Google’s latest algorithm update has been specifically targeting so-called ‘content farms’. Most people probably still don’t know what a content farm, is while some sites may already be affected negatively by this update.
So today I want to suggest ways to avoid being labelled as a content farm in order to stay afloat on Google.
A content farm is, generally speaking, a site geared towards search engine users. In most cases, it has low quality content based either on automatic recycling (scraping) or low paid labor force. Either way, the content is quite well “optimized” so that it shows up above sites perceived as having a higher quality content.
I don’t want to debate here on whether a content farm is spam or has some value. I want to tell how you can make sure you don’t appear to have a content farm on your website.
One of the most criticized content farms these days is Demand Media’s eHow. While eHow articles are certainly not complete spam, they have several obvious characteristics shared by other content farms that could be used to determine their low quality.
As a (bad) example, I have used three content farms that perform better or worse for the keyphrase [how to celebrate chinese new year] and compared them to the (mostly non-content farm) sites that actually rank for the more competitive [chinese new year] by itself. Then I came up with quite a few characteristics which the content farms have in common which are not shared by the legit sites.
The three content farm examples are:
at #5 for [how to celebrate chinese new year]
at #3 for [how to celebrate chinese new year]
at #1 for [how to celebrate chinese new year]
What obvious characteristics do they display? They are:
- Keyword optimized
The title tag/headline just focuses on one keyphrase: “How to Celebrate Chinese New Year”
The eHow article has an enormous keyword density of above 10% for both main keywords “Chinese” and “year”. That’s in fact the only reason actually to measure keyword density – to find out whether you’re spamming already.
- No linking out
in the editorial part, or all external links having been stripped of passing authority by the nofollow attribute. There are no (real) links to sources or other resources.
- Low reading level
Chinese characters or words could be used in such an article, but content farms are too superficial to do that.
- No author name
“By an eHow Contributor”
- Heavy internal linking
There are lots of internal links to only slightly relevant content.
Lots of similar-sounding articles rather than a focus on one main resource:
- List-only posts
The content farm articles are list-only pieces. They are only overviews, with not enough context or explanation.
- One size fits all
Content farms often deal with all kinds of topics on the same site. The content farm is about anything and everything. It’s random.
Note that some of the mistakes cited above have not been made by all three content farms. Thus about.com and Wikihow rank better than eHow.com. This suggests that even adapting your obvious content farm to Google’s new standards might improve its overall performance in the search results.
Content farms are not all bad, so they won’t be banned on Google as they are on Blekko. This was more of a PR stunt, but I’m sure that you want to avoid being labelled as a content farm anyway.
So you have to attempt to do the exact opposite of what I have summarized above:
- Use natural language
Don’t focus solely on keywords; spice it up with some very specific terms.
- Use synonyms
Don’t repeat the same term or phrase over and over; try to find other similar expressions.
- Link out
Link out to your actual sources and add more external links to resources that offer even deeper insights.
- Write for adults
Don’t write for children and people new to the topic only. Make the article understandable for everybody, but make it interesting for experts as well by going in-depth.
- Be a person
Add a name and profile to the articles you’re the author of.
- Add internal links for users, not search engines
Don’t use automatic keyword-based interlinking programs to your copy. Use internal links wisely. Link to more in-depth knowledge which someone would actually read, not a general article on a slightly related topic that happens to be mentioned.
- Focus on one resource
Don’t add more and more resources on the same particular topic, but optimize one page by adding more resources to it and updating it.
- Add lists
Add lists to articles to make them more readable but don’t write superficial “listicles” consisting only of a list of bullet points.
Make a site that focuses on one topic, like ours does on SEO; do not try to cover everything, as you end up covering nothing in depth.
Any other ideas? Have you been affected by the latest anti-content farm update? Have you improved your site’s rankings since?
* Image by benketaro