Google cuts its content farm subsidy

February 25, 2011: 8:19 AM ET

An algorithm change in Google's search will affect almost 12% of searches by cutting out low quality content, or "content farms".

Image via KeyboardCat

On the Google Blog and simultaneously expanded upon by Danny Sullivan,  Google (GOOG) engineers Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal reported that the company has made significant changes to its search algorithm which would change almost 12% of its results.

Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what's going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

There has been an extraordinary amount of complaining of late about Google's search engine results and its inability to weed out content farms and content scrapers from its results.  Google released a small change a few weeks ago but today's change seems directly aimed at cleaning the search results that yield low quality content.

Google has been on a mission to clean up its reputation lately.  Just yesterday, it penalized Overstock for manipulating students into writing SEO-friendly links on their school websites.  And before that, J.C. Penney got the ban hammer for hiring a shady SEO firm that apparently bought links.

Google also recently unveiled a personal blocklist that allows users to block content from their search results as they see fit.  Google said that it might use the results of the personal search filtering in future products, though those results weren't used in this algorithm change.

It's not immediately clear how the algorithm change will affect content companies like Demand Media (DMD) who rely on Google for much of their traffic.

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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