Google Moving Against Content Farms- What Does This Mean for SEO?

There’s been quite some news recently regarding Google.  First off, you’ve probably heard that CEO Eric Schmidt will be moving into the role of Executive Chairman while, co-founder Larry Paige will be CEO.  But besides big news such as this, another news “shoe” dropped as well last week with Matt Cutts who is Google’s Principle Engineer stating that Google will be actively making an effort to reduce spam from its rankings- specifically spam created by content farms.  So what is spam created by content farms and how does this affect SEO and SEM professionals?

What is Content Spam?
From reading several articles regarding this issue, Google seems to define content spam in two ways.  The first is content that is found on scraper sites.  Scraper sites have been around for a while now, however Google is very effective at minimizing their rankings.  These sites are usually hundreds of pages and employ a tool to go around the internet and scrape content from other sites with the same or similar keywords -usually a paragraph or a few sentences here and there.  Before Google was sophisticated, these sites seemed fine for the robots looking for specific keywords, however human eyeballs saw it as plain junk.

The second kind of content spam that Google seems to be going after is content created by the very large and mid sized content farms.  One company that is known in the industry for creating sometimes thousands of pages of content each day (hoping for traffic and advertising monetization) is the company Demand Media (which coincidentally is in the process of seeking an IPO in the neighborhood of 1.3 billion).  You probably visited many sites by demand media- some are tutorial sites, some are recipe sites, some are sites that focus on specific keywords- all in the hopes of attracting traffic and monetizing this traffic using advertising.

I should also state that Google should shoulder some of the blame for content farms and spam due to its AdSense product- paying web developers money for each click of an Adwords advertisement.  In fact, Google spawned an entire industry of web developers creating content in the hopes of monetizing it with Google AdSense.

How Does this Move Against Content Farms Affect SEO & SEM Professionals?
For SEO and SEM professionals that focus on clients that have established businesses- there should not be an effect on your rankings- you might even see an improvement of your rankings as other spammy sites drop in the rankings.  Those that this campaign will affect are:

-Web developers that create sites solely to monetize with Google AdSense or other advertising products.  We all know what these sites look like.  You land on them and immediately see dozens of ads blaring.
-Sites that utilize duplicate content or spin their content.
-Sites that scrape content
-Larger sites that add numerous pages of content per week for the sole purpose to monetize them with ads.

How Will Google Combat Content Spam?
Matt Cutts has stated that Google will employ crowd-sourced feedback and a variety of metrics available to penalize these types of sites including the possibility of modifying the Google algorithm.

What Google Wants?
Google has always wanted the highest quality content for its users.  Not only should the content be high quality, the fresher and more relevant it is usually the higher your site will rank if it’s optimized correctly.
For the vast majority of SEO & SEM professionals, we deal with real businesses, not generic sites that have broad categories.  Our sites usually have no or very limited advertising and the content used by our sites are usually unique.

While most web developers will not be targeted by Google, keep some tips in mind.

  • Refrain from using duplicate content-and don’t spin articles
  • While it’s fine to sell advertising on your site- don’t make it look like the only reason for your site to be in existence.
  • Whenever you create content, make sure it is of high quality and relevant to your site.

For more information regarding Google’s content and web development guidelines, please visit Google’s Webmaster Central:  http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769