For months, years, Google has been lambasted for the decreasing quality of their results. Annoyed by search results page dominated by the likes of Demand Media and other content farms, fed up with comment spam, and frustrated to the lengths everyone will go to own SERPs, the industry and consumers alike have cried from the hilltops that Google is becomming less and less effective. Finally, Google has announced an algorithmic improvement will help everyone find more quality sites.
Here’s my take on what this means;that is, what you should consider and not, necessarily, exactly what Google is doing or changing…
- Duplicate content (content found elsewhere) will increasingly hurt.
- Context between an article and the site is much more important.
RIP Content Farmer
Many businesses and web services create landing pages to promote the various products and services they support; as you might imagine, these pages are often very similar. That similarity is to what we’re referring when we talk about content farms and duplicate content. Google, and users, need only one version of an article, post, or page and more are not only unnecessary but justifiably raise questions about your motives. While you should be concerned about stuffing such pages in Google for the sake of indexing content on target keywords, by and large, assuming these pages create unique value to the online experience, the distinction between them should continue to serve you well. That is, relevant user testimonials, copy specific to the product or service, and excerpts from a dynamic source of insight such as your blog, will ensure that what you have is not a content farm, consisting of duplicate pages, but experiences that enrich the users’ experience.
Who is at risk? Generally, any site for which the content provides little value to society.
- ezine article sites (you see these suggested as a way to build links – you write articles for these “content farms”)
- Sites with exceptionally extensive amounts of content about each service or product they provide (i.e referring to the same service 3 different ways just to target keywords)
- “web 2.0” sites that encourage people to publish articles on their behalf (and often pay you something for doing so)
- Listings and directories with similar content (local listings, review sites, etc.) where too few ratings exist to sufficiently differentiate the pages
It’s not all about duplication
Beyond duplication, for Google’s algorithm to effectively identify quality from spam, it has to take a close look at the relevance of content to the site involved. Newspaper sites and other media companies that syndicate articles should be a little worried about the changes to the algorithm (though the quality of such sites should prevent them from suffering); while they don’t duplicate content, they provide little relevant context to a syndicated article. Your local website isn’t specific to any topic other than the location; in the same sense, a content farm isn’t about any specific topic. An eCommerce business or site writing about eBay offers clear, relevant, context between the articles and the site, while the same article syndicated to media properties lacks such strong context. One suggests more value to the user experience while the other intrinsically offers less relevance to the audience.
Neither of these considerations are new; simply, the change that Google has announced confirms this single best practice: unique, quality content, is king.
Unique, Quality Content
As you continue your efforts in content marketing and SEO, keep a few of these considerations in the back of your mind and you’ll be on the right path.
- 1. Not found elsewhere online
- 2. Dynamic – Comments, reviews, or other ways to show Google that people are engaging your content (forums)
- 3. Bounce backs are bad (increase conversion, page views, etc.) – People leaving your site after hitting one page suggests you provide nothing more than a poor quality article
- 4. Evolving – Content farms publish and stay as they are. Sites that change, pages that change, blogs that frequently post new (unique) content are all signs that you are actively facilitating the quality of the content
- 5. Promoted – Integration of facebook, twitter, and other social engines to share content should factor in; people share good unique content – facilitating that makes it easier for readers and
- 6. Formatted – Images, headers, and font changes to create an article more than just a body of text suggests it’s meant for readers and not Google bots
- 7. Link to other quality sites – Articles link to only one source for one good reason – to pass link juice to that site. Linking to other quality sites shows that your motives are not geared toward cheating and that you are trying to foster meaningful discourse with other great sites.