Posts Tagged ‘farmer update


cthulhu is your special SEO friend

Remember Squidoo from a few Friday SEO Site of Weeks ago? Well, we were trolling the forums over there when a particular thread caught our attention. It was a plaintive cry for help from a person who was pretty new at all this. They had published some content awhile back, and had grown accustomed to a certain amount of Google search traffic. As a result of the recent “Panda” changes, much of their traffic went away.

I’m sure the poster is a very nice person. Definitely stressed, confused, and angry about losing all their traffic. Which I can relate to. But here’s the thing. We hear that sort of complaint every time Google changes anything. It usually goes something like:

How dare Google take away my traffic! This is an outrage! There should be laws protecting well-meaning web business people like me from these bullies! They should be forced to index my site and return my keyword ranks and traffic to the way they were!

Which is an attitude that has always rubbed us a particularly wrong way. Luckily, this response showed up, and it summed up our thinking pretty cleanly.

cthulhu wrote:

  1. Google does not owe you traffic. You get traffic from Google if Google thinks your site is the best result for some particular query. If you want traffic from Google, do your best to have the best site for search terms that get traffic.
  2. Doesn’t matter what flaws Google may have, they are still the main game. About 70% of all search traffic worldwide comes through Google. This is a fact of life. Perhaps a sad fact, perhaps a happy fact. But a fact nonetheless. You can either deal with it, or you can give up any hope of that traffic.
  3. If your web business model depends on search traffic to survive, it is a very shaky business model. Search traffic comes and search traffic goes. It’s nice when it’s there, but it is not reliable. Never has been. You need to develop other traffic sources if you want long-term success. In-bound links from sites that attract people who might be interested in your site also. Email campaigns. Content that is useful, funny, pretty, entertaining, exciting, interesting, cute, whatever enough that folks will show up no matter how they find you. If you make content that web users find attractive they will come. And you know what? If you do that, and people find your content useful in some way, odds are very good that the search engines will too.

We would also add this: Google is not, nor should it be, a public utility. It is a corporation, run for the benefit of its shareholders.

Okay, we’re not sure about all that business about depending on search traffic. After all, if you run a web business, you should definitely plan to draw a large percentage of your drop-in traffic from search. But the rest, we think, is true. Don’t put all your eggs in the search basket. If you start getting good Google traffic, don’t just sit back and relax. Don’t assume it will last past tomorrow.

And mainly, don’t blame Google. It’s their game, and if you wanna play, you have to acknowledge who’s dealing the cards.


Content Isn’t Everything….

….it’s the only thing.

I mean, really. With the launch of Google’s newest update (codename: “Panda”), that’s what all the SEOs are talking about. Content, they say, is now the most important site element!

Newsflash. Content has always been the most important site element. And always will be. What’s more, everybody has always known this. Remember “Content Is King”?

Then why all the buzz now? Simple. Almighty Google has declared that content is the new backlink. You gots to have it, if you wants to play. And not just any old content, either. According to the Goog, it’s got to be

  • Original
  • Useful
  • Substantial

Which all just another way of saying, “C’mon people, if you’re not making the internet better, you’re making it worse.”

Your content must be unique to your site. No more copy and paste, no more sitescraper bots, no more one article published to 500 different domains. There are some important exceptions (like using manufacturer’s descriptions in your product copy), but for the most part, if you didn’t write it or commission it exclusively, it ain’t original.

And why not? If you go to the trouble of putting information out there on the web for all the world to see, why shouldn’t it be in some way—any small way—worth somebody’s time. This doesn’t mean every word on every site has to be deeply significant. Just in some way useful. Informative. Provocative. Funny. Cute. Entertaining. Nasty. Instructional. SOMETHING.

All of this useful, original stuff also needs to be something more than twelve words and a pass-through. For text content, there really isn’t any sort of word target (despite what you hear from a few SEOs) but there should always be enough to make a complete point, or thought, or at least a full paragraph. Images can be substantial all by themselves, but the criteria is very subjective. Does an image standing alone in the center of a page accomplish anything? If not, well, maybe you should consider filling up the space around it with some meaningful commentary. Or something.

I guess the true upshot of all this is:

Nobody really knows what Google means by “original, useful, and substantial.” But they’ll damn sure know when it’s not there.


Google Puts Content Farms Out to Pasture

Google has pulled the trigger on a major algorithm update and busted a cap in an entire industry, the Content Farm. In case you don’t know, a content farm usually refers to a domain that exists solely to generate high-ranking pages for high-search keywords by cranking out minimally useful (if useful in any sense at all) content. Sometimes this content is scraped (stolen) from other sites, sometimes it’s written by freelance “buck-a-page” hacks, and sometimes is near-gibberish generated by computers stringing random words together. The reason these sites flourish is that their pages have tended to rank very very high for a very very high percentage of searches.

Here’s one of the most profligate: eHow. In pursuit of total web dominion, eHow has built a megalith site of over 20 million pages.  What? TWENTY MILLION FREAKING PAGES? About everything. They do web research to mine high-search keywords, and then build very minimally useful content pages around the terms. But the site is so huge and so interconnected and so competent at SEO that they rank first page for an unbelievable percentage of the keywords they pursue.

It’s not really spam, really. I mean, there is some sort of content there, right? Problem is, they (and all the other content farmers like them) have made searching the internet just that much harder for everyone. Want to know how to unclog a drain? Search for “unclog a drain” and you’ll find the first page of results a virtual sink-full of virtual content-farmed pseudo-content that you will have to stick your arm into all the way to the elbow in order to fish out one useful bit of knowledge.

Well, Google’s not happy about that. So Google made a little change. The Farmer Update.

This update—said to affect as much as 12% of all searches worldwide—will definitely make an impact on searching the internet, particularly for the content farmers cash crop, How-To information.

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.  —the Official Google Blog

But there’s a potential boll weevil in all this: Google claims to be devaluing “low-quality” content. Which, in cases like eHow, is pretty easy to spot and pretty hard to argue with. The bug is what (and who) actually gets to define “quality”? Does Wikipedia, with almost 70 million pages of diverse content, make the cut? Or get the axe? Do blog sites like WordPress, with 300,000,000 pages of stuff ranging from the sublime to crap (like the blog you’re reading right now) get penalized across the domain just because 80% or so of what’s there is “low-quality”?

Time will tell, and webmasters will yell, and SEOs will prosper. And as for the content farms, those who get rich dealing manure can’t really complain when they find themselves upwind.

More on the Google “Content Farm” Update

Official Google Blog: Finding High Quality Sites in Search
Google Breaks Up Content Farms
Google Tightens the Screws on Content Farmers
Google Goes After Content Farms with Update
Google Forecloses on Content Farmers
Legit Sites Could Get Caught in Google’s Content Farm Crosshairs
Seeking to Weed Out Drivel, Google Adjusts Search Engine