Jonathan Leger – SEO And Internet Marketing Blog Internet Marketing Blog


Google vs. Content Farms

Well if you haven't heard about it by now, you don't read the news online at all. When even CNN and ABC are writing articles about it, you know Google's latest algorithm update has had a major impact.

But, just in case your home is under a nice shady rock, here's the gist: Google updated its algorithm on February 24th in an attempt to clean up their search results, removing the rankings of sites it considers "content farms" (though exactly what defines a "content farm", in true Google fashion, they've never explained).

This change affected roughly 12% of known search queries. That's pretty significant. Google has stated that "the outcome was widely positive", but has also admitted that there will inevitably be some collateral damage in a major update like this. Google has also stated that they are working to tweak and improve this change to restore lost rankings to some of the affected sites that aren't "content farms."

So the big question for all of us is: "What is a content farm, and how can I keep my site from looking like one?"

While that question can't be answered with authority (as I said, Google is pretty mum on the subject), I can tell you that what I personal do to rank sites has resulted in exactly ... ZERO lost rankings.

So instead of attempting to define a content farm, let me just outline my method for building and ranking sites in Google:

1. Unique content on the site.

Never, I repeat, never post an article on your web site and then post the same article to any other site (article directories, blog networks, whatever). Make sure the content on your site is unique.

I personally use my article spinner, The Best Spinner, to make sure that the articles I submit to other sites are unique. My definition of "unique" here is that the rewritten article passes a Copyscape check after the article posted to my primary site is already indexed in Google. That last bit is important: the article on your site has to be indexed in Google in order for Copyscape to pick it up when it checks for duplicates.

The reason you need the article on your site to be unique is that, if it isn't, the other copies of your article on other sites will be in direct competition with the original on your site. And since other sites (such as EzineArticles) have massive numbers of links to them, their articles generally get indexed more quickly than the article on your own site will. That means Google could end up seeing the copy as the original -- bad news for your rankings.

2. Put related quality content on the site.

This may seem like a no brainer, but I always put 10-15 pages of quality content that's related to the home page subject matter (though not on exactly the same topic).

That is, if the home page is focused on Bar-B-Que grills, the inner pages might be around BBQ utensils and BBQ recipes, etc.

Even if I'm not trying to get the inner pages ranked, I still post a variety of related content on the site. I want Google to run its latent semantic indexing algorithm on my site and see that it's content rich on my topic of choice. That is, I want Google to feel my site has "content authority."

3. Get links to all of the pages on the site.

I have a hunch that this is where the "content farm" gets identified by Google.

It's easy to get a bunch of links to one page, the home page, but it's equally important that you get links to all of the inner pages of your site as well. That's something I always do for my content sites.

Even if I'm only wanting to rank the home page, I still get links to the inner pages of the site. This gives the impression that the whole site has some "link authority", and not just the home page.

It's my personal guestimation that Google is also analyzing the linking patterns to determine what is and is not a "content farm", and not just the "quality" of the content itself. This theory holds up when you start analyzing the linking patterns of some of the sites which are generally felt to be content farms that did not get the axe in this latest update.

I'm not going to start a flame war in the comments by naming the content farms in this post, but if you're interested you can read this thread at WebmasterWorld.

In Summary

So how do you make sure your site doesn't get slammed by Google's new algorithm? My personal formula is simple: unique content on the site, high quality themed content on the site, and links to all the pages, not just the ones you want to rank.

That formula has served me well, and none of my sites were hit in Google's latest update.

Please post your thoughts and questions in a comment below.