Matt Cutts has the best job in the world. He writes one little blog post and puts the whole of the Internet Marketing community into a tail spin – and his latest is a good one – in fact when googling “what is a content farm” the first result was a news result – indicating that the term is hot, hot, hot at the moment.
But WTF is Google doing? Are they trying to destroy all of us who want to make a few dollars of passive income a month? Is the era of making a living online gone forever? Google search is failing – and what Google is doing is a public relations exercise in order to recover some credibility – and the evidence is in the results of the above search.
So what is a content farm I thought? I asked Mr Google (using US results via the nifty Chrome Google Extension tool) – and Google told me –
News results: according to joisic.com:
The term “content farm” is commonly used to describe these sites that add pages and pages of unoriginal, useless information to the search engines database.
and gigaom.com thinks that:
Companies that do this have come to be known — somewhat disparagingly — as “content farms” because of the low rates they pay the people producing their content and because of the factory-style atmosphere of some ventures.
They then go on to quote examples of such companies as including:
Demand Media, Associated Content, AOL (with Patch and Seed), About.com, HubPages, Examiner.com and Suite 101.
Odd list – hubpages.com doesn’t pay me a cent – I get paid from a share of revenue from articles on their site- my biggest payout comes from Google’s Adsense… BTW I never heard of either of these sites I was thinking maybe LATimes or TechCrunch – its not like the discussion is not being had…
But getting on to the very, very best results for my query:
wikipedia: the entry is somewhat shorter than the list of references and says precisely – nothing …
seotheory.com asks What is a content farm and offers an opinion based on personal experience – rather than rehashed content – odd how its coming in at #4 behind the nonsense in front of it.
Next we have the site called – yup – “The Content Farm” – and yes you can find really useful stuff like how to talk to a child (hint first check if he is wearing priest’s clothing …) or how to determine the weight of an Oscar (TM) Statuette – hint – first win one … In fact its a lot more amusing than the usual stuff on ehow and good luck to them I say – and it just goes to show the Exact Match Domain (EMD) bonus still works ..
At position #5 we have a 2009 post from readwriteweb.com age and authority will allow you to rank with little effort at all…
Many people know how to rank in Google’s search results – and Google doesn’t like it. If you missed the broadcast mesage – to rank content in the search results it is easiest if:
- your domain name matches the search term;
- failing that the term you want to be found for is in your url and within your article using the basics of on-page SEO
- build links to your site – some of those links should be anchored using your search term or near relatives to it.
Google is trying to rank quality – but frankly – it can’t.
Lets take a topical example. Christchurch New Zealand has suffered 2 damaging earthquakes in the last 6 months. In September 2010 there was a damaging earthquake which didn’t kill anyone, on the 22 February and aftershock of that quake may have killed as many as 240 people (figures still unconfirmed at the time of writing). So I am in NZ and I know that this story is so big that it has played in primetime on CNN, BBC and elsewhere around the world. There was non-stop media coverage (without ads) for the first 48 hours in New Zealand in TV1, TV3 and Radio NZ – my point is that there is an awful lot of information on the topic – a lot of new information – which can’t have been gamed by the clever SEO’s. So what does Google.co.nz come up with when I ask it the question many have asked me (an ex-Geologist) in the last week:
So in order we have:
- a bunch of very useful official sites – any query about christchurch and/or earthquake is displaying this in New Zealand at the moment – fair enough but not contextural search.
- news results from legit daily newspapers – though it seems a little bit unfair that the UK telegraph showed up an the NZ Herald didn’t – NONE of these results relate to my actual query – the cause of the quake.
- now the first actual search results is from – Yahoo Answers – yeah font of all legit qualified opinion that is – at least the answers on this particular listing are not too outrageous – but its hardly at a technical level – or even a good English level.
- next we have a pretty awesome photoblog from MSNBC – nice article – nothing to do with the question.
- the next two – yup – two results are from suite101 – one of the supposed farms – the first article has a sub heading which matches my query – but it doesn’t relate to the most recent event – thought Google was better than that – the second article – does relate to February’s quake – was written several days ago (I can tell from the estimated death toll) and there is nothing really about the question I asked in my query. These articles are reasonably well-written but obviously not by anyone who is either anywhere near Christchurch or knows much about Earth Science.
- Wikipedia is up next – but the link is to the 2010 quake not the 2011
- Wikianswers makes it into the top 5 with a little gem – we don’t know in about 300 words.
But maybe that’s the best there is – so I dug a little deeper – here’s a good explanation and another one here and here – of course I only found those because I know that earthquakes are explained by the science of plate tectonics: obviously no one told Google.
Summary for those who skipped the preceding 993 words:
- Google can’t make a judgement call about “quality” – all it can try and match search terms with content on a site and the authority of that site. It doesn’t understand even the most basic LSI – plate tectonics goes with earthquakes like cheese goes with wine – go figure.
- Google is doing a bit of smoke screen exercise designed to scare the f*k out of some SEOs.
- Google can’t even really distinguish between original and copied content – I wish they would because I am bored with the scrapers stealing my content – but I certainly haven’t seen it improve in the last few days.
- Google can’t even pick up grammar – not should it – Christchurch’s mayor has been widely quoted as “However it is bad news for one of the city’s key sewage facilities. “Our main sewer truck is seriously munted,” Mayor Bob Parker told TVNZ.” – in my mind the quote of the event and exactly right if you are of a certain age and grew up in New Zealand. So don’t bury it in the results because its not grammatically correct!
- Google trusts older sites more than newer sites – and PR has almost nothing to do with it.
- They have (almost certainly) temporarily – reduced rankings for some large content sites. Apparently including hubpages – I say apparently because my long-standing well-ranking hubs are still exactly where they were in rankings.
- From forum comments it appears those with affiliate sites promoting Amazon/eBay type products have been slapped down and the affiliate site promoted above them. I remember now why I gave up on promoting eBay and Amazon.
- From my own figures – niche sites with unique but hardly stellar content are still going strong.
- Go read Allyn for his take on Content Farms for Google to Zap