anywhere for six to eight to ten years old and have unique content and lots of user interaction dropped off the Google map on the 26th--mid afternoon. So are we in the middle of an algorithm hurricane or is this just the beginning of some Google cleansing? A couple of sites that I work on feature a lot of useful and dare I say unique content yet Google has hit them hard since MayDay, the last quarter of 2010 and now into the new year. We are the originators of this content. Although we are small, our content team consist of extremely talented writers who are producing top quality content for our site.  Ideally this update should work in our favor.

However with an update (or series of updates as it may be) like this, I have some questions.

Ten Questions About Google's Algo Update on Content Farms
  1. How Google will determine the originator of content?
  2. How will Google identify all of the scraper sites that scrape my (or your) content?
  3. What does this mean for all of those e-commerce sites that use the same vendor product description?
  4. How many "innocent" sites with unique and useful content will be impacted?
  5. Will the "original" piece of content perform better than syndicated content regradless if it has been ripped off or has been agreed to be reproduced?
  6. Have people seen their site's direct traffic go up as people are bookmarking sites more often as opposed to having to sift through irrelevant search results to find the information and resources that they are looking for?
  7. Will Google be providing a channel for us to correct incorrectly attributed content?
  8. Will innocent sites be treated as "content farms"?
  9. Will legitimate directories by treated as "content farms"?
  10. Will we see an adjustment to the link popularity piece of Google's algorithm (to address spam sites that artificially inflate their link inventories)?
I am all for cleaning up the Web and search results, but it pains me to see quality resources impacted by such algorithm, changes.  While I work in the search industry my frustration is not from an SEO perspective, but from a user perspective.  Google you are making it difficult for me to find the information that I am looking for.  Let's hope that this attack on spam will allow me and all other searchers to find what we are looking for.

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posted by Jody @ 7:57 PM  
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