At the end of February, Google announced that it was going to take on “low quality” websites, or those that copy content from other sites or serve up information or content that is irrelevant or of little value to visitors. The so-called “Farmer Update” targets spam and copy from content farms. Google expected that about 12 percent of queries would be affected; in the weeks since the change in algorithm was announced, how has it impacted websites and their efforts at SEO?
Google is pleased with the changes, saying, “Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.” But some sites, like Associated Content, Suite 101, and Helium, aren’t so thrilled. These sites, which often have copy from “content farms,” saw drops of as much as 90 percent in their SERP performances even though they are not malicious and do, in fact, provide content that is relevant and of quality to users.
In a wide scale change such as this, there are bound to be legitimate, non-spammy sites that are caught in the net. Overall, though, Google Fellow Amit Singhal says, “If you [test] over a large range of queries, you get a very good picture of whether the new results are better than the old…the outcome was widely positive.”
Google’s method of detecting spam or farmed content is very different than that which is employed by search engine Blekko. Blekko simply banned the top 20 sites that users identified as spam. Google doesn’t want to subjectively decide if a site is low value; instead, it lets its search algorithm do it.