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Mainstream news article: "The word farms of the web"

     

mromero

2:11 am on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



"The growing number of websites that mix and match low-quality articles produced by amateurs in order to generate traffic is causing concern, reports Danny Bradbury."

[guardian.co.uk...]

jomaxx

5:22 am on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



A refreshingly savvy article. It actually names and describes "MFA sites", and singes out particular sites by name. Cool.

The problem isn't really "amateur" content, though. Lots of so-called amateur content is extremely good. The problem is sites that are more interested in word count than in any kind of quality.

europeforvisitors

5:48 am on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)



For what it's worth, in the last couple of months I've had a noticeable uptick in the number of "thank you for your Web site" e-mails from users. Now that the Web is flooded with junk sites where skimpy, shallow content is used as filler, any site that's remotely useful (and that appears to be more than an advertising vehicle) stands out from the crowd. That's good for traffic and overall revenues, though I'm not sure that publishers' AdSense revenues won't suffer if enough users begin to associate AdSense ads with worthless junk.

ann

7:19 am on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



EFV,
I got one of those emails yesterday...been getting a few lately and didn't know what to make of it. I always think the darkest so I thought maybe a tongue-in-cheek gig. Thanks for clearing that up! I feel better all ready.

I know personally I am sick of those sites. I am a web shopper and I can spend an hour just trying to find a decent site to browse. I love it when they think disabling the back button means anything.

Ann

Matt Probert

7:47 am on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



What a good article. Describing sites which employ unpaid writers to produce tons of poor quality articles simply to attract search engine advertising. As the author says, these sites can not be good for advertisers, and in turn cannot be good long term for the advertising networks which send them advertising. Or perhaps they are?

Matt

callivert

12:45 pm on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



The total amount of information online continues to grow at a rapid pace. Mediocre information is cheap to produce in vast quantities, whether it's text generators, or student workers, or scanned out-of-copyright books.
The problem then becomes: how do you market your site and your content, and enable it to rise above the oceans of content?
Here are some possible strategies:

1) Become part of networks of excellence. If you become part of a "sub-net" of quality sites that interlink, you can gain traction. This requires being noticed by people who have high quality content as well, and who also have an established presence.

2) old money. Buy into an established presence, such as an existing site.

3) big is better. if you have a massive site, it seems that the law of gravity kicks in: traffic falls towards large objects.

4) become a spammer. Produce as much trash as you can, with as many inbound links as you can.

I wonder if, ironically, vast amounts of mediocrity may lift the overall quality of the visible web.

europeforvisitors

3:02 pm on Sep 30, 2007 (gmt 0)



The total amount of information online continues to grow at a rapid pace.

I don't know if the total amount of information is growing, but the wordcount certainly is.

I wonder if, ironically, vast amounts of mediocrity may lift the overall quality of the visible web.

I don't know about that, but I do think sites with intrinsic value or usefulness will become even more valuable for their owners as advertisers struggle to find venues for targeted advertising. What role AdSense might play in this is hard to guess. Is it even possible to have an ad network that caters to bottom feeders, legitimate small businesses, and mainstream corporate advertisers, all at the same time?

Content_ed

12:09 am on Oct 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I've had a noticeable uptick in the number of "thank you for your Web site" e-mails from users.

Funny you should mention this. We've always gotten quite a few, but they usually included a question. The last year or two, we have seen a serious uptick in the "just saying thanks" including this one yesterday:

...I'm so glad I finally pulled it out of the morass of Google. Invaluable!

ronin

2:20 pm on Oct 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



How does Google win this battle?

I understand that the company wants to automate all of its processes through algorithms, but the fact remains that at this time a human reviewer can spot a scraper site or a trash-article site in seconds when the same site may comprehensively fool an AI.

Does Googlebot already check for frequency of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in a given document which is also displaying adsense panels? If not then it should start.

whoisgregg

2:44 pm on Oct 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



Scourges of the internet
Late '90s? Pop-ups.
Early '00s? Email spam.
Late '00s? SERP spam.

This current one is the hardest to beat but someone will solve it. :D

Content_ed

8:28 pm on Oct 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Does Googlebot already check for frequency of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in a given document which is also displaying adsense panels?

The idea being that good content is written by English majors? Besides, if spelling and grammar become the litmus test, there will be plenty of tools to help spammers get them right. If you can find it, you can fool it.

This current one is the hardest to beat but someone will solve it.

The obvious solution is that Google should go into the content business, as in, "Hitchhiker's Guide". I suggested this to them years ago (when I was drinking) through their "New Business Ideas" form - fortunately they haven't moved on it yet:-)

callivert

10:48 pm on Oct 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Does Googlebot already check for frequency of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in a given document which is also displaying adsense panels? If not then it should start.

That's harder to do than you might think.
But even if it worked, word farms would still slip through.

Freedom

11:02 pm on Oct 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



From what I am seeing...

These poor quality sites usually get flushed out, eventually, but spammers are building them faster then Google can keep up.

But I learned, here on WebmasterWorld, long ago, not to worry about what others are doing, and focus on what I can do to make my content and in-bounds better.

It's paid off.

menial

12:04 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



That's good for traffic and overall revenues, though I'm not sure that publishers' AdSense revenues won't suffer if enough users begin to associate AdSense ads with worthless junk.

This time I quote you with pleasure because for some reason you forgot about your "unconditional love for Google, my Lord" attitude :). I agree with this statement.

europeforvisitors

12:26 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)



This time I quote you with pleasure because for some reason you forgot about your "unconditional love for Google, my Lord" attitude :).

I'll...draw your attention to the fact that I was critical of the AdSense program from day one. I believe I was the first person here who referred to the "Pandora's Box" that Google opened when it launched AdSense the way it did back in 2003. I believe AdSense, Google, and the Web would all be better off if Google were more draconian in purging worthless publishers from AdSense and greyhat sites from its SERPs. "Unconditional love"? I don't think so. I do think Google is better than its competitors and that AdSense is better than other CPC text-ad networks, though, and I don't have a lot of patience with AdSense publishers who think it was invented as a giveway program for the get-rich-quick crowd.

[edited by: martinibuster at 2:12 am (utc) on Oct. 2, 2007]
[edit reason] TOS 4 & 19. [/edit]

farmboy

2:05 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member farmboy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



As the author says, these sites can not be good for advertisers, and in turn cannot be good long term for the advertising networks which send them advertising. Or perhaps they are?

If ads on parked domains are good for advertisers and the advertising networks, I don't know why these "word farm" sites wouldn't be good for them also.

FarmBoy

europeforvisitors

2:16 am on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)



If ads on parked domains are good for advertisers and the advertising networks, I don't know why these "word farm" sites wouldn't be good for them also.

There is one key difference: Parked domains mostly attract type-in traffic, while "word farm" sites attract traffic from search engines or PPC ads.

Google has made its distaste for junk PPC advertisers fairly clear (via low AdWords "quality scores" that lead to $10 minimum bids). Google also owns a search engine, and it can't be thrilled by having to identify and filter the millions of worthless "word farm" pages in its search index.

whoisgregg

3:41 pm on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



Users only care about these "word farm" sites because they clutter up the SERPs. Lay users are taking notice that it's harder to find what they want.

If they weren't able to rank, no one would care about them. Well, industry watchers (like us) would care, but we care about all sorts of stuff that doesn't really matter except to us. ;)

sonny

5:42 pm on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



This about sums up the word farm strategy:

"Most of the articles are pretty inane, and generally you get the feeling that if you click on the ads, you'll go somewhere better," he says.

Content_ed

12:37 am on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I also supect that some of the more sophisticated word farmers are also market timers. I've noticed that a couple of the high profile phrases we rank well for become strangely competitive right before major related shopping seasons. Some of the newcomers are always word farms (and standard MFA's) supported by linking schemes that Google eventually figures out are worthless and punts. But they are do well during the active season.

zett

6:35 am on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



EFV,

There is one key difference: Parked domains mostly attract type-in traffic, while "word farm" sites attract traffic from search engines or PPC ads.

IMO, type-in traffic for parked domains is a MYTH, cherished by domainers who want to attract as little attention as possible.

There may be users who type in a domain, but looking at my current filter list, I see that 34% of all filtered sites are associated with parking companies. As I am only getting the URLs from the preview tool, these sites must have been advertised at some point in time through Adsense.

Noone in their right mind would ever type in URLs like

www.about-citywidgets.com
www.canyonelboniancitytourshall.com
www.elbonianhotelsforcheap.biz
www.widgets-hq.com

Just to give a few examples.

Domainers, especially those in the second league, know that they probably can not live off type-in traffic, because their domain portfolio is still too small for generating enough traffic in total. Thus, they have to turn to other means of attracting traffic. Adsense seems to be the easiest way.

By littering our sites with their useless missleasing junk ads for utterly useless parked pages with ZERO content they are probably even worse than "word farms".

ronin

10:07 am on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Does Googlebot already check for frequency of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in a given document which is also displaying adsense panels?

The idea being that good content is written by English majors?

No, the idea being that people who have high house-style standards are, I suspect, likely to be people who know what they are doing when it comes to researching, editing and publishing high-quality, original information and articles.

If there are any contrary examples I'd like to see them.

europeforvisitors

1:51 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)



IMO, type-in traffic for parked domains is a MYTH, cherished by domainers who want to attract as little attention as possible.

It isn't a myth; most of us have encountered parked domains because of typing errors. (That doesn't mean all traffic on parked domains is type-in traffic, or that lowlife Web entrepreneurs won't exploit every weakness they can find.)

netmeg

2:11 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

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



Type-in traffic is not a myth; Over the past ten years I have sat down next to many a client and WATCHED them do it. Most of them have their start page set to Google, and instead of typing an address in the address bar, they type it into Google. And they're accustomed to finding what they are looking for by means of the domain name (or think they remember it correctly from last time) and just type in widgetsupplies.com without even thinking about it. Heck, my own mom does it - seems particularly popular with people even older than I am.

farmboy

3:29 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member farmboy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Google also owns a search engine, and it can't be thrilled by having to identify and filter the millions of worthless "word farm" pages in its search index.

Who gets to decide which pages are worthless?

I know someone who has, and continues to build, a number of very large sites by paying people to write 300-500 word articles on subjects he assigns. Each article goes on a page by itself with AdSense ads and links to his own products.

The article authors don't conduct enough research to provide an in-depth explanation of the subject, just enough to provide some basic information.

I don't particularly like it when I'm researching a topic and end up on a page of this type.

But let's face it, an article written by someone with limited firsthand knowledge of the subject describes a lot of newspaper articles - not to mention local television news reports. And although I often think of news reports as "worthless", they do perform a function.

If my choices are having to wade through clutter to find the information I want on the web vs. having someone else decide which articles are worthless and can be included on the web for me to find, I'll certainly choose the former.

Two final points:

1. My experience has been that the AdSense rewards are greater when AdSense is displayed on a page with basic but not in-depth information. It tends to generate an interest and thus clicks on relevant ads displayed on the page. This has been discussed here previously. That doesn't mean I like it or agree with it, but I have found it to be reality and I understand why it happens.

2. If you search for red widgets and find you have to wade through a lot of fluff to find the real information you want, that presents an opportunity to organize the good information and present it to other people who seek information on red widgets.

FarmBoy

europeforvisitors

5:31 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)



Who gets to decide which pages are worthless?

In the context that I used the term (search), the search engine does.

farmboy

7:40 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member farmboy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Who gets to decide which pages are worthless?

In the context that I used the term (search), the search engine does.

If you're finding pages you consider worthless via the search engine of your choice, apparently that search engine has either decided the pages aren't worthless or they have decided to make pages available to users and let the users decide which to utilize. I think that's a smart strategy for a generalized search engine.

FarmBoy

oddsod

10:43 pm on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



News 24 repeats the same banalities again and again. I can condense 10 minutes worth of News 24 into less than 60 seconds (with zero loss of facts/meaning). It's like a TV version of these crappo articles, no?

Advertisers love News 24 channels. Maybe I should hedge my bets by buying some of that inane article content today. It's the future, darling.

europeforvisitors

3:16 am on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)



If you're finding pages you consider worthless via the search engine of your choice...

It isn't a question of what I'm finding or not finding. (You're responding to something that I didn't say.) Fact is, Google has an anti-spam team and spends a lot of time and money trying to purge its index of pages that it deems worthless. If you want to argue with that, take the matter up with Google, not with me!

Lexur

5:48 am on Oct 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



My own experience says Google is tightening its filters against duplicate (better multiplied) content and it includes:
- free articles
- news from agencies
- press releases
This 57 message thread spans 2 pages: 57
 

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