Google Search Algorithm Updates – Content Farms, Low-Quality Content and Webspam

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Google has been making some major changes to its algorithm recently, primarily to penalise sites that contain low-quality content and “content farm” websites. The latest string of updates is to further improve the search result relevancy; and of course, the first Panda update that was implemented by Google had resulted in affecting 11.8% of all U.S. searches. And it had resulted in major websites being impacted, while other websites were benefited from the changes. Some major websites that were impacted includes About,com, Demand Media (that owns websites such as eHow) and Yahoo! Associated Content. However, it is important to stress that websites that continue to publish high-quality content will not be affected by the ongoing algorithm labeled “Panda”.

It is important that you rectify any areas of your website or blog that may be affected by the Panda algorithm. The only in which the penalty assigned to your website by the Panda algorithm is by removing poor-quality content. You can’t really label “good-quality content” – because to most people, we know what good quality content is and we also know what bad quality content is. But by using analytical tools to understand what pages are doing well and what pages aren’t, it can paint a picture as to what Google’s algorithms are determining on your website as poor-quality content and what pages are high-quality content. But either way, it is important to replace poor-quality content with good-quality content otherwise your rankings will not improve while there is poor quality content on your website or blog.

What is a “content farm”?

A “content farm” is a website which sole purpose is to write content often systematically to try and get as much traffic from search engines for relevant keywords as possible – which often leads to lower quality content because the content may be written by someone who may not have adequate experience in what they are writing about and because they may not be paid much, the motivation to write as much content as possible on a daily basis may be a greater emphasis than writing good-quality content with each article or piece of content they write on.

Google sees content farms as a major problem, and many of these algorithmic updates are to target and tackle the problem of content farms. Demand Media, which owns eHow and other websites, are to some people considered to own content farm websites because of the amount of content that is published on these websites and because some articles may be poor compared to the same kind of content from other sources. It appears to me that sites like eHow write articles generically compared to a blog that has editors that are experienced in the field they are writing about. For example, many of the articles I’ve seen on sites like eHow are generic and do not help assist in resolving a specific issue and sometimes simply give generalised directions on a specific subject or  problem.

The “Penguin” anti-webspam algorithm update.

Google refers “webspam” (to differentiate from e-mail spam) as web pages that have too many keywords embedded to try and fool search engines into improving their web page’s search engine optimisation or link schemes. For pages that have too many keywords, this is referred to as “keyword stuffing”. It’s important to take note about the use of reciprocal link exchanges. While this can benefit your sites SEO, too much link exchanging can trigger Google’s algorithm for excessive link exchanging which can negatively impact your websites rankings.

Google has illustrated in its blog post on rewarding high-quality websites that websites and blogs that have articles that have out of context link placements shall also be penalised under what we will call the “webspam” algorithm update. The article in question appears to be about fitness but it has completely unrelated backlinks in the blog post itself to a website offering pay day loans. Google’s algorithms are smart enough to detect this kind of behaviour, and rightfully so, will penalise websites and blogs that do this – that is, have “unusual linking patterns”.

Over-optimisation of backlinks.

Over-optimisation is something that appears to be more sensitively recognised by Google’s algorithms. If you read this blog post by an editor on Seomoz.org, one of the editor’s website was penalised for having a backlink on one of his other blogs – the keyword being “Web Strategist Philadelphia”. Once he had changed the keyword to his site URL, his rankings were improved over the following few days afterwards. You may wonder why that would be considered over-optimisation, but it may well be over-optimisation because you’re getting backlinks on the keywords you are directly targeting. It is recommended to have only natural backlinks and if you want to target certain keywords, you do so with careful consideration to make your anchor text natural.

What is “high-quality content”?

Google has made a blog post explaining what high-quality content may be. Some are pretty obvious examples, such as “spelling, stylistic and factual errors” which is to say grammar and punctuation errors with your content and factual errors with relation to your content and what you’re writing about. In fact, there is another one listed in the article – for websites that have excessive amount of advertisements. I had thought of this before as to whether Google takes this into account; because, for most users, a web page with too many advertisements is both annoying and distracting.

So bottom line is, good SEO can be:

  • Good quality, original, genuine and unique content (and also in respect to spelling, grammar and punctuation to a sizable degree).
  • Good use of titles for your articles with respect to blogs.
  • Natural use of backlinks.
  • Ensuring your web pages are formed properly.
  • Make sure your website is speedy and loads reasonably quickly.
  • Optimise your images prior to uploading them.
  • Not using excessive, unnatural or out of context keywords, categories and backlinks.