Google recently launched a new version of its search algorithm that lowers the relevance of sites that are stuffed with keywords, but are of very low value to searchers. The sites that Google is targeting are often referred to in the search industry as “content farms.” These are sites that are set up for the explicit purpose of providing search value by creating large volumes of low-quality content stuffed with relevant keywords.
Mentioned often in blogs recently as being targeted by this action are sites like those promoted by Demand Media, such as eHow, Livestrong and Answerbag. All of these sites have been enjoying solid success in search results, but come up thin on quality content. However, a survey of the resulting landscape by SearchEngineLand indicates that Demand Media wasn’t damaged greatly by this update and might even have been helped.
There are more egregious offenders that Google is really targeting with this move. Because we at Slack and Company also provide social media services to our clients, including social media monitoring services, we constantly have to manually apply additional filters to our monitoring programs to eliminate irrelevant returns caused by SEO spam sites. These are sites that have historically tricked the Google algorithm by stuffing keywords onto pages in ways spiders can read but people can’t. Or by linking key words in their pages to chains of sites so readers have to open four or five new links before seeing actual usable content. The purpose of these sites is to support other promoted Web properties by hosting links from the spam sites back to the promoted site. Prior to this change in the Google algorithm, these tricks were typically able to fool Google into believing the promoted site was of greater value than it actually was, moving it up in the search rankings.
So, if you are running SEO programs—Slack and Company runs many for our clients—is this the end of the world as we know it? No, of course not. Google has posted webmaster guidelines that have for years warned against the behaviors they are now cracking-down on. If you run programs that follow these guidelines you should see no negative change—and possibly some improvement—to your program’s results.
I, for one, am excited about these changes. In a couple of the programs we manage, our clients been have been fighting competitors that use techniques like this against us while we have been following the guidelines. I expect that in the coming months eliminating these “tricks” will positively affect our positions.
So this SEO crack-down is nothing to fear, if you have been playing honest the entire time.