THE BOOZE BIN
By Pia Mara Finkell (@piamara)
To the delight of Googlers everywhere, the leading search engine Google announced a shiny new algorithm last Friday, which promised “to reduce rankings for low-quality” content farm sites, and “provide better rankings for high-quality…sites with original content and information.” Using SEO to their advantage, content farms not only hire droves of writers to increase their reader page views, but also aggregate and republish an endless flow of original content from other sites (without permission). This strategy lands them on page one of a Google search, whereas the original author/website is sequestered to page two or three.
Google’s announcement spoke of reducing low-quality site rankings and maintaining a “healthy web ecosystem” with a greater emphasis on original content. Their definition of low quality, “sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful,” beckons the question: how does the algorithm decide what is and isn’t useful? When I Google terms like “wine” and “social media,” would the search engine rank the Wikipedia definition as the most useful, or Wine Enthusiast magazine’s most recent article on the subject? ZDNet tech blogger, Larry Dignan fears “there’s a slippery slope here where Google acts as the Web’s judge and jury.”
While bloggers and online writers are likely ecstatic about this news, big business content aggregators, such as the ever-popular Huffington Post and Demand Media are not exactly breaking open the bubbly. Bottom line, content farming is big business, with high ranking and page views increasing sites’ advertising revenues. According to The Washington Post, “Demand Media fetched $1.9 billion in its initial public offering, and the Huffington Post’s aptitude for SEO-driven programming–much more so than its stable of A-list bloggers or its original reporting–explains why AOL is paying $315 million for the site.”
Stirrings about Google’s official announcement have reached as far as the wine industry, and the new algorithm will possibly effect one of the most popular and highly ranked wine review site, Snooth. One of the most popular wine blogs, Dr. Vino, reported yesterday on Google’s announcement, wondering “what would happened to Snooth.com, the wine web site that seems to be a champion of SEO, ranking high in the organic search results yet providing so little useful information that they were found to be scraping cellartracker.com content since 2007 to populate some pages.”
While Dr. Vino reports Snooth’s page views have declined somewhat, they still appear at the top of the Google charts for wine searches. It seems some sites were more affected than others, so perhaps not all sites are created equal when it comes to how Google now defines high and low-quality sites.
To find out how this affects your site, here’s a good article and way to track the changes.