In a move that SEO though leader Danny Sullivan labels the 'Farmer' update on his Google Forecloses On Content Farms With "Farmer" Algorithm Update analysis, Google has this week come down hard on the very many sites out there propagating less than useful content. The Farmer update is the latest in a flurry of relevance enhancing initiatives rolled out by Google over recent weeks. Activities that also include the 'Scraper' update (credit Sullivan again for the name), the release of the Chrome extension to black flag low grade sites and the punishment of both US retailers JC Penney and Overstock for flouting Google guidelines when it comes to paid links.
Referring specifically to the Farmer update Google's Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts wrote on the Google blog: "Our goal is simple: to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible. This requires constant tuning of our algorithms, as new content—both good and bad—comes online all the time.
Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.
Though currently only live in the States, the Farmer update has sent out a crystal clear message to content providers and SEO companies – you better make it good. Whilst of course quality is often a subjective matter and quality can be tough for an algorithm to define – To quote Google engineer nicknamed moultano on Hacker News: "The central issue is that it's very difficult to make changes that sacrifice "on-topic-ness" for "good-ness" that don't make the results in general worse," the issue is clear. If you choose to sail too close to Google's new definitions of poor quality content then be prepared for the consequences. Analysis of the fall out from the Farmer update by Aaron Wall at SEOBook reveals for example that the Top Five Content Farm Losers have been;
Good riddance to bad rubbish many of you may feel. After all who hasn't been lured onto an ad infested page of trashy, empty and virtually meaningless content only to click away once the charade had been revealed? The combined time wasted webwide on content farm vapour must total countless human livetimes..
Oddly enough one of the highest profile flouters of Google's quality content dive Demand Media's eHow.com seems to have actually benefited. Whether these gains are sustainable remains to be seen however as there's plenty here to come out in the wash.
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Perhaps this will be one algorithm update that the SEO community can (largely) agree is a good one. With less weak content clogging up the top search positions there's more room for well conceived, well crafted web pages. Work of quality and worth that genuinely deserves to be found. Good for users and good for ethical SEOs basing their campaigns on delivering sites offering genuine content to meet genuine searches.