The great Google significantly tweaked its mysterious search algorithms this week in an attempt to lower the rankings of low-quality, SEO'd-out-the-wazoo content aggregator sites.
Google’s official announcement explained the change like this:
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.
Not once did the post actually mention content farms, but come on. Even Matt Cutts of Google's Search Quality group recently commented on the issue: “In general, there are some content farms that I think it would be fair to call spam, in the sense that the quality is so low-quality that people complain,” he said.
Further, Google has recently faced criticism for allowing articles that aren’t useful to appear prominently in search results. Another recent solution to the problem was last week's addition to the Chrome browser, an extension that can be used to block certain sites and can "learn" which sites people block. But this week's change requires much less user participation and will reportedly affect a whopping 11.8 percent of Google queries.
We along with most others wonder how this will affect popular sites that repurpose a heavy chunk of their content from other sources, as well as those that are simply seen as less reliable sources of information. So far, most are keeping their poker faces on.
Larry Fitzgibbon, Demand Media's EVP of Media and Operations, for one seems unaffected: "It’s impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term – but at this point in time, we haven’t seen a material net impact on our Content & Media business," he wrote.
Still, what about younger or smaller sites? AOL's SEED program relies on thousands of writers for new material, and Yahoo hopes to hire 400,000 writers for its own content mill. Surely, Google's change means quality over quantity will come into play with more weight behind it.
As of today the changes are rolling out to the U.S. only, but Google plans to expand the geographical horizons over time.