Hot At Sphinn: Google’s “Farmer” Update, Educating Media On SEO & More

sphinn-logoEven though the news didn’t hit until late Thursday, Google’s “farmer” algorithm update was one of the hot topics lastweek on our sister site, Sphinn. Three of the most tweeted Sphinn stories of the week were related to the “farmer” update, and several discussions about it are still ongoing this morning.

One of those discussions produced our favorite comment of the week. In the story, Google Farmer Update: Quest for Quality , Sphinn member Aaron Bradley of, had this to say about the “farmer” update:

Until now I would have said that Google was primarily aimed at returning the most semantically relevant sites for a query, and that ranking was assigned by popularity (as measured by inbound links and other quality signals). With Farmer Google seems to be primarily aimed at returning the sites most pleasing to the crowd. Once their SERPs were the Oscars, now they more resemble the People’s Choice Awards. That they appear to have done this algorithmically actually scares me more than if it had been a hand job.

The hottest topic overall on Sphinn was our “Discussion of the Week,” which asked Is it Possible for Us to Educate the Media About SEO? That conversation currently stands at 24 comments and has been tweeted 80 times — both the highest numbers for any story over the past week.

Here’s a look at all of Sphinn’s most popular stories.

Most Comments

  • DOTW: Is it Possible for Us to Educate the Media About SEO? – There has been some discussion this past week about SEO and the media. Lisa Barone discussed it yesterday and Shari Thurow discussed it on Search Engine Land. We all know about JcPenny and Forbes. We also know that myths and misconceptions about SEO are everywhere. The media often confuses things…is this because so much is wrong on the net about SEO or are they not looking hard enough for the right information? Can we educate them? Do they really want to be educated?
  • Google Farmer Update: Quest for Quality – Great data showing which sites got torched the most in the Google Farmer Update. Thanksfully it appears to be lots of article directory type sites which are typically full of very low quality content.
  • Google Penalizes Overstock for Search Tactics – Google Inc. is penalizing Inc. in its search results after the retailer ran afoul of Google policies that prohibit companies from artificially boosting their ranking in the Internet giant's search engine.
  • Google Forecloses On Content Farms With “Farmer” 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
  • Think Keyword Density is Still a Factor? Prove It! – A thought provoking piece that refutes and challenges keyword density and an SEO practice. – As I read her email I could literally feel my blood pressure rising.  She’d heard me speak at a webinar I did for Wordtracker about ecommerce copywriting where I said keyword density hadn’t been a factor in SEO copywriting for years.  The lump in my throat got bigger as Zoe (not her real name) explained why she thought the myth about keyword density simply wouldn’t die.

Most Tweeted (not already listed above)

  • Klout for Business: A Useful Metric –but an Incomplete View of Your Customer – Great article from Jeremiah Owyang that throws cold water on companies who put too much stock and trust in Klout influence scores. In a nutshell … it's not all that.
  • Number Crunchers: Who Lost In Google’s “Farmer” Algorithm Change? – From Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, a clearinghouse list of sites affected by the latest algorithm change at Google (the 'Farmer' update) that rolled out earlier this week and was designed to weed out shallow and low-quality content from its top search results. Please chime in on what you're seeing in the comments here, or over at Search Engine Land.
  • 10 Tips to Inspire Your Audience to Take Action in Social Media – All the followers and fans in the world aren't worth a dime unless you can inspire them to take action — this is a good piece that talks about how to communicate with social media connections in a way that inspires them to DO SOMETHING.
  • Ted Ulle aka Tedster On Information Architecture – The main navigation – the core Information Architecture – needs to be a fundamental beacon that the visitor can depend on to stay oriented. The job of the Information Architect is to create a consistent structure that most people will relate to easily.

Hot On Sphinn: February 21 to February 27, 2011

  • Into The Minds of Link Builders – Kate Morris interviews three link builders (two of which I know well, and one that I'm getting to know as a result of the article). Definitely worth a read.
  • SEO Spider Review – Xenu on SEO steroids – This review of the SEO Spider comes with handy usage tips, where Branko Rihtman not only explains what the tool does, and how, but why particular analytics / methodologies make sense for SEO audits.
  • Preparing for The Death of RSS – Michael Gray writes, "While I personally am a big fan of RSS, I stand by my position that RSS is not being adopted by the mainstream population and is therefore a dying technology."
  • Designed To Fail: Why Many Tests Give You Meaningless Results – There are many reasons why a well-designed test might fail. For example, seasonal effects might be ignored, the dataset might be too small or the marketplace might change during the test. However, a very common error in test design is not accounting for volatility – fluctuations in performance due to unpredictable events in the marketplace…
  • Click Distribution & Percentages by SERP Ranking Position – Ever wonder what an organic click might really be worth? For that matter, ever wonder what is the number of clicks you might gain by moving from position #5 to position #1 in the search results?
  • How To Design A Web Registration Process for Kids – "When designing a registration flow for adults, the key is to make it quick and easy, allowing fast access to content and information. For kids, the journey is the destination. It’s important to make that journey as fun, engaging, and rewarding as possible." — Even if you don't create sites for children, you will gather a few interesting UX tidbits from this tutorial.
  • SEO Strategies for Google News – If you’re already creating great news content, it’s relatively easy to get it indexed in Google News and the traffic can be substantial.  Here are some strategies for getting the most out of your content in Google News.
  • The Power of Dashboards in Google Analytics – And any technology…can be more than a little intimidating at first. Even a platform that prides itself in being as intuitive as Google Analytics does. Additionally, with any analytics platform, you have to adopt a measurement mentality to know where to get the data most useful to you and what to do with that data once you have it in hand.
  • 10 Years of Link Building Advice – Great link building advice through the years from folks ranging from Jill Whalen to Darren Rowse to Wil Reynolds.
  • Integrating offline and online – most organizations missing the point…. – Peter Young always watches with interest the adverts which increasingly use the ‘search for’ options within the above the line advertising activity, particularly television. This is something we increasingly see the larger brands utilising, sending offline consumers of their advertising online – and then tracking them back via online analytics. Well, if and only if the campaign is well planned …
  • User-Friendly SEO – Some web designers (and many web content writers) view on-page SEO as a necessary evil to an effective content strategy on the web. However, when properly executed, SEO can actually enhance a site visitor’s experience, rather than detract from it.
  • The Secret to Getting 50,000 Followers on Twitter – The secret is that it isn't a secret.  Even in the magical world of social media, it comes down to a lot of hard work.
  • Navigating PPC Trademark Rules – Microsoft adCenter just updated their policies for bidding on trademarked keywords so it is a good time for a refresher.  Lucky for you there is one right here…
  • 54 Percent Wouldn’t Use Group Buying Again – An Internet2Go and Merchant Circle survey of over 8,000 Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) reveals interesting trends.
  • 9 Ways To Start A New Local Business Using Facebook, Twitter, Groupon And Google – A nice list of affordable steps you can take to build a solid online presence for your local biz.
  • Google to Circumvent Domain Names? – A couple days ago there was a blog post on TheDomains about "how stupid SEOs are" and "the amazing power of domaining" where they highlighted how awesome domaining was because a guy registered a domain name he saw in a comic and it sent a bunch of traffic.
  • Squeeze Page Optimisation: How to Get 700+ Free Leads and a 64 Percent Conversion Rate – A very smart post from Viperchill on how he created a high conversion landing page.

This is the latest in a weekly look at the stories that were “hot” on Sphinn in the past week. We’ll post these recaps every week.

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Sphinn


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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