Google is tweaking its search results as part of an ongoing effort “to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible,” according to a company blog post.
While the search giant refines its ranking algorithm on a fairly consistent basis, this latest revamp is a big one—”a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries,” says Google, and is “designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.”
While Google doesn’t explicitly come out and say that this new update takes dead-aim at sites known as “content farms,” that’s exactly what’s happening. Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land has a detailed write-up of all the ins and outs, but here are the basics behind Google’s plan.
Anatomy of a Content Farm
No website in its right mind would refer to itself as a content farm, but we’ve all come across them during our various web searches. These are the how-to articles with a few vague, etheric steps accompanied by ads before, during, after and on the sides of the text. Sometimes you’ll actually find the answer you’re looking for, but more often than not you’ll find yourself back on Google looking for more helpful information.
Google’s aim is to start stuffing these types of articles lower down in its search results. But how did they get so high up in the first place?
How to Get to the Top of Google
There are several tricks—some work better than others—but Google’s official stance is basically that sites with high-quality content that get linked to by several other websites that also have high-quality content should appear higher in search rankings. Highly-trafficked sites are generally believed to have high-quality content; otherwise, why would they be so highly trafficked?
But there’s also a first-mover advantage. Take a look at Google’s publicly-available Google Trends data and you’ll notice “gas prices” listed under the “Hot Topics” section today.
A content farm would start churning out articles with titles like “How to Beat High Gas Prices” and “Gas Prices Got You Down? Here’s How to Save.” The articles themselves would likely be simple lists with tips like “Shop around!” and “Use a cash-back rewards card!” or “Don’t drive as much!”