Following a bout of negative feedback concerning Google’s ability to filter out low-quality search results from content farms and identify it as spam, the iconic search engine has declared war on sites that exist purely for the purpose of generating links. By now, any SEO consultant will have heard of the “farmer algorithm”, Google’s latest update designed to reduce spam in search results. Of course, the burning question is, how will the search industry be affected?
According to Danny Sullivan, writing for SearchEngineLand, Google expects the change to impact approximately 12% of US search results, and eventually plans to roll out the algorithm update globally. And while most industry insiders have been picturing the wilting of metaphorical crops, Google won’t officially state that the changes are aimed at content farms. In fact, while industry news sources have dubbed it the “farmer” algorithm, Google refers to it as the “Panda”, named after one of the project’s key developers.
Search quality specialist Matt Cutts told Sullivan that Google is working on changes to drive down spam levels, targeting “scraper” sites that copy content from others. Of course, plenty of content farming practices use this method, and will therefore be impacted by the changes. Cutts and Amit Singhal say that the update “is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites” which do not include useful or original content. Cutts adds that many of the low-quality results came from sites that had been created using “the bare minimum” of effort not regarded as spam.
This implies that content farmers could lessen the effects of the Panda algorithm simply by taking steps to improve the readability of their sites. But how many will be prompted to make the effort, and how many will continue to scrape content from other online sources?
Possibly the most significant part of the Google update is the addition of a domain blocker, a feature that allows users to block results from sites they find to be useless or offensive. Feedback from the domain blocker is intended to help Google identify content farms or similar low-quality sites. This could prove invaluable as Google strives to improve the overall quality of their search results.
In an interview with Wired.com, Cutts and Singhal said they are satisfied that the anti-content farm algorithm is achieving what they hoped it would, namely that scraper sites are no longer outranking original sites. The duo was also refreshingly upbeat about the criticism Google has received; “We’re lucky to have criticism,” says Cutts, “because that means people care enough to tell us what they want”.
What are your predictions for the future of content farms and the search industry as the new Panda algorithm rolls out? Do you feel the domain blocker will prove as useful as hoped, or will user feedback prove too subjective? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments section!