One of Google’s longtime goals has been to personalize the Web for every single user. In this online world, Google would have the ability to use human aspects, rather than cold code, in order to assess ranking factors.
Sounds a little too futuristic to be possible, right?
Author Rank, Google latest algorithmic update, is about to take Web 2.0 technologies one step further, putting an author’s qualifications and expertise at the forefront of their search engine algorithm. Not surprisingly, Author Rank is being hailed as the largest update to Google’s algorithm since, well, ever. If you thought Panda screwed with your SEO efforts, get ready. Your content marketing strategy is about to be turned upside down. (more…)
Google’s quest to provide better search results continued last week, as the company released what many are now referring to as the “Farmer” algorithm update. While Google didn’t come right out and say that this update was designed to weed out content farms, their official blog did note that the latest algorithmic improvement was designed to reduce the “rank of low quality sites – sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.” In theory, this sounds great – less crud clogging up search results is always a good sign. Unfortunately, many arguably useful sites have seen drastic drops in their rankings over the past few days, some with devastating effects. Worried that your site might be put out to pasture as part of the latest update? Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know about Farmer.
Expect Significant Ranking Changes
“We can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites.” Google admits that the Farmer update has had a significant impact on search results. However, the search engine giant insists that the update will provide better rankings for high-quality sites, those sites with “original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.” High quality sites with unique content and relevant information will thus be rewarded as part of this algorithmic update. So in other words, if ever you needed a reason to start blogging or posting useful, original resources to your website, Google just gave it to you!
How Do You Define a Content Farm?
The jury is still out as to whether or not the latest update to Google’s algorithm has actually improve search engine results. While there are many spam-centric content farms on the Web, there are just as many that offer solid, if not generic, content. Take eHow.com, for example. I often refer to the website for simple instructions and step-by-step home improvement guides (I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not overly handy). Sure, the information on this site isn’t super unique, but the way it’s presented is extremely useful. Is it a content farm? Yes, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a haven for spam. So how have sites like this been affected by Google’s update?
Sistrix.com, ran some reports to see how some of the most prevalent content farms have been affected by the change, and the results are quite staggering (view the report here). While eHow wasn’t included in the study, big names like Article Base, Buzzle, and eZine Articles were. All of these sites were shown to have taken a hit in keyword rankings, with considerable losses. It’s being reported this morning by Mashable that Mahalo.com, which started out as a search engine, but later turned into a content publisher, has halted all freelance content production and have been forced to lay off nearly 10% of their current workforce. This isn’t surprising, considering the Sistrix report notes that the company lost rankings for nearly 70% of their keywords virtually over night.
In short, it looks like Google has finally found a way to weed out content farms – but is the change too extreme? While Mahalo’s practice of creating hundreds of landing pages is certainly spammy, it can be argued that the information provided on the site is original and useful.
Have you noticed some useful farm-like sites disappearing from your search results? Are you happy about the change, or worried that the affects might hamper your search ability or search-generated business? Share your thoughts below!
After hours of slaving away at your keyboard, you’ve finally done it – you’ve completed what could possibly be the world’s most perfect blog post. Your arguments are solid, your sources make complete sense. You were clever, but concise; articulate but understandable. As you click the publish button, you lean back in your chair and sip your coffee, waiting for the inevitable flood of traffic to your site. Ah yes, life is good…. until ten minutes later when you notice some nondescript spam blog has pilfered your content and is trying to pass it off as their own!
Why I oughta….
If you regularly publish content to a small business blog or website, chances are good you’ve had your content stolen at one point or another. If you haven’t yet, just wait… your turn is coming. Internet plagiarism is an ongoing problem, one that hurts not only your feelings but also your website’s search engine rankings. So, what should you do to protect your content?
Take Precautionary Methods
First things first – always start by protecting your content from the moment it’s published. There are two ways you can do this:
1. Specify Your Canonical
The rel=”canonical” attribute was created by Google back in 2009 to help deal with duplicate content issues (see the official Google Webmaster blog post for more details on this issue). This attribute allows you to specify your preferred version of a URL if your site features identical or vastly similar content on numerous pages. Specifying the canonical version of your text helps Google understand which version it should index and which versions it should ignore. While this attribute is really only intented to catch duplicate content on your own site, who’s to say it doesn’t help across the Web? If someone copies and pastes content from your website onto another domain, it might not be that big of a stretch to think that Google will notice the canonical attribute on your site and provide you with some hard earned ranking juice.
Want to use the canonical attribute on your next post? The following should be included in the <head> area of your code:
<link rel="canonical" href="URL of your post" />
2. Experiment with the “Original-Source” Meta Tag
In case you missed it, Google announced another crime-fighting coding strategy in November of last year. And while this meta tag is still in the testing stage, it has some pretty interesting perks. A post on Search Engine Land states that “The original-source meta tag can be used by publishers wanting to claim their article as the original version.” The official Google Blog breaks it down as follows:
Original-source indicates the URL of the first article to report on a story. We encourage publishers to use this metatag to give credit to the source that broke the story. We recognize that this can sometimes be tough to determine. But the intent of this tag is to reward hard work and journalistic enterprise. For example, to credit the publication that broke a story you could use a metatag like this:
<meta name="original-source" content="http://www.example.com/burglary_at_watergate.html">
So, if you want all the credit for the content in your latest post, try inserting the original-source meta tag into your next article. Again, if someone nicks your content, Google should be able to sniff out the thief by looking for the original-source meta tag. If your site syndicates content, make sure you read up on the experimental syndication-source meta tag to ensure you’re receiving the proper credit.
Now, clever content thieves could technically insert the original-source meta tag into their copy of the content, changing the link to the location of their plagiarized post… hence, Google still has this tag in the testing phase. But let’s be honest, if content thieves are as dumb as the vast majority of normal thieves, there’s a pretty good chances this new original-source meta tag could help keep your content out of enemy hands.
Will you use Google’s new original-source meta tag?