Google Effectively Puts Demand Media On Notice Days Before Planned IPO

from the well,-look-at-that... dept

Over the last year or so, there was growing concern about how “content farms” like Demand Media and Associated Content were “clogging up” search engines and cluttering the web with junk content. However, as we noted last summer, this is really a filter problem, rather than a content problem as many were claiming, and we assumed that, sooner or later, Google would realize that people hate this type of content and it would adjust its algorithm to filter it out (or to make it a lot less prominent). It appears that time may be coming. Over the last few weeks there have been a bunch of articles complaining about the decreasing usefulness of Google, in large part due to those content farms.

It looks like Google is finally waking up to this issue. Google spam-fighter-in-chief, Matt Cutts, has posted on the Official Google blog that the company has heard the complaints and realizes its algorithms need to be better at not recommending content farm crap that people don’t like:

As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content. We take pride in Google search and strive to make each and every search perfect. The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception. However, we can and should do better.

The timing on this is especially interesting, given that the leading content farm, Demand Media, is looking to go public next week. The company’s IPO is already considered to be pretty questionable, for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) the general sleaziness of how the company has been run — including lying about profitability (and even suggesting others do it since no one gets caught), using highly questionable accounting tricks to make the company look more profitable than it really is, and the fact that insiders are dumping a huge amount of stock in the IPO. And, oh yeah, it relies really heavily on Google to make its money. So finding out that Google is likely to cut off at least some of that gravy train probably isn’t what the company wanted to hear this week.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, however. While everyone has been complaining about content farms, it’s time for the filters to step up and re-assert their own importance by diminishing the crappy content that no one wants to see.

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Companies: demand media, google

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Comments on “Google Effectively Puts Demand Media On Notice Days Before Planned IPO”

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20 Comments
Deimos280 (profile) says:

Kool-aid?

“People care enough about Google to tell us?sometimes passionately?what they want to see improved. Please tell us how we can do a better job, and we?ll continue to work towards a better Google.” -googleblog.com …mebe it kool-aid, but im with Mike: “re-assert your own importance”, and dont make me wonder why my home page doesnt say “Bing.”

Matt Bennett says:

Well, I looked up both these companies on wikipedia, and saw that Demand Media owns cracked.com. Personally (it may just be that I’m in their target demographic) I think cracked.com is pretty damn hilarious. So there’s at least something real there. Things like eHow (is answers.com them, too?) ehhh…..sometimes you find something that was awesome there. Often its a waste of a click.

RT Cunningham (profile) says:

All blog farms are content farms

Google’s changes to the algorithms are going to be more difficult than many expect. That are a lot of multi-author content sites out there and not all of them are spammy. Every multi-author blog can be considered a blog farm and in the same way, each can be called a content farm. The quality of each one depends on who’s in charge of checking the content. And then again, low quality doesn’t mean no value.

Anonymous Coward says:

Google has to be careful with this one, because they are starting to venture into not just a question of what is relevant, but what is “right”. Many of the “info farm” style sites actually do provide valid information, or help you find the stories / information you are looking for, similar to what Google does.

Considering, example, that TD is mostly short paragraphs and links to other places, is this a farm? There is little original content, just a lot of links off. Is this a content farm? By definition, it would appear to be true. So why would Google punish one site and not another? Perhaps because they like certain people and don’t like others? That has “legal action” written all over it.

Hopefully Google will instead look at how these sites gain the relevance (in links from other places) and look for more obvious link farms, comment spammers, forum spammers, and the like and take action from the bottom up. If these sites are not useful, people will not link to them. That is perhaps the ultimate indication of what is and what is not relevant.

Gil Reich (profile) says:

Respectfully Disagree

I respectfully disagree with you on two points.

First, I think the way it ranks sites like eHow are part of Google’s strength, not its weakness. eHow, About, Answers.com (where I work) etc. usually show up on long tail queries where they’re often the best page to match that search term.

Second, Matt’s response essentially said: I hear the critics of content farms, and we’ll do better, but realize that the critics are wrong on three key issues: these sites aren’t spam, running Google Ads doesn’t help you get ranked, and Google is getting better, not worse. IMO Matt understands that Google’s ability to satisfy its users on long tail searches largely depends on the success of the large-scale content sites that are creating content to meet these users’ needs.

For the most part, I don’t think people hate this content. Competing webmasters hate this content for various good reasons. But generally speaking, it serves Google’s users well.

My full take on this is here: Matt Cutts on search and spam

eve says:

content

Thanks Google. Now I am out of job you selfish bastards. Who care what type of content is out there. There are tons of “shitty” websites all over the web, but you target innocent “how to” articles and the stay at home writers who want to be at home with their kids? I’m sorry but Google is not the WEB POLICE. Just because you aren’t getting a slice of Demand’s ad sense pie doesn’t mean you can ACCUSE the company of being broke. SCREW YOU!!!!

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