Content Farms: Why Quality Doesn’t Always Rule the Web

Filed under: Internet Marketing — Amy Kilgour

When you hear the term, “Content Farm,” do you think of lush green rolling hills of sheep, grazing on the grass with words written all over their fleece?

Well, I did…until I read up on the subject.

Content farms are places where scraped content (content scraped, or stolen from other sites) or, “not always the best quality” content sits on the web.

Content farms are generally known as having little relevant value compared to other more reputable sites on the web. The content is typically written by freelance writers paid by the article to churn out low-quality to no-quality content such as, How to Wear a Sweater Vest Cardigan in an effort to generate backlinks, or sell ads.

A place where you may have run across a content farm is by turning to ‘ole  Dr. Google and  entering, “cold symptom cures” into the search query bar on your favorite search engine. This  will, in a perfect world,  bring up a site like www.WebMD.com near the top. However, there are certainly many sites that will try, and often succeed at appearing as reputable in the search results. These sites will  try to sell you elderwort butterflydwarf extract to cure your colds’ symptoms. Or possibly a page with a bunch of random content that may or may not pertain to cold symptom cures will appear, loaded with ads.

So, how does the site selling elderwort butterflydwarf extract appear as high on the SERPS (Search Engine Results Page)? By disguising themselves as reputable  with keyword rich content and links, thus, beating the search engine’s at their own algorithm game.

Content farms make an SEO practitioners life a little more difficult by often times outranking relevant sites. Content farms are not only an issue for SEO practitioners, but they can be a problem for search engines as well. A user expects to enter, “cold symptom cures” into the search engine search bar and prompt the most relevant
and reputable results at the top.

So how do you tell if your source comes from a Content Farm? A good way to gauge it is by cutting and pasting the first few sentences and entering those into your search engine search query bar. If 50+ results come back with the same result, there is a very good chance that this particular content was sourced from a content farm or was scraped from another source.

The bad news is that content farms are here to stay. At this point, search engine’s web crawlers can’t necessarily tell the difference between reputable content vs. content farm sourced content.

At the end of January, Google’s Matt Cutts blogged about Google’s stance on the aforementioned, “Content Farms.” He reiterated that they will continue to work to devalue low-quality content sites:

“As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content. We take pride in Google search and strive to make each and every search perfect. The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception. However, we can and should do better.”

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