Google Cracks Down on Content Spam and Content Farms
Article by Austin SEO Company Semantic Advantage, Inc.
Earlier this year Google announced a new offensive against
content spam. This is the latest
effort by the leading search engine to curb artificial and questionable practices
designed to obtain better Google search rankings.
Google takes this action in response to the explosive growth
of content-for-hire businesses like Demand Media (owner of eHow.com),
About.com, Answers.com, Suite 101, Mahalo, WikiHow, as well as AOL’s SEED.com
and Yahoo!’s recently acquired Associated Content subsidiary. These companies produce massive amounts
of web content (Demand Media currently generates more than 5,000 pages per
day), and this SEO-enhanced material is increasingly showing up in the Google search
The problem is particularly severe for ‘long-tail’ searches
– users looking for a narrowly-defined topic with 3 or more keywords. ‘Short-tail’ searches provide fewer
opportunities for content farms, since there is already a lot of online content
for these broader topics.
Potential Solutions – What can Google do?
The Google search engine presently commands a 64% market share. Previously Google initiated changes in their search ranking
algorithm to address similar problems caused by paid link spam and keyword
stuffing; and these efforts were only partially successful, catching only the
most obvious and flagrant cases.
Content spam is even more challenging to control -- and difficult to
define -- so it will be interesting to see how effective Google can be at
combating this nuisance.
Google’s primary objective is to provide a high quality
search experience for its users; and they fear losing traffic to social media
sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – as well as to other search engines
which are better at content spam rejection, like upstart Blekko.
Of course, the social media sites have
their own spam issues to deal with, as craven spamming constitutes an
increasing fraction of social media content.
We expect Google will be largely unsuccessful in reducing
the quantity of content spam in their search results via algorithmic
modification. Although Google is
highly motivated and has plenty of resources to apply to this problem; content
spam is fundamentally difficult to define and police. In the limit, content spam is in the eye of the beholder;
and the fact that content is paid-for (and even paid very little for), produced
in large quantities, or hosted on a particular website does not inherently make
Google may elect to tighten up anti-spamming provisions in
their Webmaster Guidelines (to limit content scraping, for example) and
publicize more of their ‘enforcement’ actions to deter mainstream SEOs. But professional spammers will continue to violate the Guidelines to
find ways to land their pages in the Google search results.
Impact on Web Developers and Advertisers
White hat developers and advertisers have nothing to fear
from Google’s initiative, and may actually benefit if Google succeeds in reducing the level of web spam in the search results -- or discouraging website owners and consultants from using content farms. However, the technical difficulty of modifying the Google search ranking algorithm to downgrade or eliminate content spam should not be underestimated. As an indication of this, note that the recently announced downgrades and removals from the Google index have been achieved through manual methods.
The economic value of a page one ranking in the Google search results is very high; and there are millions of website owners trying to achieve this. With all its resources, Google does not have the capacity to detect, investigate and eliminate all content spam. They may achieve some deterrent effect by publicizing high profile examples of demotion or removal from the Google index; but when website developers and SEOs continue to see spam-filled search results for their main keywords, they will feel compelled to adopt an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach.