When the Demand Media witch hunt started a few months ago, journalists and bloggers called for action against what they termed the biggest “content farm.” There is little doubt that eHow is in essence exactly as described: a venue for low-quality, quickly-written and edited articles that rank well in search engines and draw in tremendous traffic to their ad-loaded pages as a result. Google changed their algorithm. eHow remains strong in the search engines. What happened?
Not to toot our own horn here, but we said back in December that Demand Media’s business model is gold and we stand by the opinion even after the algorithm change. Sistrix has been tracking the effects and it appears that Demand Media is safe. Take a look at the sites that were “clipped” by the change:
No Demand Media. While many of these can be defined as content farms, they are mostly on the list as a result of duplicate content, something that Google has always frowned upon.
The Morals of the Story
There are actually a few morals to this story that can fall into different categories. Let’s look at 3 of them:
- Low Quality is Hard to Define by an Algorithm – What journalists and bloggers complained about was the bad content. What Google attacked was the duplicate content. As long as Demand Media and other content farms are strict with their editorial process of checking the content for duplication before it’s published, they will be fine (until Google and Bing figure out how to isolate content that is poor by human standards).
- The Content Farm Model Still Works – Again, if done right, content farming is a lucrative business model. To be “done right,” it needs to be unique, of appropriate length, and most importantly it needs to be highly-relevant to the topic it promises. Google in particular looks at visitor data on websites to help determine relevance. If an article is titled “How to Play Uno” than the article needs to answer the question. People searching for that have a clear goal in their search. If they “bounce” from the page quickly and return to the search results for another round of clicking, Google knows.
- Inbound Links are Queen – Most would look at the results of Google’s algorithmic change and recite the old catch phrase, “Content is king.” That’s not the exact message that Google is saying. In reality, it should be, “Content is King, but the King is defenseless and utterly worthless without a couple of Rooks, a Knight or two, and the Queen, better known as quality inbound links.” eHow is well linked. Most of the sites on the list above have a lot of links coming in, but those links are not well-directed towards individual articles with the proper anchor text associated with them.
There are many other things that we can take away from this, and it should be noted that Google will continue to go after the content farms. Unless they hand down manual penalties, it is unlikely that well-planned and funded content farms will go anywhere but up in the searches for a long time.