The Future of SEO: Google’s New Algorithm Takes on Content Farms

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Last month, Google launched an algorithmic improvement designed to reduce rankings for “low-quality sites,” which Google principal engineer Matt Cutts defines as “sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites, or sites that are just not very useful.” The objective is to provide better rankings for high-quality sites, defined as “sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.” The update, called the “Farmer update,” has been called the most consequential update of the last decade… and has left some sites in the permanent dark, while others have climbed toward the light at the top of the list of search rankings.

So, what does this mean for the future of Search Engine Optimization?

We have had some of our Information Systems faculty chime in on Google’s new update—what it means for SEO strategists, and how to make sure your business’s website is not left in the dark.

Robert McQuaid Jr., PhD

Content Farms: The Telemarketers of the Internet

By Robert McQuaid Jr., PhD
Associate Professor of Information Systems

Google’s recent modification to their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithm is well intended to reduce rankings of websites whose sole purpose is to create advertising revenue by offering low-quality content while optimizing SEO ranking criteria. The goal of the content farm is not to produce particularly valuable content to the individual searching the web. Its sole purpose is to capture as many click-throughs as possible to maximize SEO linking and click-through criteria. Freelance contributors, many of whom have no particular expertise in a topic area, are paid $0.05 to $15 per piece to create content. The new algorithm is intended to have the same impact as the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry. It reduced the phone call clutter and improved the chances that, when you answered your phone, it was actually from a legitimate caller – even possibly a legitimate telemarketer!

John P. Durand, MBAGoogle Giveth and Google Taketh Away

By John P. Durand, MBA
Practitioner Faculty of Information Systems
Charla Griffy-Brown, PhD
Associate Professor and Discipline Lead of Information Systems

This is certainly not a new problem for Google, only a new battlefront in a 12-year-old war with SEO firms and novices wishing to game the system and improve their organic positioning. This gaming has ranged from link exchanges and farms, keyword stuffing, manipulation of human versus Charla Griffy-Brown, PhDmachine readable code, abuse of CSS styles and HTML tags, and now, most recently, content farms. Google’s point of differentiation has always been the quality and relevance of its search results. Therefore, the need to exclude content farms from their results page was clear. There will certainly be collateral damage to some websites that follow legitimate and acceptedSEO techniques.  However, this has been the case time and time again as “Google giveth and taketh away.”

Practitioners would be advised to keep it above board, continue to generate unique and relevant content and strive to make their site code “search-bot friendly.” Google provides a set of tools for webmasters to manage their visibility and crawler errors and register sitemaps – this is a great place to start. “Content is King” has long been an axiom for SEO practitioners – Google is simply pointing out that it needs to be “unique” content in order to legitimately rule the top spots on the first page.

Michael Williams, PhD

Referee Says “It’s Good!”

By Michael L. Williams, PhD
Associate Dean of Full-Time Programs and Assistant Professor of Information Systems

This is a mission-critical decision for Google.  It has established and maintained position in the market by consistently returning high-quality links to almost any search term. Any frequent Googler, however, has noticed a steady increase in the frequency of “junk links” from content farms over the past 18-months. I believe this algorithm modification is good for users, and critical for Google’s business. If you question the negative impact of junk links to Google’s core business simply review the stock price performance of Yahoo!, Lycos, and Alta Vista.

Topic: In the News, Social Media, Web 2.0
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April 15, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Well guys, One of my sites got slammed by google a couple of months ago. The only thing I was doing wrong was allowing people to submit duplicate content to my article directory but I can tell you that’s now not a good idea at all. They finally started de-indexing sites that do that now.

SEO Expert for You

August 1, 2011 at 12:50 PM

In late February put out the new Google Panda Update and Google was basically saying we don’t want to see duplicate content,lots of ads, not enough moderation (for blog comments), lack of quality content, slow page load time, and lots of content with a low amount of traffic. From this update 12% of all Google search results were impacted or changed from this update alone. Many people are still struggling to recover from this update. My advice to you would be to remove, change, or fix the problems that your site had. Then I would begin building back-links, providing quality content and updating your site often (having a blog), making sure you have very few ads, keep your blog comments free of spam, and make sure your sites load time is quick. If you want to find out more tips on how to recover your site from the Google Panda Update check out this Google Panda Update Recovery GuideGoogle Panda Update Recovery Guide.

john dougall

February 20, 2012 at 9:48 PM

SEO is crucial if you want to gain first page results in Google. If your website doesn’t rank high within the Google search engines, it will be impossible for your potential customers to find you on the web. This leaves online users with no other choice than to visit your competitor’s web site — this could cost you major profits.


August 26, 2012 at 12:37 AM

I doubt very seriously you can aforfd the best SEO company on the internet even if someone could narrow it down to just one. Companies like get $1000/hr or more. I am an independent SEO consultant with no where near the resources of a company like, and I charge $100-125/hr depending on the job and type of work. Most people online looking for SEO think $5-15/hr should get them a good SEO. But most of the people willing to market themselves that low are either 1) VERY inexperienced or 2) live in a 3rd world company, have learned a few buzz words related to SEO, and now “claim” to be SEO experts.Figure out how much money you’re willing to invest in SEO and then search for the best SEO firm that fits within your budget.