Google to Re-target Content Farms? #PubCon

3 minute read
Steve Sechrist avatar

At the giant search and social media conference Pubcon in Las Vegas, Google’s top Spam cop Matt Cutts said in his talk the company is getting out the knife again.  He reported Google is looking to discern “…what are the things that really matter, how much content is above the fold.”

You may remember the last time Cutts’ team went after low-quality content was with its Panda algorithm, also known as Farmer, that targeted content farms gaining top search hits on “shallow” content.

Web Traffic Gainers, Losers

Reverberations of Panda went global with some of the biggest web traffic losers including content farms, affiliated marketing and price comparison sites.  For example, last April in Europe, we reported after Panda went into effect sites reporting impacts included eHow UK, reviewcentre.com, dooyoo.co.uk and Microsoft's ciao.co.uk

Up to 99.7% of the domains that lost visibility, “…are sites that either create content based on search demand or sites that repurpose content from other sources,” J. Angelo Racoma wrote on CMSWire. On the winners side, he wrote, "These include domains that attract a lot of page views, such as popular blogs, newspaper sites, blogging services and social networks. WordPress, TechCrunch, YouTube, and eBay UK have gained visibility benefits from Panda."

But the effort Cutts may have in mind this time may not be an extension of Panda. At the Pubcon conference yesterday, Cutts said, “If you have ads obscuring your content, you might want to think about it,” asking publishers to consider, “Do they see content or something else that’s distracting or annoying?” 

Google Blog

In the official blog from Google on the topic of antispam last January, Cutts said, “We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content. We’ll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites."

As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. 

Learning Opportunities

The company also addressed the notion that the company is giving preference to spammy content that also serves Google Ads. “To be crystal clear,” Cuts wrote, “Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google; Displaying Google ads does not help a site’s rankings in Google and buying Google ads does not increase a site’s rankings in Google’s search results.”  

google webspam.jpg

Webspam with no original content, Source: Google

By webspam, Cutts means junk you see in search results “…when websites try to cheat their way into higher positions in search results or otherwise violate search engine quality guidelines. A decade ago, the spam situation was so bad that search engines would regularly return off-topic webspam for many different searches. For the most part, Google has successfully beaten back that type of “pure webspam” -- even while some spammers resort to sneakier or even illegal tactics such as hacking websites."

But for now we’ll have to wait for clarification on whether Cutts is readying yet another technology to work along side Panda, or simply an update.  

PubCon Las Vegas 2011 runs through today with the Masters Group search and social media training completed November 7 and Conferences and Exhibition Hall open November 8 through 10. The event is supported by social media, Internet marketing, search engines and online advertising groups, and offers a week-long look at the future of technology, from both speakers and on the show floor.

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