July 31, 2014

Google’s “Farmer Update” is Creating More Questions Than Answers

If you are in charge of SEO, PR or Social Media for an in-house brand or an agency, then you are familiar with Google’s recent crackdown on “Content Farms”, in an effort to rid the web (and Google’s search index) of junk, useless content.  I am not going to rehash what this update is all about (after all, there are still many unknowns & answers to follow) but you can find what I believe to be very good explanations here, here & here.  Demand Media has responded to the algo update, as has EzineArticles.

In the meantime, 1-2 weeks after the update, I decided to do my own Google searches to see how the results look when “content farms” have been removed from my search results.  To my surprise– a handful of  sites that get lumped into the “content farms” category are dominating Google results; did they actually get benefit from the update?  Specifically, I am seeing eHow.com and WikiHow.com dominating top 3-5  organic rankings for all types of informational searches.  Check out these random examples:

  1. Change oil in my car” – eHow #1, Wikihow #2
  2. Change a light bulb” – eHow #1, Wikihow #4
  3. How to raise a child” – Wikihow #1, eHow #4
  4. Change a car battery” – eHow #1, Wikihow #2
  5. How to backup my computer” – Wikihow #3, eHow #9
  6. How to treat a sprained ankle” – eHow #1, Wikihow #4

Based on these 6 brief sample searches, are you telling me that a car mechanic, electrician, parenting counselor, computer expert and physical therapist do not have more expertise & more “trust” than eHow and Wikihow?  Something is not right here.

Google still has a ways to go to make their subjective Farmer update effective; just as content marketers must evolve to stay in front of these issues so that they’re adding value to content ecosystem.

Now more than ever, there is an increased need for advanced strategy, execution and measurement in both Content Marketing and authority-based link building.  While Google is dropping the hammer on many sites for ‘gaming the system’,  brand marketers should/will place greater emphasis on trusted experts, legitimate effort and realizing that even in the age of the Internet, you still ‘get what you pay for’.

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