As we all know by now, Google released a major update to their algorithm earlier this year. We've been blogging a ton about this topic as we saw a huge increase in phone calls around the release as SEO resellers wanted to see what the impact of this change would be for their clients. More recently we posted about how our own search engine traffic has really grown since the farmer update.
The main objectives of this Google search engine change was to
A) Remove scrapers from the index
B) Cut down on low quality content in Google
The first objective seems simple enough. There are many scrapers out there that build programs to recycle content from legitimate sites for their own profit. Many of these sites run adsense, ironically, using stolen content. It is easy to understand why Google would want to remove these pages from their database, and admirable that they would. I can't come up with any arguments for why scrapers improve the quality of the Internet.
But on objective B, the waters get more murky. As I read the blog posts and releases from Matt Cutts, it was not at first apparent that "low quality content" was also a target. But as the weeks went by, the conversation started to turn toward Demand Media and high profile websites like eHow.com. The discussion shifted to quality as people speculated that Google was actually targeting shallow article websites. As most readers know, article writing is a popular link-building activity. The quality of these articles varies wildly from really, really well-researched articles written by US-based researchers to very very poorly written articles from third-world countries. Regardless, this speculation turned out to be false as most of Demand Media's websites actually rose in the Google results. In fact, I have not found too much evidence that article writing was target at all. While websites such as EzineArticles and HubPages certainly lost rankings, those websites also carry a large percentage of duplicate content that could have easily been knocked out by the scraper filters that were added.
Even more peculiar is this: A friend of Semify contacted us the other day asking about the third result from this Google search. Here is an excerpt from that webpage in case it is later removed:
"Semify, LLC, is a inhabitant hunt engine selling organisation with offices in Falls Church, VA (Washington DC Metro) and Rochester, NY. From these dual US locations, Semify provides record formed SEO collection and services to firms that outsource SEO. PR firms, web designers, promotion agencies and others that are looking to outsource SEO can advantage from operative with a white tag SEO organisation that shares identical work hours so that a loyal day-to-day partnership can form. Semify provides a SEO, PPC and Social Media services as a behind-the-scenes partner; usually a private tag SEO reseller’s name and code are manifest to a SEO reseller’s client."
Clearly, this is some nasty English. To be clear, we did not write this. But we noticed right away that it is a spun version of a press release we did write about a week earlier. I can only hope that the spinning was done by an automated process and not a human, but it's entirely possible that someone for whom English is not their first language re-wrote our press release. Any way you slice it, it's garbage. A inhabitant hunt engine selling organisation? I don't know that this constitutes copyright infringement or not, but all would agree that it is very low quality content and is not worthy of being in Google's search engine.
My point? Why is this in Google? This is indexed and comes up high in the search results today - more than 2 months after the Farmer Update.. This means that Google sees this as unique content even though it mimics our previous press release sentence-for-sentence. Furthermore, this page passes all of the post-panda (post Farmer) "low quality" filters. Which leaves me wondering:
Just how good was the Farmer update?