Google has made some sizable changes to their algorithms again within the last couple of weeks. This time the changes were made largely to cut into the influence which content farms have over the search engine listings in Google, and of course the web is abuzz as it typically is when Google makes some changes. For all of this I thought I’d make a post to define what is a content farm and explain why these changes are being made.
What is a Content Farm
Not to be confused with a content site, a content farm is a company/web site which pays lots of freelance writers to produce huge amounts of content to appear on their site, thus encouraging that their site takes up more Google real estate and thusly further benefiting that company/web site.
The major criticism associated with content farms is that they typically emphasize quantity over quality. This is because, for the most part, content farm writers are paid roughly the same amount whether they write an especially quality article which over delivers on a subject versus one which barely meets its goal. The result is on one site alone you get maybe hundreds of thousands of people all churning out tons of low quality content in order to get paid just a few dollars at a time.
The model is flawed in this way and now that these sites have so many people relying on them and this model to make money, it looks like the only way to correct it is for changes to be made on Google’s end like they have done, with the aim being of punishing the content farms and forcing them to change and improve on these models if they wish to continue enjoying the search engine exposure.
Obviously Google has made this change because their M.O. has always been to provide the highest quality content in its search engine listings. While these sites have been playing by the traditional rules of Google for ranking well and staying above the spam/black hat lines, at the same time they’ve been polluting the search engine with sub par content.
Now that we’ve answered what is a content farm, let’s look at an example.
Content Farm Example
eHow is a prime example of a content farm. I’ve used eHow a few times when searching for something, and sometimes I’ll find a genuinely very helpful article, but other times (being an online marketer) it’s painfully obvious that the writer is simply fulfilling a quota in more ways than one and the article which is holding down the number one spot in Google is a joke. At first glance it’s not that obvious of a problem, but it is a problem nonetheless and disguised or dressed up spam is still spam, so Google has finally decided to do something about this low quality, albeit “original”, content.
On the other hand, sites like eHow have “employed” millions of people over the years. For some people this is their sole source of income and they rely on that money day in and day out, so content farms do have a positive purpose (besides giving us dozens of articles on how to change guitar strings). It will be interesting to see if or how these algorithm changes will affect content farms and their roles in the immediate and not so immediate future.
On a related and more recent note as of March 19, 2012, Build My Rank has closed it’s doors after Google deindexed the vast majority of its blog network and any webmasters using it experienced a huge fallout in their rankings. For more information about this check out Build My Rank is Dead.