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Google Places Caught Up In Farmer Update

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A handful of good sites got caught up in Google’s so-called Farmer, or Panda, Update.  Even Google.  When Google’s webspam team, led by Matt Cutts, say they are impartial and unbiased, they seem to mean it.  How was Google Places classified as a content farm and removed as spam from the search results?

Google’s update, which involved a shift in algorithm which they expected to affect about 12 percent of queries, was aimed at sites with low quality content.  This type of content is either copied directly from other sites or is obviously drafted by content farms.  Google intended to target sites like Associated Content and Huffington Post, which often employ over-the-top SEO to boost page ranks.  An example: Huffington Post’s articles, “What Time Does the Super Bowl Start?” or “Nude Christina Aguilera Photos,” that had content corresponding to neither and were mostly ad-filled pages.

“Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google,” Matt Cutts said, responding to the fact that most of these content farms made the bulk of their revenue from AdSense.  Google Revenue Chief, Nikesh Arora, has apparently decided Cutts and his webspam team are a thorn in Google’s multibillion dollar side.  Why?

Because Demand Media, one of those sites with low quality content wrapped in ads, is one of Google’s best clients.  In fact, Arora and Demand Media’s CEO, Richard Rosenblatt recently spent two weeks on Rosenblatt’s $40 billion yacht in the Caribbean.

Marissa Mayer, who directs Google Places, isn’t a fan of Cutts either.  Places was classified automatically as spam because it aggregates information from sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, who are very ad-heavy with often low quality content. Over Cutts’ objections, Google reinstated the Places’ pages, which had dropped from the search results in most cases.  Mayer has reportedly stated, “Screw the webspam team.  It’s not like people are going to start using Bing.”

It’s that type of attitude that has made Google a giant, and perhaps what will prompt people to start using Bing.  Or Yahoo or Dogpile or Blekko…there’s a lot of competition waiting.

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