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Google's Matt Cutts Talks of New Focus On Low Quality Content

   
5:31 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Just in
... 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.

One misconception that we’ve seen in the last few weeks is the idea that Google doesn’t take as strong action on spammy content in our index if those sites are serving Google ads. To be crystal clear:
Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google;
Displaying Google ads does not help a site’s rankings in Google; and
Buying Google ads does not increase a site’s rankings in Google’s search results. [googleblog.blogspot.com...]

[edited by: Brett_Tabke at 7:12 pm (utc) on Jan 21, 2011]
[edit reason] added quote [/edit]

5:40 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The article is worth a read because it gives some idea of Google's algo changes - both current and into the immediate future:

...we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly. The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.

We've also radically improved our ability to detect hacked sites, which were a major source of spam in 2010. And we're evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others' content and sites with low levels of original content.

[edited by: tedster at 5:50 pm (utc) on Jan 21, 2011]

5:43 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Here's another key sentence:

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...


As with any new algo effort, there might be false positives. We may already have heard some reports about that kind of thing here.
5:56 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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...including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.

As a non-spammer, unique content creator that's one of my favorite fragments from the entire page... I hope they get this one right and give credit for individuality and uniqueness where it's due.
5:59 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms...


Purely as a websurfer, i've seen a lot more highly optimized sites with little or no content doing well in the SERPs. Not just new sites. Some older sites are doing well.
6:07 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm scared. Trembling like a baby.

low-quality content.

The idea of Google trying to determine that through an algo, and the guaranteed huge fallout from that (on non-spammy sites) should be enough to make anyone scared.
6:37 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I agree, wheel. This is a very big job to try to give an automated algo. However, the content farm challenge is immense, too - they've just got to do something. In some verticals it can take a ridiculous number of clicks to find anything worth reading at all.

I'm pretty sure there will be some false positives from this effort before they "get it right" even most of the way.
6:56 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Low quality....

This makes me nervous.

Most of my traffic and earnings come from photo gallery pages. Other than the boiler plate stuff, the text content on the pages usually consists of what I have commonly referred to as an "expanded caption".

The photos are the real content on these pages.

How is G going to asses quality in that situation?

.
7:17 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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First, define content farm?

- Google Groups? Blogger? 99% irrelevant junk.
- Craigslist? Coupon sites? Ebay?
- Cnet, ZDNet - These have not been relevant for 5 years.
- WikiPedia? Ask 4 out of 5 doctors about the quality of info in Wiki and watch a set of doctors have melt downs. No doctor in his right mind would recommend WikiPedia - yet Dr. Google does 99% of the time.
- New York Times? Isn't anything behind a paywall suspect in results? (ya, left hand is holding a mirror here)
- Flikr, Picasa?
- Answers.com, About.com?
- Forums?
- Any page with the words Matt Cutts on them? (I kid...just checking to see if Matt was with us ;-)

For Google to talk about this publicly, hmmmm. Must be some kinda serious problem here. Personally? I love some of the HowTo articles at the top of the list. They are some of the better content out there.
7:24 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites.


One was MayDay (I am assuming). Which was the other one?
7:27 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Which was the other one?

I would guess Oct. 28th just from all the drops it caused, but that's just a guess... IOW I haven't really studied the thread about it, but IMO it's reasonable to think it may have been one of them.
7:49 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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One other thing about this statement:

In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites.


I am pretty sure that in one of the google webmaster videos on youtube, he sort of "downplayed" the MayDay update, didn't he? I thought it was more considered a tweak than a "major algorithmic change."

Hmmm... any coincidence between having a new CEO at google and today's blog post on google's determination to battle spam?
7:53 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)



Last year , the blog sections of the sites i build stopped ranking for anything whatever in Google. All the content was original, written by me on topics I am degree level familiar with, or commisssioned from professional writers.

Web searches brought up no copies on the web, the content used to bring in most of my traffic, then may/June, kpow ! zip, nada, the rest of the content on the sites continued to rank and even improve rankings, but content sections all went down to zero

Haven't added to the Blogs since I deduced what had happened. Thing is I never seo'd the blogs, too much work where I preferred to code the services provided by the sites.

hmm, what to do
8:01 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I always get nervous when Google starts making subjective judgements, because what it comes down to is "the world according to Google". So I wonder what objective, impartial & quantitative criteria this will bring to the algo?

"One man's magic is another man's engineering.." ~ Robert A. Heinlein

or said another way,

"One man's junk is another man's treasure."

...............................................
8:14 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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At Pubcon last year, Matt took a question about Google's stance on Content Farms. He said he and other people on the web team were having "internal" debates on what constitutes web spam. He even named Mahalo specifically.

I believe he gave the analogy that there is a "bar", content above the bar is good, below spam and the signals they are getting from many content farms is above the bar. He'd argue some of it is below.

So we can assume by this blog post we will be seeing some actions for look for these signals.
9:23 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Content farms as I see them are 5-7 page websites that display adsence ads at the top, bottom, sides and middle of the page.

Maybe G should look for sites that are heavy on Adsence ads as described above. If the site has multiple Adsence ads on every page then G might consider that a red flag...
9:25 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Yah well, I b'lieves it when I sees it.

I just about figured all I had to do was end all of my sentences with question marks, since these phony Answers sites seem to be doing particularly well these days.
10:12 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm pretty sure there will be some false positives from this effort before they "get it right" even most of the way.

Yes, and with an automated algo performing the task, some legit sites are bound to get whacked.
10:14 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Answers.com, About.com?


Always amazes me that these sites rank so high. It has been years since I found anything close to the answer I was looking for on those sites yet Google continues to give them high ranking.

It is the definition of low quality IMO.
10:33 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Most of my traffic and earnings come from photo gallery pages.

Yeah, me too, but I'm not so worried about it and here's why:

Notice the name of the new algo Matt refers to:

we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier

It's a classifier, not just a spam-fighter as such. It divides documents into categories. We pretty much figured that out, we've had several discussions about it.

One of the categories is presumably "spam." I bet "photo gallery" is another one. If your site really has photo galleries with decent quality images, it is probably classified as a photo gallery and is therefore expected to follow a certain pattern -- i.e. lots of images, not much text, and what text there is mostly takes the form of titles and captions.

Presumably metrics other than quantity and quality of text content would be applied to a photo gallery to determine relevance. There's only so much you can reasonably say about a picture -- they say a picture's worth a thousand words, but I usually find that a hundred is pushing it without getting boring and repetitious. So most photo galleries are pretty thin on text content. Google would expect them to be that way, and apply different standards.

I wonder what the other categories might be?
11:09 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Content farms as I see them are 5-7 page websites that display adsence ads at the top, bottom, sides and middle of the page.

Those would be mom & pop Saturday go-to-market type farms. Think industrial farming from 100K and up acres worked with very low-cost labor. That's the type that have been talked about lately in the media.
11:11 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The sad thing is that you don't really need a huge algo change to solve the problem. If we're talking content farms that plug up the rankings, primarily sites that scrape most of their content and have extremely low value (answer sites), you can fix it quickly. There are probably 10-20 of these huge sites that built up a ton of links to their homepage and just churn out garbage pages left and right that clutter up the results. Just takes a manual tweak here and there to see a huge improvement without the risk of a ton of false-positives.

Unfortunately, I don't have a ton of faith in this. They'll target the small time spammers but the ones cradled in VC money that are doing this (we all know who they are) will likely not get touched. I'm sure the next time I run a search for some medical problem I have, I'll still find a worthless answers site on top and 20 other "authority" sites scraping that same content.
11:30 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member billys is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



At last count, we had nearly 500 links from ehow - nofollow links that is...

They only have around 1,000 more pages to go before they've replicated our entire website. I wonder if this type of approach is a target.
11:48 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The sad thing is that you don't really need a huge algo change to solve the problem

Not from where I'm sitting either but it is nice to see that the QUALITY of results (as opposed to speed, AI etc) are finally considered to be important. I see farms of blogs and article sites working more or less as they used to five years ago. If action will be taken this year to wipe them out that would be welcome. Doesn't strike me as particularly hard to do either.

The most blatant and simple I see working to great effect have an article, then more or less related links underneath. The things is, on multiple sites, the content varies but the links don't. How hard can that be to spot?
11:49 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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They'll target the small time spammers but the ones cradled in VC money that are doing this (we all know who they are)
eWho? eWhy? e... something or other
12:00 am on Jan 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Matt can talk about how they've targeted these shallow or low-quality sites in the past, but the fact remains that the biggest ones have only gotten stronger lately and they all seem to run Google Ads.
12:16 am on Jan 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well, to hit two birds with one stone they could cull Adsense publishers based on quality of content. It does seem that in my web space many of these farms are monetized by Google herself.

I do hope that the decision makers at the big GOOG are experienced enough to know different from wrong.
12:20 am on Jan 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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A farm has a lot of land owned by the same person where they grow various crops for profit.

When I saw the phrase "content farms" I immediately thought of a so-called SEO program I checked out months ago that offered to take content you had written and post it to multiple blogs and other sites. After some checking I found they were all located on the same IP, owned by the same company, etc., i.e., this company had bought up multiple domains where they "farmed out content". I'm hoping Google has targeted that scam.
12:21 am on Jan 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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At last count, we had nearly 500 links from ehow - nofollow links that is...

They only have around 1,000 more pages to go before they've replicated our entire website. I wonder if this type of approach is a target.


My first look - I have over 500 honorary links and references there as well.
12:28 am on Jan 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



There have been articles written suggesting this might be a threat to DemandMedia but I'm not sure about that. Outside of hand penalizing content farm domains, how can Google automate the process for identifying a well researched article published on a content farm?

Should well-researched content be targeted as spam?

How can Google tell the difference between non-authoritative well researched content written by a professional writer and trustworthy content written by someone with years of experience?

Links to an article on a content farm like DemandMedia cannot be used to determine the validity of the content. Articles posted on content farms are constantly linked to in forums because the articles are written in a straightforward and easy to understand manner, regardless of how valid the information is.

Wikipedia is a good example of a site with content of dubious quality that benefits from heavy linking.

I don't believe DemandMedia, AssociatedContent, or Wikipedia have anything to worry about.

Who are the content farms?
I think that sites that split adsense revenue on community generated content writtten by non-professional writers with an interest in generating AdSense ad clicks may have a problem. Not necessarily the bigger sites but the smaller sites whose publishers may not be as well connected.
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