Most everyone is familiar with the recent Google “Farmer Update.” This was the change in the Google page rank algorithm intended to suppress search results from so-called “Content Farms.” These websites would produce large volumes of content, articles, and blog posts intended to boost site ranking on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The premise was that people increasingly needed to wade through page after page of irrelevant results when looking for “quality information.”
How you personally feel about this is one matter, but why it was done may not have been quite as altruistic as Google shaking off the parasites that have been collecting Ad Sense revenue and giving nothing back. Google has reported a first quarter increase in revenue of 16 percent. Could this be why?
Paid By Google
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an industry that Google created for the most part. Consultants and companies offer the secret to getting your site to page 1 of the SERPs every time for whatever keyword your site is bidding on. SEO generates billions every year, and much of those dollars is in terms of page view revenues.
If you own a website, you can allow Google to put ads on your site and it will pay you a few dollars for every thousand hits, or page views that you get. This has been the primary revenue model for a vast number of sites on the Internet, many of them large and well-known. At first, this would seem to benefit Google as much as the site owner. The more people who look at an ad, the more that Google can charge.
However, it turns out that it is not so simple. Imagine that you have a person that decides to get traffic for their website for keyword X. They then create dozens of articles that use keyword X and its variants and, as a result, climb higher in the SERP’s. The sites have Google Ads on its article and home pages, and people click links in the SERPs, which automatically generates page views. The trouble for Google was that many of these sites only existed to get page views, not to generate potentially valuable traffic for the advertisers or information for the searcher.
What happens is that the Click-Through-Rate drops. CTR is the measure of how many people view an ad and click on it. If nobody clicks on the ad then there it has no value, so the ad rates Google can charge drops. The growing problem of traffic leaches meant that Google’s ad rates, the sole source of its fortunes, were dropping. They were paying for the page views but very few clicks meant that the income from the ads was dropping. Like any company, Google needed to act to turn the situation around.
No More Free Ride
Google reported that the update would affect 12 percent of its US search traffic results and in fact, thousands of websites were affected. The purpose of the update was to identify sites that were “content farms,” and push them back on the SERP far enough to allow people to find legitimate results. The report of a major first quarter increase in revenue comes from the fact that Google was able to charge better prices for the sales of keywords and the resultant ad performance.
The fact that this coincided with the farmer update is not an accident. This was the point of the update. An increasing number of people were getting checks from Google every month for traffic that had little or no value; junk hits, so to speak. Not only have those checks tapered off, but the CTR of ads have also strengthened. With increasing pressure from Facebook, these types of moves should be expected from Google, until now they’ve had no real competition.
Blogs and Collateral Damage
While it is true the latest update did remove a great deal of useless noise from the Internet, there was also some collateral damage done. Some sites with high quality original content have slid down the rankings and lost revenue despite the best efforts of site owners to adhere to all of the webmaster guidelines handed down by Google. A primary reason for this seems to be low quality links.
Most SEO pros know that no incoming links can hurt a site, but better links can help more. A better link is one from a trusted neighborhood with relevant information and an organic text link back to the webmaster’s site. Remember that the last update affected 12% of all U.S. search traffic. That is a lot of sites losing trust really fast. Even if a site was not targeted as a content farm it might be getting a lot of links from targeted sites that are now diminished in value. This overall loss of trust would cause a site relying on such links to slip, even though they themselves were not directly devalued. This indirect damage has affected many great blogs and online news outlets across the Internet.
About Jon Norwood
Jon T. Norwood writes for a Satellite Internet site that follows the constant advances in High Speed Internet.