Google Forecloses On Content Farms With “Panda” Algorithm Update

In January, Google promised that it would take action against content farms that were gaining top listings with “shallow” or “low-quality” content. Now the company is delivering, announcing a change to its ranking algorithm designed take out such material.

New Change Impacts 12% Of US Results

The new algorithm — Google’s “recipe” for how to rank web pages — starting going live yesterday, the company told me in an interview today.

Google changes its algorithm on a regular basis, but most changes are so subtle that few notice. This is different. Google says the change impacts 12% (11.8% is the unrounded figure) of its search results in the US , a far higher impact on results than most of its algorithm changes. The change only impacts results in the US. It may be rolled out worldwide in the future.

While Google has come under intense pressure in the past month to act against content farms, the company told me that this change has been in the works since last January.

Officially, Not Aimed At Content Farms

Officially, Google isn’t saying the algorithm change is targeting content farms. The company specifically declined to confirm that, when I asked. However, Matt Cutts — who heads Google’s spam fighting team — told me, “I think people will get the idea of the types of sites we’re talking about.”

Well, there are two types of sites “people” have been talking about in a way that Google has noticed: “scraper” sites and “content farms.” It mentioned both of them in a January 21 blog post:

We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content. We’ll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites.
As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content.

I’ve bolded the key sections, which I’ll explore more next.

The “Scraper Update”

About a week after Google’s post, Cutts confirmed that an algorithm change targeting “scraper” sites had gone live:

This was a pretty targeted launch: slightly over 2% of queries change in some way, but less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.

“Scraper” sites are those widely defined as not having original content but instead pulling content in from other sources. Some do this through legitimate means, such as using RSS files with permission. Others may aggregate small amounts of content under fair use guidelines. Some simply “scrape” or copy content from other sites using automated means — hence the “scraper” nickname.

In short, Google said it was going after sites that had low-levels of original content in January and delivered a week later.

By the way, sometimes Google names big algorithm changes, such as in the case of the Vince update. Often, they get named by WebmasterWorld, where a community of marketers watches such changes closely, as happened with last year’s Mayday Update.

In the case of the scraper update, no one gave it any type of name that stuck. So, I’m naming it myself the “Scraper Update,” to help distinguish it against the “Farmer Update” that Google announced today.

But “Farmer Update” Really Does Target Content Farms

“Farmer Update?” Again, that’s a name I’m giving this change, so there’s a shorthand way to talk about it. Google declined to give it a public name, nor do I see one given in a WebmasterWorld thread that started noticing the algorithm change as it rolled out yesterday, before Google’s official announcement.

Postscript: Internally, Google told me this was called the “Panda” update, but they didn’t want that on-the-record when I wrote this original story. About a week later, they revealed the internal name in a Wired interview. “Farmer” is used through the rest of this story, though the headline has been changed to “Panda” to help reduce future confusion.

How can I say the Farmer Update targets content farms when Google specifically declined to confirm that? I’m reading between the lines. Google previously had said it was going after them.

Since Google originally named content farms as something it would target, you’ve had some of the companies that get labeled with that term push back that they are no such thing. Most notable has been Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt, who previously told AllThingsD about Google’s planned algorithm changes to target content farms:

It’s not directed at us in any way.
I understand how that could confuse some people, because of that stupid “content farm” label, which we got tagged with. I don’t know who ever invented it, and who tagged us with it, but that’s not us…We keep getting tagged with “content farm”. It’s just insulting to our writers. We don’t want our writers to feel like they’re part of a “content farm.”

I guess it all comes down to what your definition of a “content farm” is. From Google’s earlier blog post, content farms are places with “shallow or low quality content.”

In that regard, Rosenblatt is right that Demand Media properties like eHow are not necessarily content farms, because they do have some deep and high quality content. However, they clearly also have some shallow and low quality content.

That content is what the algorithm change is going after. Google wouldn’t confirm it was targeting content farms, but Cutts did say again it was going after shallow and low quality content. And since content farms do produce plenty of that — along with good quality content — they’re being targeted here. If they have lots of good content, and that good content is responsible for the majority of their traffic and revenues, they’ll be fine. In not, they should be worried.

More About Who’s Impacted

As I wrote earlier, Google says it has been working on these changes since last January. I can personally confirm that several of Google’s search engineers were worrying about what to do about content farms back then, because I was asked about this issue and thoughts on how to tackle it, when I spoke to the company’s search quality team in January 2010. And no, I’m not suggesting I had any great advice to offer — only that people at Google were concerned about it over a year ago.

Since then, external pressure has accelerated. For instance, start-up search engine Blekko blocked sites that were most reported by its users to be spam, which included many sites that fall under the content farm heading. It gained a lot of attention for the move, even if the change didn’t necessarily improve Blekko’s results.

In my view, that helped prompt Google to finally push out a way for Google users to easily block sites they dislike from showing in Google’s results, via Chrome browser extension to report spam.

Cutts, in my interview with him today, made a point to say that none of the data from that tool was used to make changes that are part of the Farmer Update. However, he went on to say that of the top 50 sites that were most reported as spam by users of the tool, 84% of them were impacted by the new ranking changes. He would not confirm or deny if Demand’s eHow site was part of that list.

“These are sites that people want to go down, and they match our intuition,” Cutts said.

In other words, Google crafted a ranking algorithm to tackle the “content farm problem” independently of the new tool, it says — and it feels like tool is confirming that it’s getting the changes right.

The Content Farm Problem

By the way, my own definition of a content farm that I’ve been working on is like this:

  • Looks to see what are popular searches in a particular category (news, help topics)
  • Generates content specifically tailored to those searches
  • Usually spends very little time and or money, even perhaps as little as possible, to generate that content

The problem I think content farms are currently facing is with that last part — not putting in the effort to generate outstanding content.

For example, last night I did a talk at the University Of Utah about search trends and touched on content farm issues. A page from eHow ranked in Google’s top results for a search on “how to get pregnant fast,” a popular search topic. The advice:

The class laughed at the “Enjoyable Sex Is Key” advice as the first tip for getting pregnant fast. Actually, the advice that you shouldn’t get stressed makes sense. But this page is hardly great content on the topic. Instead, it seems to fit the “shallow” category that Google’s algorithm change is targeting. And the page, there last night when I was talking to the class, is now gone.

Perhaps the new “curation layer” that Demand talked about in it earnings call this week will help in cases like these. Demand also defended again in that call that it has quality content.

Will the changes really improve Google’s results? As I mentioned, Blekko now automatically blocks many content farms, a move that I’ve seen hailed by some. What I haven’t seen is any in-depth look at whether what remains is that much better. When I do spot checks, it’s easy to find plenty of other low quality or completely irrelevant content showing up.

Cutts tells me Google feels the change it is making does improve results according to its own internal testing methods. We’ll see if it plays out that way in the real world.

For more about content farms and the quality debate, see these articles below:

Opening image used under Creative Commons license from Mahalie at Flickr.

Postscript: Demand Media has now posted this short statement about the changes on its blog. We have our story on Demand Media’s response at Demand: Google Changes Have Produced “No Material Impact” Yet.

Postscript 2: Third party sources are now trying to assess who was hit most by the update. See our compilation post, Number Crunchers: Who Lost In Google’s “Farmer” Algorithm Change?

Postscript 3: Don’t forget that at Search Engine Land’s SMX West search marketing conference in San Jose March 8-10, we’ll have a number of sessions where this update as well as Google’s previous updates will be discussed, including:

This post has more about all these sessions: Google’s “Farmer Update” At Search Engine Land’s SMX West Conference.

Postscript 4: See also Google: We’ve Made No “Significant” Changes To The Farmer Update.

Postscript 5: See Your Site’s Traffic Has Plummeted Since Google’s Farmer/Panda Update. Now What?

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Content Farms | Demand Media | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Panda Update Must-Reads | Panda Update News | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


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  • William J Brown

    Boom! And so passes the content farm business model!

    [What's going to happen to Business Insider, and all those other sites that take what used to be a couple of bullet points, and then make it into "slide shows" with 12-15 pages to drive page views? Are they next?].

    GREAT, immediate analysis, Danny! Fantastic work and much appreciated in the community!

  • phiberoptik

    Personally, my confidence in Google has been going down hill for some time now. They’ve known there has been an issue with their SERPS and have done little to fix the problems. Now, many months later, they finally release what I consider a patch.

    This, after letting JC Penny make millions and game the system for well over a year. They had no idea until the NY Times broke the story. And this is supposedly the “unflappable” search engine that would never let someone, let alone a huge company manipulate them? Bad, very bad.

  • chiropractic

    I think this will be one of those updates many in the SEO community will actually welcome. I hadn’t noticed how bad results had gotten on Google until I was shopping for a Jeep and began searching daily for all sorts of accessories I’d never done searches for.

    Results were terrible with site after site stinking of low grade (low paid) content. I actually found myself getting better results doing image searches for items of interest, and going to sites from there.

    On the scraping, nobody likes seeing their content get pulled and manipulated w/o permission. Going the DMCA route through Google had been frustrating in my experience, so much so I went back to focus on alternatives.

    Excited to see how this all shakes out. Great title btw. :)

  • Page

    I LOVE your headline! ;-)

  • shaun057

    Great article. We knew this was coming. Over the last month or so I was researching laptops and it was extremely frustrating to look for information and have to wade through pages and pages of scraped content and “reviews” that were simply feature lists, so hopefully this change will help. Though today I did notice ehow articles suddenly ranking in the 1 and 2 spots in a niche I’ve been following, I thought that was a little strange.

  • traiann

    So far I still see the same website that use link farms to build backlinks showing on #1.

    So what was the purpose of this update more exactly? Not ranking the content farms with their content or not passing PR to their clients?

    It’s been just a day but my feeling is that sites who buy links from content farms will still do well.

  • mashhood1099

    Good going google….now i’ll get more meaining full results….

  • onreact

    I still prefer a search like this here:

    Btw. signing in via Twitter is broken here (404).

  • TeacherPaul

    Danny, your reporting is awesome! Been with you since the days of the glasses logo. Old school glasses. Much props!

    This is the most backwards update I have ever seen. I mean a complete abomination. Many high quality sites got hurt deeply by this change. We’re not talking about content farmers or even extremely small gardens. Good people, great content, using honest methods.

    I have been pushing my clients to focus on high quality content and link building methods. Forget anything that can be in anyway be potrayed as gray hat. My motto for my clients is “If you can’t be proud to tell your mom how you built links and content, don’t do it!”

    I have many clients who don’t listen; they do link blast and spin content across the globe. Many of my clients who do that garbage (on their own) came out ahead. It makes me sick.

    I have 8 Holy-Angel (They do an unbelievable great job (150% white hat content and links) with everything) clients currently. I would say a 40% drop in Google referrals on average. Looking at the sites that Trump them now, it’s a serious problem. I’m sure if Matt C. took a look, he’d be yelling at a few of his engineers.

    Tried to find a few practice math worksheets for my daughter last night, man a lot good stuff is gone. Looks like it’s back to the days of using bookmarks?

    I’ve been in the game since 1996, I have never seen such a huge screw up by G. I’m sure they tweak things along the way, they might have to.

  • Anoop Sudhakaran

    Good to see that google is acting up against Content Scrapers! :)

  • Kamil

    Well Danny, great article.
    But .. just make search with “how to get pregnant fast” .. and yes, page you mentioned is gone .. and do you now what? … first page is still full of crap, even at the top … so i am little bit skeptical about real sense of this change .. maybe few content farms will be gone, but many others are waiting … anyway, great article, great work. Thanks.

  • grnidone

    I’m actually a bit offended at your picture.

    Most farmers are technologically advanced people who don’t drive without a cab.

    Seriously, Danny, your chosen photograph shows an old man on a antique, not an actual farmer who uses GPS to see exactly how their fields are yielding down to the square foot. You may not know this, but farmers are technically advanced people who have to know everything from biochem and plant genetics to mechanical engineering.

    You might want to take a trip to Waterloo Iowa and take a tour of some new equipment. And then you might want to say “Thank you God for putting people on this earth who are more intelligent than I am so I can eat every day.”

    This update is a technologically advanced update. Not a relic as shown in your picture.

    *gets off soapbox*

    Come on Danny. You can do better.

  • Jim Huinink

    I agree with Kamil: the first page still has a lot of crud on it. When I searched for “buy cheap ipad” this morning I came across copious articlesbase and ezinearticles listings. These aren’t content farms? They all fit your definition exactly, in fact. And more importantly, this is still what Google thinks is relevant to my search?

    To me the update seems like they mainly went after Demand Media only, since Demand’s IPO makes Google look stupid (and that, as is so often the case, is what this is mainly about). Did Demand Media actually dominate 12% of SERPs? I like Matt Cutts but I still often wonder if he is not just a very sincere salesman for what is first and foremost a publicly traded company that protects its reputation while focusing always on the bottom line.

  • ajkohn

    I’m disappointed that Google has chose to address the subjective (content quality) rather than the objective (link abuse). Frankly, if you addressed the latter, the former would probably take care of itself.

    I don’t see the results getting any better, I simply see them getting different (sometimes worse) based on a set of subjective opinions on value and use.

    According to comScore Google has maintained or gained market share and their customer satisfaction score is remains high. Sure, the decline from an all time high last year might have spooked them but the bottom line from my perspective is that the everyman was not running away from Google. Quite the opposite it seems.

    So who was this change for exactly? For Vivek Wadhwa, Paul Kedrosky, Jeff Atwood, Michael Arrington, Rich Skrenta and other upper-class, highly-educated technophiles. Not the everyman.

    And this was done without the use of the Personal Blocklist Chrome extension. Maybe other new signals were used, but I’m left to believe that Google re-weighted the current signals to achieve these results.

    Think about that. Instead of letting the algorithm find the best results or altering the computation of a signal or signals, it seems that multiple signals were tweaked until the ‘right’ quality of sites were represented. The cart seems to have been put before the horse.

    Google changed quantitative measures to achieve a pre-determined qualitative goal.

    They’re setting their own perceived metric of value in conflict with other signals, metrics and feedback. The message? Google doesn’t trust us to know any better. It’s not about what we want. It’s about what Google thinks we should want.

    Google Doesn’t Trust Us To Know Any Better.

  • GregWinston

    Should this effect user generated content sites like squidoo, hubpages, or ezinearticles??

  • Jim Rudnick

    Great take on this issue, Danny!

    And I love the new “title” you’ve just coined too….the Google “Farmer Update” indeed, eh!



  • Todd McDonald

    Thanks for the update – very interested to see how this pans out moving forward. My initial very quick check over a couple of keywords across different industries still displayed some results from ehow (and related) sites with content that didn’t appear stellar to me. However, other results do seemed to be removed, including some how-to articles from ehow that were holding #1 spots.

    Anyone seen any changes/drop-offs of large article sites like ezine?

  • Dan Abbamont

    I’ve been mining a whole bunch of data and with a sample of 256 keywords where ezinearticles pages were ranking, each page dropped an average of 35 spots in the serps. All of the other article directories are around the same.

    Hubpages is down an average of 30 positions but Squidoo is only down 15. Lord knows why. is down about 30 too.

    Established retailers seem to be getting the biggest boost, but I’m mining mostly commercial keywords.

    The real winner is Etsy. They’re up an average of 30 or so.

  • Ryan Jones

    Love the definition of content farms. Technically it classifies most SEO bloggers as content farms too! Of course, who says we’re not?

  • Danny Sullivan

    grindone, Sorry if the picture offended you. I actually worried that it might. I lived in the middle of farm country in England for 12 years, where they’re just as technologically advanced as in the US. All I can say is this came up in the middle of my vacation, I wanted a picture of farming to go with it, hitting Flickr for Creative Commons pictures was for once pretty disappointing, and after going through about five pages of results, I went with this to have something. I also got pretty sick from something while I was writing all this up, so I just needed to get it posted and lay down. If I have time down the line, I’ll try to get a better picture up.

    Kamil, agreed. That’s why I said at the end it remains to be seen how well this works. One issue Google’s had in the past, when they’ve talked about this, is that for some queries there’s just nothing that great. I’m deeply curious if we can see a real improvement.

    The problem is, we have no external metrics of any of this. What I predict is that despite there being some real changes under the hood, this will mainly be a big PR win for Google. People who complain loudest will stop seeing so many brands that they’ve learned to associate with poor quality content, so they’ll assume things are better — even if the results are still flooded with poor quality content from sites they don’t recognize.

    I hope that’s not the case. I hope the change really makes it so that the best content from anyone shows up. But I tend to think this will play out as nofollow did for Google. It rolled that out, and suddenly all the people who blamed Google for comment spam got what they wanted, a solution. It was a solution that didn’t stop the problem, but it got it off Google’s back. The Farmer Update might do the same, to help defused the content farm problem that Google’s been attacked over.

  • Andre Kibbe

    There seems to be some misunderstanding about what’s affected by the update. It’s purpose is to demote content farms, not link farms or bad search results in general. If tops the serps for a search on “cat diarrhea”, it probably doesn’t fit the profile of an eHow. For instance, if the Chrome extension reports were part of the algorithm (which they’re not), then it’s unlikely that a one-off spam result like would get flagged by users. On the other hand, if you’re constantly looking up solutions to computer problems and keep running into Experts Exchange, you’re probably going to flag it.

    I predict that content farm owners will shift their publishing strategy to use a higher number of smaller sites that don’t provide a big enough target for users to flag. We could see the likes of eHow split into dozens of smaller verticals.

  • Dan Abbamont

    All of the article directories as well as hubpages have taken a major hit across keywords they rank for. I will share data soon, just have to mine more.

  • grnidone

    >I also got pretty sick from something while I was writing all this up, so I just needed to get it posted and lay down.

    Forgiven. I read my post again and it came out a lot more harsh than I meant it to be.

  • Michael Martinez

    Please kill the in-your-face ads for SMX West. That is a really low-quality user experience.

  • ajkohn

    Spot on with the nofollow comment Danny. This feels like a solution for the sake of a solution. Check that problem off the to-do list.

    The Farmer Update seems like it’s addressing the symptom of the problem and not the cause. We’re getting medicine that masks the symptom but does nothing to cure the disease.

    I want more from Google.

  • Jeff Yablon

    Danny . . . great piece. Truly.

    I found myself perplexed about the “Sex should be fun” article, though.

    While I think it should be obvious that the article didn’t deserve high marks or high ranking for its supposed “subject matter”, the fact that your audience laughed when they did actually speaks to the one part of that article that made sense, in-context. Sounds trite? Sure. But “sex should be fun” is actually great advice to (add) to the mix in a situation where more sex (and encouraging same) could have a positive impact on the subject being discussed.

    All of this underscores how difficult-to-impossible it is to BE Google. Garbage articles abound, and they deserve to be buried. But creating algorithms that do it the right way is HARD.

  • Search Tactix

    Where is Bing in all of this? You would think with the barrage of media coverage, Bing would step forward and speak to how they do or do not handle such issues.

  • Richard Bivans

    I think we can all agree as information consumers, that we desire the best content we can get for the information we are seeking (searching). However, the biggest concern I have about Google’s algorithm changes for “content farms” is how do they determine what is quality content and what is not quality content. It all sounds kinda like “BIG Brother” is watching out for us. I guess my fear in this ranking change is that although I strive to produce good content for my websites, Google, for whatever criteria, will de-value my ranking because they feel my content is not “quality”. For the average webmaster, this is all very very grey.

  • Elisabeth Osmeloski

    @Jeff Yablon – thanks for pulling out the key part of the example – yes, the class laughed, because we were discussing the “Well, Duh” aspects of some of the advice found in many of these content farm articles.

    ( And why do you need 100 different versions of the article that basically say the same thing, without adding anything new, just to target a slightly different query? )

    The question of quality and reliability of fact is a huge one when it comes to content farms – for example, what qualifies any of these sources as particularly knowledgeable in fertility issues? Often, you have no context around the expertise of the contributors.

    Wouldn’t just going to the mayoclinic website, webmd, or parenting site be more relevant/reliable?

    (interestingly, if you look at – it’s actually a fairly good collection of resources in one comprehensive piece)
    the issue is that you can’t always rely on the consistency of quality, but here, they’ve referenced many major sites, so it is a time saver.

    Perhaps a better example is another “Well, Duh” Danny discussed in the class –
    How To Pack for the Bahamas

    Danny’s key questions/responses to the “tips” included below:

    1 & 2) Ok, yes, that’s pretty helpful.

    3) Suncreen, hmm… well duh.. is that just limited to the Bahamas, or might I need that if I go somewhere else? (and, no mention of it has to packed in checked bags if over 3oz)

    4) extra, ok, so is that just limited to trips to the bahamas? Or should I pack those for other destinations?

    5) well, ok, I wasn’t going to pack my ski jacket or anything.

    6) pack two swimsuits… well, duh.

    7) you get the point.

    To an experienced travel writer, that’s just plain insulting that someone could write that garbage and say, “look at my article, it was published on USA Today Travel!, I’m a worldwide expert now” ,

    it completely devalues credibility of the industry, even if it does make some revenue for the struggling newspaper through a distribution deal with DMD.

  • Winooski

    “But this page is hardly great content on the topic. Instead, it seems to fit the “shallow” category that Google’s algorithm change is targeting. And the page, there last night when I was talking to the class, is now gone.”

    Except now that the article links to it without the (rel=”nofollow”), it’ll probably resurface shortly. [;-)]

  • Christopher
  • Alex Becker

    Great post, Danny!

    Seems like this update is really putting “content and users” first and it makes a lot of sense. Many content topics require experts to write about it, if sites are copying this content or attempting to write this “expert” content themselves and they are not, in fact, experts, why should their content be #1?

    I wrote a blog post that touches on this a little bit here –

  • feedthehabit

    It seems that my site has potentially gotten caught in Farmer’s wake. My original content at gets copied, re-copied and posted all over the Web the second I click publish. I saw a 25% drop in traffic from Wed to Thurs and I can think of no other reason other than I may have gotten penalized by association even though it’s completely out of my control.

    It’s a bummer… I’ll make it through it, but I’m sure glad it’s not my dayjob.

  • peterdavanzo

    ““content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content.”

    Hitting content Farms, you say.

    So, how’s YouTube doing?

  • miker d

    Talk about a bad update. After 10 years of creating content to help others, it looks like our traffic took a 30-40% dip from Google starting Feb 24th. I am not sure how Google is determining who is the original content creator. When we write our own articles and publish it, within minutes, scraper sites out there pull data from our feed and reposts it as their own. We have always been worried that we might be wrongly accused of copying other people’s content. That day has come. Google just spanked us after putting our domain up since the late 90s and writing thousands of pages of our own content to help other people with similar problems. I am still in shock seeing the massive loss of traffic.

  • Sean Safholm

    How would this effect article directory sites like Would they be considered a content farm?

  • Greg Shuey

    I have seen some interesting things as well over the last 24 hours.

    For some search queries, I have seen ezinearticles and goarticles that were previously ranking well completely disappear.

    For other search queries, obviously very long tail with not a whole lot of competition, I still see ehow and ezinearticles ranking fairly well. I’m almost wondering if there is some sort of criteria that needs to be met in order for those “content farms” to be removed from the SERPs for a particular query.

    I am also curious to find out if Google just tweaked the algo to pluck those results out to create a better user experience and more relevant results, but will still provide backlink value, or if the content and backlinks will be completely devalued.

    I’m sure we will learn more over the coming weeks.

  • willspencer

    eHow, the site almost everyone is complaining about, was purposefully exempted from this cleanup. Something is rotten at Google.

  • fionn

    Ia m all in favor of more sex but no time for that these days with all these Google shenanigans the sex will have to wait until the updates settle. I like the farmer it made me laugh reminded me of all the Irish farmers I know. Also, I do think Matt Cutts is genuine. He has a tough job and walks a fine line between his job at Google and communicating with the community but he does it very well and with grace. He is a great guy so please leave Matt alone I am a fan. Now for the rant.

    I see changes but one set of crud is replaced by another. My pet example is the the site pissedconsumer. First they scrape the content from the Rip Off Report they should be gone for that alone. Then they create dozens of garbage links using spun content over and over to the article, they should be gone for that. Then they set up their own link farm using subdomains,add automated comments to the article which in turn populated the link to their link farm and boom they are at the top of Google. Any one of these issues should get them dropped according to these updates but they have not. That is my example and I am sure there are many more. I know the site has been reported many times pointing this out so why are they still ranking high? Is is because there is a small possibility that there might actually have a real report on there that has not been scraped from a “r”eal disgruntled customer and Google thinks that is enough to give them the authority they give them. I wonder if I contacted the Wall Street Journal to write about Pissed Consumer would Google take action.

  • TheTopTens

    I support the idea behind this type of update, but certainly not the execution. Punishing a site at the domain level seems to be either lazy or an indication that Google is completely unable to separate good content from bad.

    Our site consists of user generated top 10 lists where the community has the ability to create lists, vote on items, add comments explaining their votes, and add new items to lists. All submissions are moderated. Some lists have become wildly popular with people adding hundreds or thousands of comments, sharing them on Facebook, Tweeting the URL, etc. Other lists, while interesting to the people to added them, do not achieve the same level of popularity.

    With this latest update, all lists suffer. Despite the fact that the site provides a genuinely positive user experience based on user behavior and conversion rates, US traffic after the update is down approximately 50% with high traffic keywords being the hardest hit. For example, despite being years old, having thousands of inbound links including many from other companies in the field, having been liked over 1K times on Facebook, and consisting entirely of original content, our list of best credit repair companies ( is now receiving half the traffic as before the update and is being outranked by thin affiliate sites, low quality blogs, and syndicated articles.

    We have taken many steps to try to get back in the good graces of Google, some which are ironically for search engines at the expense of usability, such as removing informational pages populated using the Amazon API, noindexing member profiles, and noindexing other pages that provide benefit to users but aren’t high quality from a search engine perspective. Hopefully these changes will result in a lifting of the content farm “penalty” that appears to have been slapped on the domain before such changes get rolled out beyond the U.S. and cuts all site traffic in half.

    But at the end of the day, it’s unfortunate that these changes became necessary in the first place. We have absolutely no problem with Google not ranking what they perceive to be low quality content from our site. That is their prerogative. Where we certainly take exception is with the throwing the baby out with the bathwater approach. The intentions are good. The implementation is a fail.


    About the new Google search update targeting MFA and content farms.

    As an editor/writer of a website – that is not MFA nor a content farm I’ve long been pained by seeing low quality or even all-ad pages appearing as search results ahead of our articles.

    We research, peer-review, include authoritative sources, do not permit conflicts of interest, edit for accurate useful content etc. all in an effort for legitimate high quality content and credibility. Feedback from readers says they find our content real and really useful.

    BUT .. while I can’t yet say for sure the reason, I have seen a big drop in our page views that began just when Google rolled out its new search rules.

    It’s very scary – and very costly for us – I just have no idea how to even find out from Google if we have been mis-categorized as one of the offenders. Or as Pogo almost said: “We have met the enemy …. is it us?” is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information for the public – we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website.

    We are dedicated to making our information as accurate, complete, useful, and unbiased as possible: we very much welcome critique, questions, or content suggestions for our web articles.

    Contributors, even if it’s just a small correction, are cited, quoted, and linked-to from the appropriate additional web pages and articles – which benefits us both. Working together and exchanging information makes us better informed than any individual can be working alone.

    A brief summary about can be read at

  • Dan Coxon

    As a writer who has plenty of (original) content out there, I have to say this feels like a huge failure by Google. All of my articles are original, in-depth, and written by myself. But the traffic seems to have dropped dramatically overnight, sometimes by as much as 60%. At the same time, when I run sample searches, they bring up false hits and content farms, while my articles are now totally MIA. I can only imagine that they’ve been stolen by content farms in the past, and I’m now paying the penalty for the theft.

    I appreciate Google’s aims, but they seem to have shot far wide of the target this time. It’s hard enough for freelance writers to make money online – it’s going to be even tougher if we can’t get our articles seen. It remains to be seen how this will settle out over time, but right now I’m losing around 50% of my audience. Personally, I’m going to switch to using Bing…

  • doban

    I write quality content for Suite 101. One of my articles was stolen and I reported it to Google and fought to have it removed. Now, my original article is at the bottom of page one and the very first search result is for the stolen article. Of course, it is not there but it still takes readers to that site. Is that what Google calls improvement? The thieves get top results over the original? And, by the way, I hope you had permission from the author of the eHow article to republish it. Since what you said about the article was not positive, I doubt you did have permission. Plagairism is plagairism regardless of the reason the article was copied!

  • Damien Anderson
  • Rod

    This algo update is not living up to its headline.
    Content farms down, and quality sites up, MY FOOT! I see more of the exact opposite, where original, quality content took a big hit, while more spammy sites remained, or floated to the top.
    Makes sense though — a searcher finding the answer in a quality site leaves. After wasting time on a spammy site, the searcher is more likely to click on an Adsense ad if nothing but for frustration. Google doesn’t grow from quality search, but paid clicks.

  • Websong

    doban: “Plagairism is plagairism regardless of the reason the article was copied!”

    Gtfo. It’s not plagiarism if it’s cited. Even an ehow article could tell you that.

  • jamescoakes

    The end of link farming and a rather brilliant headline.

  • United Post

    This is a blog from Activist Post that says the “farm” statement by Google means re-purposed RSS feeds are now dead. But this is a conspiracy theory blog that I wouldn’t trust. Does anyone have some actual factual information on this? Every other article I see skirts the issue.


    Michael Conniff
    Post Time Media Inc.

  • Todd McDonald

    @Dan Abbamon

    Thanks for the reply – great info!

    I believe ezine’s plummet is also effecting sites with large amounts of links incoming from ezine as well….Anyone else seen anything like that in rankings?

  • spidered

    I’m trying to get my head around search engines having sex! Google + Bing = ‘Boogle’? Or perhaps ‘Going’ – no comments about the antonym of ‘going’ please! Or maybe ‘Gobbing!

    How about Yahoogle, or Ask + Bing = Asking! ‘ Never mind, the poor old things are very tired and probably can’t get up to much!

    I am pleased with one aspect of this algorithm change – there is too much software out there scraping articles and reconstituting them as new articles, and many people actually believe they are getting good value for the fortune they pay! I am an article ghostwriter and tried one of these – it didn’t work!

    As for the same Microsoft standard graphics appearing continually on sales pages – ye gods and gadzooks – even I use them because original graphics are so expensive to have done! Just as well search engines can’t spot graphics duplication – or can they?

    I do agree, though, that Google takes ages to respond to complaints, but I think that this update might be a step too little and a year too late. As long as Clickbank unwittingly permits PLR articles to be sold from its Marketplace there will always be duplication and poorly fashioned articles – after all, what is a poor guy to do if they can’t speak the language and most IM traffic is from the USA?

    Wait till China finally rases its dragon head and gobbles us all up! Then we will understand the reason for so many badly written articles – only it will be us trying to write Chinese for the top world search engine, Goojing!

    However, if you keep your nose clean by writing good, original content for your web pages and promotional copy, then you have nothing to worry about. Those that copy the work of others, either by direct plagiarism or by changing a few words with synonyms that they do not fully understand the meaning of (I know – ending with a conjunction!) are hopefull now doomed to failure . . .

    . . . letting the rest of us saddos actually work for a living without the enjoyment of getting hit after hit using duplication software and figuring out all these tortures we will apply to get them to confess – but we never ever put it into action, do we.!



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