Google Search Results

Thank you Google.

Yesterday, the search giant announced on its blog that it made an algorithmic update. A big one too.  By Google’s measure, it should affect 11.8%  of its search results in the US, which is more than most algorithmic updates. The target of the update? Content farms and scrapers.

Danny Sullivan christened it the Farmer update and gave a solid analysis on the release. I’d most definitely check out his post to get the skinny.

According to the official blog post from Google on the update:

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.

In all honesty, content farms and scrapers drive me crazy. Not only do they clog up my search engine results page with crappy results, but they also give SEO a bad name. Let’s face it: there are quite a few SEO companies out there that use content farms to cut corners.  It’s cheap and easy…but it’s also cheap and easy.

Good Content Takes Balls

Testicular fortitude. Courage. However you want to put it, it takes balls to write solid content that provides value. Just think about it: your content will matter to users. It’s not just there for the link. It’s there because it’s useful and interesting and people actually want to read it. It’s a hard charge to be given as a copywriter. In fact, it’s damn hard. I know from experience. As an SEO copywriter, it’s my job to create content that doesn’t suck and believe me, there are days when that’s hard to do. But the user always has and always will have to come first and that’s what’s at the core of this algorithm update.

Cheap and Easy

Unfortunately, there are just too many people who claim to be in SEO who lack the balls to create good content. Instead, it gets outsourced for cheap because it saves time and effort. What comes back? Cheap, shallow content. Thankfully, there’s now an algorithmic solution in place to weed out some of the junk. Blekko’s idea of eliminating crap content on a site by site basis seems a bit inefficient, though I do like the fact that users may catch things that the algorithm doesn’t. Either way, I can breathe a little sigh of relief.

Douchebaggery

Content scrapers in particular are a nuisance. Like gnats.

Out of curiosity a few months ago, I searched for my name and found some of my own content scraped. It sucks knowing that my content is being dumped onto a crappy site that only serves the purpose of being the douchebag of the SEO world. Remember all of those plagiarism lectures you had to go through in school? They still apply.

Takeaways

This update is a big deal for those in SEO, as well as for site owners. For me, the key lessons are:

  • Don’t allow your site to be mired in sucky content. It’s easy to hire a copywriter or an SEO firm for $5 a page but you get what you pay for. $5 a page doesn’t buy you good content that offers value. It may not even buy you original content at all.  Invest in quality content because at the end of the day, it’s what will make your site successful.
  • If you want to offer value, put the user first. It’s easy to lose sight of the user experience when one is trying to up rankings. Instead, site owners are making their sites with search engines, not people, in mind. But rankings aren’t the true SEO success metric. Traffic is. No one is going to visit a spammy-looking site just because it ranks well. If it looks crappy, navigates crappy, and offers crappy content, guess what? It’s a crappy site. Toss it.
  • Spend more time and effort on creating content that matters.

Final Thoughts

I’ll be interested to see how this plays out for article marketing and user generated content sites. Dave Harry‘s take on Search News Central says that early testing is showing that it’s not aimed directly at sites like eHow, Yahoo! Answers, HowStuffWorks, About.com, etc.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the Farmer update? Are you as happy about it as I am?

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