Creation, curation and aggregation. We all probably fall into one of those categories. We do one of those. I do. I don’t dispute blog posts like this Why Content Curation Is Here to Stay. I get that. What I have a problem with is the type of content creation we run across when doing brand monitoring work for clients. It’s falling into two camps.
Here’s the first.
Recently we were doing some work for a very prominent client where in the analysis of brand mentions we had to sort through thousands, yes thousands, of useless pages of content on websites that were set up as splogs to drive better search results around pages geared towards Google Adwords. This is troll like stuff. This is not new. Useless web pages have been appearing high up on search result pages for awhile now. So Let me ask you a question. I assume that most of you who read this post are fairly savvy web users, but when you do a search-what part of the search result do you look like? Me? I look at the URL under each search result. and that in and of itself can be revealing-sometimes content that you think is going to be worthwhile turns out to be crap.
I’m using Google search results as the prime example here.
I thought we were getting the best search results possible? Maybe not. For a lot of us Google is part of our everyday lives. We are slaves to the rhythm of search as much as we are to what Google returns to us. Google and search dominate the web. The conundrum? To get traffic to your webpage, you have to appear high in Google’s search results. Which in turn means that you must create some type of content that works for Google. Thus the incentive to learn or understand SEO and Google’s Algorithm i.e. game the system, is huge.
Google will admit that the quality of it’s SERPS is higher than it has ever been; in terms of comprehensiveness maybe so, relevance may be debatable. They might be the first to tell you that there is a proliferation of sites that rip off other people’s content because they’re too lazy to build their own audiences based on fresh content and fresh thoughts and ideas; and that is a problem. Yep, the rise of the “content farm” which is heavy on volume and light on fresh, original content is upon us.
Google has been making changes to its algorithm to keep low-quality sites from appearing high in searches, according to Matt Cutts in a blog post last month. But he also wrote that, despite Google’s efforts,
The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception.”
I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to have to sort through garbage search results both personally and on behalf of a client; to be bogged down with the process of weeding through content farms.
“As pure web spam has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to ‘content farms’, which are sites with shallow or low-quality content,” Cutts added.
I got into SEO years ago and understand the game. High rankings in search have always been driven by the number of pages/sites that linked to it and how prominent they were ranked and what pages and sites were linked to them. There were always “other” little things involved, but to me it was always about the hub and spoke model. What sites were at the end of the spoke and so on and so forth. Oh yea, and one other thing-Content.
Marketing departments and SEO companies understand this. Thus, they’ve been creating “landing pages” buried inside corporate sites to hit all of the different possible combinations of keywords of a search query relating to their company/ industry. Bloggers do it by linking to each other. It works, content farms work, and that’s part of the problem.
The bigger part of the problem? Large companies are catching on. They know this and are willing to play in this grey area space that Google doesn’t police very well, and we, the people that do searches, suffer for it. As it turns out, they are getting away with it. Or are they? The latest to be identified according to the New York Times is JC Penney. Large and small companies will continue to game the system like this until a) they are caught and penalized or b) Google in particular-fixes the algorithm. Until then, content farms will continue to rule and the research that you and I do on behalf of clients, will still take three hours instead of one.
If only there were a way for monitoring companies to weight and kick out splogs and obvious content farms…hmmmm.