Monday, June 13, 2011

Content Farms and SEO – part 2

This is a follow-up posting to my earlier one on Content Farms*

What are search engines doing about content farms?
Search engines fully understand that visitors will only use them if they can provide highly relevant search results. In fact Google has recently very publicly stated its aim to crack down on content farms (and therefore by consequence retain market share of the lucrative search advertising market). One approach has been in the releasing of a ‘plug in’ to its Chrome browser; this creates a personal ‘blocklist’ that gives users the ability to block certain sites from Google’s search results (but only for that person using their browser).
Other initiatives include a number of changes to the Google search algorithm that noticeably improves the quality of search results. The recent 'Panda' update by Google in April was one such change that was inteded to down-grade the visibility of more obvious content farm sites.

It is also my belief that the Google +1 button I covered in an earlier post is an aim to combat sites such as content farms. But rather than using the negative technique of blocking those that it thinks are less relevant to the search user, it is now encouraging users to reward the more relevant pages and sites.

Isn’t there a fine line between some content sites and content farms?
Oh yes indeed, in fact there is considerable overlap and it is becoming increasingly hard for the search engines such as Bing and Google to tell them apart. For example, news sites such as those from the popular newspapers (obviously except those behind a pay wall) are increasingly aware that they need to encourage search traffic. In fact the Washington Post earlier this year was caught with a posting on its website stating “SEO headline here”, obviously highlighting where some reporter had failed to add the keyword-focused headline to the article before it was published online.

Cases such as this show that even the big boys are trying to capture search traffic in anyway legitimate way they can… but in doing so are further blurring the line between news source and content farms.

So how do I stop my site being recognised as a content farm?
In a reversal of my earlier post on creating a content farm, the most important advice I give on this topic is to write for your visitors not for the search terms…quality content will be well read, forwarded and linked to. Search engine algorithms are increasingly able to cleverly tell which sites are official and which sites are created just for the purpose of targeting them… and in the end it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that we get quality search results.

In a nutshell, content quality is not something you should forget when writing for your website, especially if you produce a lot of it!

*this article was not written just because I was getting a lot of keyword-related traffic on this subject from search engines, honest!
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