Tag Archives: content farms

Google vs Demand Media: The Ongoing Battle

If you are at all interested in search or Google you have no doubt noticed the on going battle between Google and Demand Media. The fight is over search ranking, the higher in search your site are the more likely people will go to your site, which for companies like Demand Media means more money. Many people complain that companies like Demand Media are simply content farms and that they are gaming Google search to the detriment of better sites. First what are content farms. Content farms are defined by most people as companies that use a large number of authors to crank out post. The posts are optimized for search by the use of keywords. The idea is to get as many hits to the web site they can. Demand Media is considered to be one of the biggest content farms by most critic. Below is a great visual guide to how Demand Media Works.

[Image Source: OnlineMBA.com]

[Image Source: OnlineMBA.com]

You will notice if you scan down toward the bottom of the image that Demand Media is at this time very successful financially. They are successful because they have figured out how the Google search algorithm works and they send users to their sites which means money thru the ads that Demand Media owns. Wall Street likes Demand Media’s business model and traffic growth. In January 2011 when Demand Media went public its stock was priced at $17 per share, the stock has not gone below $18 a share and has gone as high $26. Despite Wall Streets love affair with Demand Media many user and Google are not fans of Demand Media or other content farms. Articles written for these sites are often of low quality and are written by people who have little knowledge or interest in the subject they are writing about. Unfortunately because they are optimized for search, they tend to push more relevant and higher quality articles down the search results. In February 2011 Google made an update in their search algorithm. Prior to that Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer for Google wrote a post on Google’s Blog, acknowledging that content farms had become a significant problem for Google. Although Google has never verified that the changes in their search algorithm were targeting sites like Demand Media all paths point in that direction.

It is too early to tell if Google’s changes have had any effect on sites like Demand Media. In fact Demand Media’s EVP of Media and Operations, Larry Fitzgibbon, stated a week after the changes were made that they had seen little effects on the number of hits to their sites and for now the numbers seem to be bearing them out. In fact Googles changes maybe having more effect on sites that are not content farms such as Your Tango.

Clearly, this is not an easy problem to solve after all many articles written on sites like eHow, which is own by Demand Media are basic but good post and maybe exactly what the user is looking for. Also changes to the search algorithm effect not only content farms they also can have bad effects on legitimate sites such as Your Tango. The one change or addition that Google made around the same time as their algorithm changes is they added the ability for users to block sites from their individual search results. If users take advantage of this option then that will at least improve search for that user and hopefully over time for everyone. Unfortunately, Google can only do so much, as long as users click on these sites in Google Search they will continue to rise to the top of the search results, or as the cartoon Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”.

Dealing with Content Farms

If you follow the news about Google or search you know that what some people call content farms have become a big issue. First what are content farms, Wikipedia defines content farms as Web sites that employ a large number of freelance writers to generate large amounts of articles that are written to be search engine friendly. The main goal is to increase ad revenue. Critics of these sites say the content is often of low quality and many of the articles often just copy information directly from other sites. Proponents say they are just reacting to market demand and are doing nothing wrong. The problem I have with content farms is they tend to push higher quality articles down the search page. The more popular a search is the more likely this is to happen. They also tend to be simplistic and leave out important details.

The question is what to do about content farms. There are a couple of solutions that have become available lately. The first is to use a search engine called Blekko. Blekko allows you mark sites as spam and then that url is removed from your search database. It works really well, however for it to work you have to use Blekko. This is not realistic for most people who equate search with Google. The second option is a Google created solution which can be found in the Google App Store called Personal Blocklist by Google. Once you install the extension when you do a search if a site comes up that you consider to be spam, you simply click on Block this Site and that site is again removed from your search database. There are a couple of problems with Personal Blocklist that prevent it from being the ultimate solution at this time. First it is available in Google Chrome only and it doesn’t sync across computers. However if you live in Google Chrome and have a single computer this is a great option. A third option is an independent tool called PersonalBlock through Kynetx which is an Appbuilder site. Personal Block works on Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. It will works whether you search through Google, Yahoo or Bing. When you do a search and you find a site you consider spam you click Block x Web site and like the Google extension those sites are now blocked from your searches. With Personal Block if you decide you want to see the site if you scroll to the bottom of the search page there is an option to show the site. If you use this method then Google doesn’t get the information. if you use the Google created solution, then Google can aggregate the information and hopefully better search for everyone. I do like the fact that all these solutions leave the choice up to the user.  I am not sure I want Google or Bing or Yahoo to make that decision for me.