The recent Google algorithm change christened Content Farmer or Panda update is one topic that took the internet by a resounding bang! The ripples traveled far and wide and the whole of the blogosphere was agog with the news.
This algorithm change is definitely one of the biggest targeted at about 12% of g seoogle's search queries. And so far Google appears to be happy with result reporting great success with the update. In fact, the most affected websites reported a drop of about 30 – 40% or more in traffic!
Unfortunately, many “reputable” websites and blogs also recieved a hard knock which has prompted questions like, what really are Google’s criteria for these changes? As the rage about this algorithm change continues many have continued to offer some explanations. For a picture of the top casualties of this algorithm change and some possible reasons why these sites were affected you may want to read
this post by Sistrix.
But Why Write Again About The Google Content Farmer Update?
A few days ago I wrote a post on this recent Google algorithm change. Most of you responded to that post to the effect that change or no change, you don’t really care. Of course, in the post I sought to know what you will be doing to stay ahead of the game following this algorithm change but since none really cared I thought leaving it that way. However, a comment by Dennis made me change my mind and therefore this post.
First in a comment to the post,
“Google Algorithm Change: Are You Bracing Up For The Impact?” Dennis said,
“I never worried, nor do I ever plan to worry about Google changes.
Do things right, don’t get too clever or sneaky, and you’ll never have to worry either. 😉
Besides, as with anything, why worry? If yer gonna get hit, yer gonna get hit. lol”
In reply to that, I said:
“That’s exactly what it should be. There are actually some fundamentals that once implemented you don’t have to worry about what Google is doing or will do tomorrow.
Unfortunately, in trying to punish the content farms, Google has hammered many this time without looking back. This is the more reason why everyone needs to be on the lookout so you don’t get hit!”
But then, Dennis came back with this:
“This is part of my point, be on the lookout for what? What exactly can you do about it?”
Now, after considering that question, I decided instead of just replying him in the comments, and seeing that the comment will definitely be too long, I decided to make this post and offer some tips that can be of help.
Please note that I take seo to be very serious topic because it can be really great source of free traffic when handled well! So since the update I’ve been studying the situation and trying to put a finger on what content publishers like me can really do to ensure that we’re not over taken the recent event.
Please Read This Very Carefully!
Before continuing I just want to add this note. As I’ve mentioned, since this Google content farmer update internet marketers have been at a loss about the criteria used by Google. This is not surprising because that has always been Google's “modus operandi” – secrecy that leaves everyone dazed!
However, even as I offer these tips as a way out of this situation I want to let you know that what I'm putting here is not anything guaranteed! Some who were hit by the change are still arguing that they are not content farmers and therefore should not have been hit by theupdate. But you should know that even Google has come out to say they are not just out against content farmers. On the official blog post announcing the changes, the good people at Google said:
“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on…”
A look at that statement shows the end user is now the defining factor for the success of any site on the Google ranking algorithm. So there are definitely other criteria used which must have been the reason why most sites that can be classified as content farmers actually gained from the update while others considered by their owners as decent fall under the hammer!
Google's search-quality guru, Amit Singhal gave an interview where he mentioned some very important points I think anyone who is interested in the subject should consider reading.
Click here to read the interview.
Finding Your Way Around The New Algorithm Changes
Ok, having given you my disclaimer above I want to offer the following as helpful tips in staying ahead of the game. I believe Google is working to improve their search results so that they can offer the end user a better experience. With this in mind if you'll do these things you definitely will be getting some favor from Google!
1. Beware Of Whom You Exchange Links With
I want to start with this considering the fact that this algorithm update, though Google says it is not targeted at content farms, has content as the main thrust. We all agree that content is what drives the internet. But this new change throws up the question of what should be considered as “good” content. In the recent past many blogs and websites, capitalizing on the fact that the search engines considers content as a critical element in SEO, have been using different methods in producing content. Automated blogs scrapping content from other sites using robotic software easily gained popularity among bloggers.
Most of these bloggers and webmasters looking for different ways of promoting these automated sites used different ways to build links to their automated sites – some legitimate others overly dubious. On different occasions I've received emails from bloggers seeking link exchanges with the Web Income Journal. But I simply refused refused those requests after visiting such blogs and reading through a couple of posts. I've also refused to approve some trackbacks and comments because the sites those links point to does not meet with the standards I expected.
The point here is that you must understand that link juice as interpreted by Google in ranking sites is about a site's trust. With these new changes if a site's inbound links are classed as a content farm, their trust factor is lost and the sites they are linking to suffers also. So watch your link exchanges. Don’t give your thrust to a site Google is seeing as a content farm if not, you’ll be classed in the same category – remember, birds of the same feather flock together!
2. Affiliate Review Sites/Blogs
If you've been following the Web Income Journal, you'll understand that I'm into niche marketing. Now, if you’re familiar with what most niche marketers do you’ll understand that they build mini sites/blogs that simply use some software or manually copy a product’s description, price, images and other details and call them product review sites. Hundreds of sites built this way contain the same content with not much difference between them. These all fall into the category of what Google is seeing as content farms.
I must say that even before Google came up with this new algorithm change I've taken a different approach in creating my niche blogs. I use both product reviews and unique informative articles. Instead of simply importing product details from sites like Amazon.com, the reviews are done in my own words. I think this is what Google is looking forward to. If you're an affiliate marketer who do product reviews therefore, you should begin to look into the type of reviews you're doing. Instead of copying the products sales page, the better way right now is to read through the product description and customer reviews, if any, and then write your own review.
Even Google has some advice on this in their webmasters guidelines. You can read it
3. Be Careful With Your Monetization!
I think another area that will help you stay within the comfort zone of these new Google algorithm changes is to be careful with monetizing your content. If you take a look at Google's reason for the update you'll discover that this stands high, to “reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users.” What many bloggers and webmasters don't know is that too many ads reduces the sites user experience. In fact too many ads come across as spammy to Google. I think this is why most blogs and content sites with decent content were affected by this content farmer update.
If you're familiar with the era of building content sites and monetizing them with Google Adsense then you'll understand what I'm talking about here. In fact, having too many ads on a site is a red flag telling Google the site is a “built for adsense site!”
The bottom-line therefore is, as much as you want to monetize your site/blog, be careful that you don't cluster your site pages with too many adsense or other ads. I'll advise that instead of putting 3-4 adsense ads on your page use inlink ads like the ones which I use on this blog.
4. Watch Your Blog Design
This is another area that many, judging from Google reasons for the update, agree played an important role in the recent Google content farmer update. It appears Google is really using different criteria to judge what user-experience is. So, if your blog is using a generic template with minimal or no customization, then consider doing some sprucing up right away. Unfortunately, many bloggers, especially those using wordpress, simply download some free wordpress themes and use “as is.” This only tells Google a whole lot of things. I think it's time for redesigning work! Do something about your blog/site to make it more pleasing to the users. If you have doubts on doing it yourself you can always get help at minimal cost to you.
You may not readily agree with the fact that your blog/site design is something that should be considered in this Google algorithm update but if you understand that Google is looking to improving the end users experience then this will be evident enough. Your blog design will give your blog visitors the reason to either stay longer or click away without any hope of coming back. Remember, Google has different tools monitoring the behavior of your blog traffic or what do you think is Google analytics doing for you!
5. Work to Encourage More Interaction on Your Blog
There's another thing that Google maybe looking at and that is, the factor of user interaction. If you've visited any blog that is nothing but a content farm, regurgitating other people's content, you'll notice that hardly there are comments on such blogs. Such sites/blogs also always have high bounce rates as the time spent by visitors is very low. So this is a pointer to Google that the site/blog is not offering much to the users. You should therefore work on your blog to create more interaction on the site. You may do this by encouraging more comments, retweets, track-backs, facebook likes and any other you can think of. These activities are a vote that your content is valuable and not farmed content.
Indeed the ripples of the Google content farmer update are still spreading. Those who were affected by the change will definitely be working on restoring their rankings. The competition will soon be rife again. But for now you can push your blog/site to more advantage if you will use some or all of these suggestions. Whether Google will be coming up with more changes very soon no one knows right now. But whatever it may be simply know that Google is aiming for more user experience and so work to put your blog/site on that level and you will never be afraid of what Google will do next.
So what do you think of these tips? Do you think these can be of any help to you? Is there any other you want to add to the list? Share with us in your comments below.