Search engine giant Google shook article distribution networks with its recent modification of search algorithms aimed at downgrading the ranks of ‘content farms’ while improving the visibility of highly authoritative websites. This move is an apparent response to criticisms about the quality and relevance of its top search results which have been dominated by the pages of eHow, Ezine, Associated Content and Demand Media.
Article directories were a huge force to reckon with in SEO due to the number of backlinks generated from their network of publishers that depend on them for regular content. Backlinks, or the links from other sites to specific web pages, are an important factor in search algorithms because these are largely out of a website owner’s control and are perceived to be clear indicators of content quality and relevance.
Google officials acknowledge that approximately 12% of Google’s search results were affected by the changes amid rumors that some article directories were blacklisted for being content farms. Content farms refer to the sites that churn out hundreds of articles and videos daily, most of which are deemed of low quality for being copies, irrelevant or shallow. Typically mass produced, these articles often outranked authoritative sites in Google search results pages.
While Google did not identify the targeted article directories, sites such as eHow, Ezine, Associated Content and Demand Media have reportedly experienced decline in search rankings. The algorithm modification, however, has some collateral damage as websites with original content but which were frequently copied by other websites experienced drastic falls in site traffic and revenues. In this aspect, Google admits that no algorithm can ever be 100% accurate in weeding out content rubbish and will continue to refine its formula to approximate 100% accuracy.
Survey of immediate effects of Google changes
Most of the major article directories were the hardest hit by the algorithm changes. In particular, Ezine, which ironically enforces one of the strictest editorial rules for publishing, reportedly experienced a 30% decline in site traffic just within a few days from Google’s implementation.
Other directories such as buzzle.com, hubpages.com, and squidoo.com also suffered traffic reduction. SubmitYourArticle.com discloses a 2.5% decline in its average daily traffic but is quick to add that the overall impact of the Google modifications is negligible as it cites already declining figures even months before the implementation.
Content quality directly affects the quality of its backlinks which have a bearing on Google search results. Thus, SYA believes that the steady decline in article directory search rankings is a consequence of the overpopulation in article directories where article spinners habitually tweak content without adding real value to them. And this trend will continue and may even lead to the demise of some article directories unless real changes in submission rules are effected immediately.
Solutions to the Google Content Farms Purge
High quality content: Fresh, original and useful content remains king in SEO. The genuine SEO content experts have always maintained that there is no magic pill for generating massive flows of Internet traffic. The problem and its solution boils down to the quality of content being published which involves time, effort and reader value.
Comprehensive SEO strategy: Search algorithms still value backlinks but instead of relying heavily on a handful of article distribution networks for these, websites must implement several techniques including direct publication in blogs, social proof, document sharing, and press releases.
The future of article directories are still unclear but industry observers believe that the ones which strive to provide real value to readers will survive the latest Google algorithm shift. In the meantime, blacklisted directories may still obtain some traffic from sources other than Google although it’s uncertain how they will fare in the long term.
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