Google “Farmer” Algorithm Announcement

By Chris Thoren, Supervisor, Content Solutions

On Thursday, February 24th, Google announced an update to its Search Algorithm. Google updates its Natural Search algorithm on a regular basis, but this particular one has more far-reaching implications. According to Google, this update affects close to 12% of site rankings for U.S.-based searches. This may not seem like a high percentage, but given the amount of searches on a daily basis (Google also claims 1 out of every 4 queries are new or unique), a shift in rankings will likely have a big impact to sites that were enjoying 1st page rankings, especially if they were above the fold.

What type of site is Google targeting? Google actually says they are targeting low quality sites, also known as content farms:  “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.”  So what does this mean for site owners and webmasters?

  • Unique, useful content  Creating content that is well-structured and (not too) optimized is all well and good, but it’s not enough anymore for people to take notice.  The World Wide Web is a crowded space and the job of the Search Engine is to take a query and find the most relevant results as quickly as possible.  When you think about it, that’s lot of noise to filter through.  However, as users reward interesting content with Facebook Likes, tweets and re-tweets, the Search Engines pick up on these signals and may adjust their rankings accordingly.  Both Google and Bing have confirmed they look at this Social graph when ranking results.  The focus of the engines has always been on the end user, and so should site owners and webmasters.  The premise here is simple: create content for your users, not the Search Engines.
  • Relevant content (complementary to your site theme)  As unique, rich content is indexed, distributed, and ultimately rewarded with higher rankings (in most cases), your content strategy align with your site’s overarching theme.  Note: we’re not recommending building your content around your site’s business goals and objectives; rather, structure it based on your site’s identity in an intuitive manner.  As Graywolf points out, it’s not all about monetizing your content.  Yes, there is a time and place for that, but your content should be well-rounded and align with the user’s search behavior.  For example, if your site sells blue widgets, then your content structure should be informational (general info about blue widgets), transactional (blue widget reviews, popular widgets, etc.) and socially-focused (how to choose the best widget, top 10 mistakes when buying a widget, etc.).  This will resonate with your end user no matter where they are in their search phase, along with encouraging them to share your content.

  • Keyword Optimization is not enough Webmasters and marketers should demand more from their content.  Low quality content can be optimized and seeded with keywords, but ultimately do not provide real use for the visitor.  This is essentially the content Google is aiming to eliminate from its search results.  At Resolution Media, understanding query intent and understanding the true essence of why a user performs a certain query has been at the heart of our Search Behavior Analysis.  This is largely because our philosophy aligns with Google’s which is that quality content that meets the needs of your user provides a better experience.  It keeps users loyal to Google, and at the same time, reduces bounce rates and increases conversions.

Either way, the premise still remains the same: write with your end user in mind, and not specifically for the Search Engines.  It could be a slippery slope, but if you take a step back and ask, “Would I find this useful/helpful?” or “Would I want to share this with my peers?”  Then you’re creating content in a meaningful way.  Webmasters and marketers who have consistently been creating content in this fashion really have nothing to worry about.  If you’ve been creating content for the purposes of injecting keywords in body copy, or hiring out copywriters for the sole purpose of seeding keywords, then perhaps it is time to change strategies. Demand more from the content you create, and don’t focus strictly on sheer keyword density.  Resolution Media has always provided this direction to our clients and, thus, our client base hasn’t been affected like other SEOs in the industry.

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