Google’s New Algorithm Cuts Off Content Farmers at the Knees

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Demand Media's Richard Rosenblatt and Google's Larry Page. Photo: Kim White/Bloomberg, Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Google launched an incredibly aggressive algorithm change last night aimed at ridding your search results of content farms and scrapers. Since the announcement that co-founder Larry Page will take over as CEO in April, the company has been releasing small fixes attempting to win back the Internet's good graces after widespread criticism that its search results were too self-promotional and spammy. But last night's tweak was major, impacting 12 percent of search results in the U.S. Google didn't come right out and say: We're looking at you, Demand Media or Kiss your content farm strategy good-bye, AOL-HuffPo. But Matt Cutts, Google's anti-spam king, told Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, “I think people will get the idea of the types of sites we’re talking about.”

Here's what you can expect to see a lot less off on your results page: "sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content." This takes aim at scrapers — the types of sites that pull content from other sources typically by pulling from an RSS feed without permission. And content farmers — the types of sites that churn out articles like "How to Create a Start-Up Floppy Disk" in order to sell advertising for questionable profit. This announcement follows another anti-spam measure: Google's recently released personal blocklist, which lets users who are browsing on Chrome specify what unsavory sites they don't want showing up.

Demand Media, whose stock is down almost 3 percent and has fluctuated widely after the news, was quick to issue a response. Larry Fitzgibbon, Demand Media's EVP of media and operations, tried some reverse psychology:


"We have built our business by focusing on creating the useful and original content that meets the specific needs of today’s consumer. So naturally we applaud changes search engines make to improve the consumer experience - it’s both the right thing to do and our focus as well."

Ahahaha. Good one, Larr. But it's not just Demand Media that could be affected. Companies like AOL, whose leaked memo about "The AOL Way" reveals its plans to go the content-farm route, could also be affected. So, Arianna, care to comment?

Google Forecloses On Content Farms With “Farmer” Algorithm Update [Search Engine Land]
Finding more high-quality sites in search [Google Blog]
A Statement About Search Engine Algorithm Changes [Growing Demand Blog]
Related: Investors Clamor to Buy Shares in Questionable Content Farm Demand Media