What Google's Farmer Update Means to Your Business

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Google announced what may ultimately be one of the biggest changes to their algorithm yet.

From the Official Google Blog: "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."

Notice the language being used. Specifically, "...reduce rankings for low-quality sites..." That means it's not only individual posts or pieces of content will be penalized for being deemed "low-quality" but entire websites. The announcement also mentions "low-value add for users" and sites that "copy content from other websites." The target? Content farms, to start. These sites exist and profit based on volume. The more content produced (often for a pittance) the better they do – or did.

To most observers and users, this focus on volume resulted in millions of low-quality pieces of content cluttering the search engine results pages (SERPs). The writers producing content for these content farms are paid largely based on views. No indexing in Google, no views. No views, no pay. No pay, no writers ... and no content.

Sites such as Yahoo Contributor Network and those of Demand Media (including eHow) fit the bill, to be sure. But one must wonder if others sites such as Examiner.com or pure user-contributor sites such as Yahoo Answers will also be affected. (Read Website Magazine's in-depth review of Yahoo Contributor Network.)

The update will also impact Bing and every other search engine. Simply put, if Google's results get better in the eyes of users, Bing and the others cannot afford to be viewed as having inferior results.

Without question, the focus is now on producing original, quality content. So-called scraper sites are doomed. But even bloggers need to be careful about posting content that could be considered "low-quality" or that which could be viewed as being a simple re-publishing of existing content. In other words, if you don't have anything original to say about an existing story ... be careful. Now more than ever, the focus seems to be shifting toward quality, not necessarily quantity.

In all, this update should be a good thing for the Web – both for users and those who work tirelessly to produce quality content.

The first priority for every business is to keep a constant watch on your analytics. Are your numbers slipping for keywords of which your site previously ranked highly? Are overall numbers dropping? Hopefully not. But there are some things that can be done to ensure your traffic does not suffer.

Be aggressive about building your user base. Search is powerful but it’s not the only way to ensure visitors to your website. Build a strong following on social networks and work hard to increase email sign-ups and newsletter subscribers.

Solicit quality inbound links. High-quality links will remain a pivotal factor in search engine rankings. Be diligent about networking with like-minded content producers and work to get links – quality links, including those with keyword-rich anchor text. In no way is it recommended to purchase links.

Produce varied forms of content. Search engines like a little variety. In addition to a company blog, consider producing video for a YouTube channel, a photo log on Flickr, or a podcast on iTunes.

Hire a good writer. This public call for quality content might warrant the hiring of a skilled writer for some businesses. Well-written, compelling content tends to attract links, garner social mentions and spread through online communities. Remember that today's skilled writer also knows how to create SEO-friendly content.

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Web Design Miami 02-25-2011 2:54 PM

This should not affect off-site SEO, in terms of backlinks, but on-site SEO or on on-site contents are to be of better quality.

If I'm wrong, let me know; if I'm right, I accept donation.

PattyM 02-25-2011 3:13 PM

As a writer whose content has been ripped off by those "content farms", and sometimes translated into another language and then re-translated back into English rendering it into complete gibberish with my name still attached, I look forward to these hopefully positive changes.  Our work is cut out for us once again.

Gary 02-25-2011 3:26 PM

I agree with Patty. Content farms are grabbing our content and jumbling it up among other things. Its really frustrating to those who work hard to develop good content for ourelves and our clients.

@Jean-alfredD -Yes Google's changes will affect on and off page SEO but it depends on what all was done prior to Google's changes. So for instance, say someone hired an SEO person and that person decided to use link farms, spammy content and link exchanges from content farm sites, then you would notice a difference in the site's SEO.  As long as you write quality and original content, Do proper link exchanges, then you should be okay SEO-wise.

Mark Ponds 02-25-2011 9:24 PM

I have to say that overall I'm very much in favor of Google cleaning up the search results.  I agree it can be disconcerting when this happens because surely some decent sites get affected in some ways too.  

I also know a lot of folks who get kind of sick of Google's tinkering but really, it makes sense to get rid of some crappy results that show up and don't help anybody in the end.

One thing is for sure though, nothing stays static for long with the big G.  Let's hope for better days (and search results) ahead.

PAY-PER-RESULTS SEO 02-26-2011 8:09 AM

Good! We are fed up with site that scrape content (sometimes ours) and republish as their own.

DavidF 02-26-2011 12:10 PM

This is why we must stay White Hat even if Black Hat methods are being used against us and for the moment ranking higher. Why wait to get back to quality?

Russell 02-28-2011 2:57 PM

I think this update targets the really big sites that simply republish the content with a different wireframe and integrate adsense to monetize their site.

Big Skinny 02-28-2011 3:44 PM

when will those pesky affiliate marketers be history? they create very low quality content and gum up the works...

MikeB 02-28-2011 3:56 PM

Thank you Google. We have moved from "page 10" back to page 1.

John Alexander 02-28-2011 9:50 PM

Peter, you've done well here. Extremely well!

Congratulations! Grand job and Kudos to Google who are always making changes to benefit the public (as opposed to the get rich quick schemers and the fraudulent clan.)

Highest regards on the latest changes,

John Alexander


PS: Long live high quality content that deserves and merits top visibility. These are the days of long term relationships over low quality one-hit wonders  of yesteryear.

NikolajK @ protein pulver 03-03-2011 4:29 AM

Anyone knows when they will do it for other countries search? As far as I have read it is only in US google at the moment.

I look forward to the implementation and hope that it will prevent the contentfarms from being popular in searches.

Russell 12-10-2011 11:28 AM

Quality is key and will be as we proceed further. The 1 page garbage sites will eventually disappear and be de-indexed.

We all need to concentrate on being creative, and build engaging content with focus. It seems as if Google is constantly evolving and changing so we all need to be ready to adapt...

TommasoC 12-10-2012 8:38 PM

Thanks Google for this absolutely needed update! There is way too much useless backlinking spam around the web!

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