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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    xenomancer (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 3:14pm

    There goes everyone's "spammy", "low-quality", free porn...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 4:08pm

    So, are Demand Media and Associated Content the two newest companies that are going to be suing Google for being Google?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 4:20pm

    You encourage Google to filter and demote crummy/spam results. But God Forbid they should try to filter and demote your beloved piracy! That would go against "freedom of the Internet", right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    zzz, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 4:32pm

    Re:

    It would go against what their customers want and would therefore go against the basic purpose of the company, to profit by providing useful services to the public and selling ads around those services.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 4:35pm

    "The fact is that we're not perfect, and combined with users' skyrocketing expectations of Google,"

    Oh please. Just return my search query, get the fuck out of my face otherwise. Pretentious assnobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:05pm

    Re:

    You encourage Google to filter and demote crummy/spam results. But God Forbid they should try to filter and demote your beloved piracy! That would go against "freedom of the Internet", right?

    When have I ever said that? I said that Google should return the results that users find most helpful.

    What you're asking them to do is to censor based on what a third party likes or doesn't like. That's different than improving the quality of search. I would have thought that was obvious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Deimos280 (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:12pm

    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."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:23pm

    Re:

    Why, pray tell, should they do that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Matt Bennett, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:32pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 6:05pm

    Google should ad "Report this" on their search results, but with a catch only people who received a key and are known to Google should be allowed to see that, you know if a bot tries to flag something thousands of times it will need a thousand keys to do so.

    Crowdsource babe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    yayHitlist, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 6:35pm

    Dearest Google.
    While you are at it please kill.

    Ehow
    associatedcontent
    ezinearticles
    About - (3 or 4 times over)
    Ask

    And the zillions of keyword spam minisites

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 6:58pm

    Google might get sued for censoring them out of the marketplace, and given our broken legal system, Google may even lose.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 6:59pm

    Re:

    Is it just me or in light of this why doesn't the google team invest in tech like stumbleUpon that or buy it up. It's one of the few (/sarc) situations where mother of all invention comes to roost.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Andrew, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 8:45pm

    not just Demand media

    I see Demand receiving all the heat but there are other very prominent and low quality content farms that are running disguised as something else like Mahalo, but nobody seems to be saying anything about it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:51pm

    Re:

    As a poor person relying on sample-for-free downloads for cultural products I assure you most results are useless when looking for most things anyway.

    As for the "piracy" label, go fuck yourself, I'm not menacing anyone's life or job.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    RT Cunningham (profile), Jan 22nd, 2011 @ 5:27am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2011 @ 7:32am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Gil Reich, Jan 23rd, 2011 @ 5:06am

    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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jan 23rd, 2011 @ 9:59am

    Can't Wait . . .

    . . . 'til "net neutrality" rules are used to sue Google for "filtering" results in a "non-neutral" manner.

    You know it will happen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    eve, May 5th, 2011 @ 7:34am

    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!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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