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!
Let’s face it – everyone loves cookies. From double chocolate chunk to plain old oatmeal, cookies just make you feel good. It’s kind of similar to how good SEO can breathe life back into a boring website. This weekend I spent hours slaving away baking some Christmas cookies, and between the mixing and eating I came across a weird discovery. Baking cookies is an awful lot like optimizing a website for better rankings in search engines (albeit not nearly as tasty). The following are five fun similarities:
1) You Need to Prep Properly
Have you ever tried to cream a rock solid block of butter together with sugar? Trust me, you don’t want. All you get is a mound of butter that looks like it’s been dropped into a snowbank. Recipes include detailed preparation instructions in order to help you avoid these sorts of lumpy situations, and so too should your SEO strategy. Preparation is key in the early stages of an SEO campaign, so don’t go jumping the gun. Make sure you take your time and perform plenty of research on your industry. Do you know which keywords to target? Should you be focusing on building more directory backlinks or will citation site submission be of more use? Taking the time to prep your optimization ingredients will help save you time and disappointment down the road.
2) You Need to Have the Right Ingredients
You can’t make a great cookie with just one cup of flour. You need to combine a number of different ingredients in order to create a batter that’s worth bragging about. The same goes for SEO. You can’t just insert keywords into your content and assume that search engines will immediately love your website. A strong SEO campaign requires equal helpings of content development, link building, and code-level optimization. One ingredient isn’t more important than the other – they all work together to create a finished product that’s capable of attracting plenty of attention.
3) You Have to Keep the Oven at a Steady Temperature
Cranking your oven up to 500 degrees won’t help bake your cookies faster, it will just cause them to burn. Trying to cut corners by speeding up the process doesn’t work – you need to bake your cookies slowly, and consistently in order to ensure they’re properly prepared. Similar instructions are necessary for an SEO campaign. Trying to speed through the optimization process will only cause you more harm than good. SEO is all about constant and continuous optimization. Cranking up your keyword optimized content production for one month may help boost your rankings today, but the effects will quickly wear off once you stop. Constant optimization is what will benefit your website in the long run.
4) You May Burn the First Batch When You’re Starting From Scratch
Testing out a new recipe requires patience and practice. The same can be said for working on a new SEO strategy. Somethings might work, others might crash and burn. But you’ll never know until you try. Mix up your optimization strategy and try something different – you could come out with a winning recipe!
5) You Can Never Have Enough!
Whether it’s cookies or content, one thing is for certain – there’s always room for more! Your small business website can never be over optimized. Just remember: there’s always another company out there looking to take your spot in search engine results. Keep them at bay with a clearly defined optimization strategy.
You’ve heard me complain about Flash on the CIK blog before. Sure it looks pretty, but what does it actually do for your website’s design? The answer is nothing, unless you consider sucking up your bandwidth as a major bonus. If your Chatham-Kent business is looking into website redesigns, remember – Flash is not your friend. Sure, Flash can be useful in some situations, but it should only be used when absolutely necessary (creating animated text = not one of those situations). So, without further ado, here are five of the most frustrating reasons why Flash sucks (believe me, there are plenty more).
5) It’s a Bandwidth Hog
Sure, this isn’t as big a deal now as it was ten years ago, but still. Why create a site that sucks twice as much bandwidth as a standard HTML site? Believe it or not, some of your customers are still surfing using dial-up, which means they’re still waiting…for…your…website…to…load…
4) You Can’t Bookmark a Page
This drives me looney! Websites that are designed entirely using Flash do not have standard HTML URLs. So, the deeper you dig into a site, the more confused your browser becomes about your location; in fact, the next time you find yourself stuck on a Flash site, check your browser address bar as you flip between pages – chances are good it will show the homepage address for every single page within the site! This wonderful design flaw means there’s no way to bookmark a page that you’ve found useful, or easily share a link to an internal page of the site. Website design is suppose to be all about making things easy for visitors, so please don’t make things impossible by using a Flash-based site.
3) There’s a Loading Screen for Pete’s Sake!
Let’s get one thing straight – I don’t want to wait for anything, whether it’s my coffee or an organ transplant. Waiting sucks. So when I have to site and watch that little green loading bar on your website, it makes me very, very angry. If you’re website is so complicated that I must wait for it to load, do everyone a favour and redesign it. Chances are your customers will be confused by your fancy-pants features and end up bouncing anyway.
2) You Can’t Optimize Flash
Search engines hate Flash almost as much as I do. But, unlike me, who has the pleasure of turning one up every now and then, search engines simply ignore them. A search engine can’t read the garble of code that is Flash, so it simply chooses to ignore it. So, remember all that money you paid to your website designer to “optimize” your Flash site… ya, that was not one of your smartest ideas.
1) There is Absolutely No User Benefit to Flash Sites!
In case you forgot, your company website is suppose to be a tool that customers use to learn more about your business. Your site should therefore be built to provide the visitor with as much value and usefulness as possible. Don’t built your website because you think it looks cool. Build it so that your user can navigate it easily and discover exactly what it is they’re looking for.
These are just a few of the reasons why I hate Flash – feel free to add more in the comments!