RIP Content Farms

It’s been business as usual for me: sitting on beaches and drinking coronas.  commenting on a couple major Google changes the past couple days. A few more pictures from my last trip before we get to the nitty gritty.

Now, there has been a lot of talk the past couple months about the quality of Google search engine results. Quite a few major newspapers have been

writing articles complaining about all the thin content and spam sites that pop up in the SERPS.

The New York Times recently called JC Penny to task for sloppy SEO. Now JC Penny is by no means the only major corporation that employs “dirty seo” techniques, but they got pretty lazy about how they went building links (putting links on non-relevant, spammy support sites for one and spamming profile links to the page another). The article pretty much forced Google to openly spank JC penny.

But the fact remains that Google has been getting a lot of bad press lately – and these JC Penny incidents showing how people/companies are gaming the search engine certainly don’t give people confidence in Google.

So with all the publicity generated about google “low quality results” it was only a matter of time before they did something – if only to shutup all the naysayers.

And it happened. About three days ago.

|Google has openly declared war against the content farm model. Thursday, Google made a massive update to their algorithms, absolutely punishing the so called content farms.

Here’s a list of the top 10 most spanked “content farms.” You can see the whole list in sordid detail here

1. wisegeek.com
2. ezinearticles.com
3. suite101.com
4. hubpages.com
5. buzzle.com
6. associatedcontent.com
7. freedownloadscenter.com
8. essortment.com
9. fixya.com
10. americantowns.com

If you are an internet marketer, this change likely affects you in some way. EzineArticles, for example, has been the classic “easy” whitehat linkbuilding strategy many marketers have applied. Write a couple ezinearticles, send a couple links, and end up with a pretty decent backlink. I can’t comment on whether Google has lessened the link authority given from sites like Buzzle, Hubpages, and EzineArticles, but I suspect the links may not be worth as much. But we’ll have to see how things pan out over time, since MANY sites on the web have backlinks from at least one of the content farms on the list. The spank may end up affecting a lot of small sites and marketers promoting their domains via these sites. I pity the poor EzineArticle bum marketers who ONLY made money by promoting stuff via ezinearticles.

If you’ve been using hubpages to make some coin, you’ll be directly affected by these changes. Hubs, according to some of the stats out there, lost a significant amount of ranking.

In the one link I’ve given, the data shows hubpages went from 150k ranking keywords to around 50k ranking keywords. That’s a pretty big loss right there. EzineArticles, you will note, also had a big drop. I suspect they are going to lose 50% of all impressions over the next month. The owners are pretty much freaking out at this point and are now dead set on making ezinearticles too draconian for anyone to actually bother posting an article there. Interestingly enough, eHow (the one site that’s been getting a lot of bad press as being the king of content farms) didn’t get touched. In fact, it’s actually doing better with the update, and that’s not even counting the fact that most of eHow’s competitors have been knocked out of the competition at this point.

Note: I’ve you’ve been making money with hubpages, you are going to see a crash in your earnings from this – you may end up with around 50% of your usual impressions from now on. Now, the drop in rankings seem to be mostly indirect longtails and hubs with few to no backlinks. Individual hubs with a lot of backlinks won’t have likely been affected.

So What Does This Mean?

When I first launched my hubpage experiment to see if I could make money, I was amazed at just how easy it was to make money by only writing (keeping in mind good onpage seo and internal link structuring). However, it soon became apparent to me that hubpages would eventually get spanked…and they just did, officially.

What can you take home from this? The best thing you can do for yourself as an internet marketer is to build your own websites and not build up third party sites, like hubpages. I’ve seen some people on forums gung ho about building 1000 hubpages or whatever. Big mistake. Seriously, if you are going to devote a few years of your life to build up someone else’s domain, you might as well send them your resume. And we won’t even talk about the money you end up losing by sharing your revenue for the host site and the fact that they can delete your content on a whim.

As I’ve been saying for almost a year, the name of the game now is to focus on a few, quality sites and build them up big time.

Forget about trying to build a zillion hubs to make your money. As I’ve said, Google has publically declared war on the content farm model. That means both the revenue sharing, user generated content model of hubpages  and the churn as many niche articles out as possible “wisegeek” model are a no no. Now to be clear here — About.com or Wikipedia.com were not touched here (let’s forget about the joke called eHow), but these sites really focus on quality and all the article are written by actual experts, rather than some guy sitting around in his underwear in his mom’s basement. I think the writing is pretty clear right now: don’t put a lot of emphasis on 3rd party websites.

Now all things considered, ezinearticles and hubpages (and say Buzzle) actually offered pretty decent articles. Now, it’s more likely that an even worse POS niche articles will rise up to fill the ranking voids. We may see over the next month Google teak the algorithm somewhat so they don’t throw the baby out with the a bathwater and hubs and the like may rank better a bit. But then again, that might not happen.

Forget about building little mini sites – the era of the micro site is finished (you can find a horde of other bloggers online who’ve had their entire networks deindexed or spanked in the rankings just the past few months). I STILL see a bunch of marketers promoting the make money online with mini site method these days, and boy if you are still pursing that model as a serious income source, you better start tossing your resume out there as backup. I see way too many of you guys trying to take shortcut methods to making a stable living online. Fuck the short term and think long term. Building up a quality authority site takes some real sweat and blood. You don’t just throw up couple articles, run spambox and send a few build my spam links and sit back and cash in on your authority site. These type of sites can take a year or three to really build up. But you can make the bank on just one or two such successful websites.

So if you want stability, focus completely on owing a niche with a single site and proving as much quality information to the readers as possible.  That’s all you need to do and as a plus you don’t have to watch your back every time google does an update.

Personally, this is a great opportunity for some of you to rank your own sites even higher seeing as that a large portion of the longtail niche competition just got knocked out. So there is a great deal of opportunity here.

The sky is not falling. Changes are part of the game – for good or for the ill. Do things the right the first time and you won’t pay the price later on.

Ben K

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