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How To Avoid Becoming A Content Farm

Google wants to improve its search results and has been working to improve its results in several updates over the last year. The last update called Panda by Google and Farmer by the community has had a significant impact on sites known as content farms. These sites are often large sites where content is developed by commission paid writers who develop content with the purpose to gain high rankings on search engines and attention in social media.

If you understand that content farms were focused on ROI from advertising, you'll understand why part of there strategy was to make content good enough to get a search ranking, but not quite good enough to satisfy a reader's quest for answers, rather, content farmers want to entice readers into clicking ads that will satisfy the searcher and so charge a premium for their content. This article discusses several insights from content farm owners, and the point about quality and ads. 

Google's changes to its algorithm that have resulted in loss of traffic to important content farms. One documented loss of traffic was to, where the changes in traffic have resulted in job layoffs at the company.

This leads to the question why were sites penalized in the recent round of changes to the Google algorithm, and how can you avoid the same penalty?

  • From the horse's mouth -- Google's take on quality content. I found this great quote from Google in this Mashable article: “You can expect sites with shallow or poorly written content, content that’s copied from other websites, or information that people frankly don’t find that useful will be demoted as a result of our recent algorithm changes,” stated the rep. “On the other hand, high quality pages — pages with original content and information such as research, in depth reports or thoughtful analysis — will get a boost.”
  • Poor off-site linking strategies can still hurt your ranking results. As this great article illustrates, even if you built a site with great content, but if you have received most of your links from shallow content sites as part of your linking strategy, your results will be lower. Focus should be on gaining higher quality links from high quality websites. I personally found this very encouraging, I've long argued that blogging and social media communities the emphasis should be on developing relationships with colleagues in a community, and as a result of those relationships you will gain links from people who appreciate your content. This update to Google strengthens this tactic.
  • Avoiding news release content duplication. Excellent article on the topic of duplication of press release content. This issue is certainly something both media sites and PR people should consider, there's a process of education here, where PR people can openly state they are giving individual media outlets and people exclusives on content and issues, not just because there's an advantage, but also because we want to avoid duplication of press release content.
  • Request webmasters take down links when their sites have low-quality content. At the businessInsider, John McPheeFormic Media Inc., a social media marketing agency stated the following, "Track the links to your site as well as you can, and request the low-quality sites to take down their links. It’s a matter of negative association, and it’s not worth the backlink!"
  • An ad-to-content ratio that favors ads. This article talks about a lot of factors you need to avoid in building a successful content site, but what stood out for me was the point that if you have too many ads to your volume of content, Google will penalize your rankings. Remove ads, or increase your volume of content to improve your ratio.
  • Identify your content as the original content. Good advice in this article for SEO's. If you duplicate content once or twice, it is possible to avoid being labeled a site with duplicate content, use the original source meta tag and copysource service to distinguish your content as original, or not get penalized for duplicating content. 
  • Manage the quality and length of your content. This comprehensive post answers many of your quesitons about the Farmer update, but I found the idea of thinking about how you manage the quality of your content to improve your standings the most insightful.  Put a no robots follow tag on any low quality content. Bruce Clay's advises that you mix up your word length of articles.  Plus, determine how often Google is crawling your website, and use this information to help determine when you can expect to see changes in your results, as well as what you may need to do in terms of increasing content production.