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Content Farms Outdated Or Still Relevant
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It is only a few months ago but, for some, it seems almost as if it were yesterday: the largest Internet ranking company Google announced that it would be penalizing web sites which fail to show originality, which are designed only to publish and publicize articles on whatever subject with the intention of gaining advertising revenue. Here the term Content Farm came into wider use; a web site consisting almost exclusively of articles, reviews and reports written by external authors and, often but not always, published on many different sites at the same time. The penalty for sites determined to be lacking in originality, guilty of publishing and republishing the same articles time and time again, would be a loss of page ranking through a lower availability in search results. Originality and a certain level of exclusivity for articles is what Google had in mind; an attempt to stop the stocking of the higher search result pages with exactly the same article on a wide variety of different sites. For Google variety is the spice of life, and the search result pages should show a wealth of different articles, web sites and pages around a chosen theme rather than exactly the same, word for word, result each time.
The immediate worry amongst many proprietors of so-called Content Farms was a loss of revenue. A web site which earns its keep through advertising cannot survive without a high number of visitors, without those advertisements being seen and, with some advertising contracts, clicked through. Secondary to this the worry amongst writers of such articles that their chosen platform would no longer host their articles and that the links - either within a signature block direct to the writer or within the text to paying or sponsoring customers - would, in a knock-on effect, be penalized too. What is bad for a Content Farm is also bad for the writers who supply them with material, many of whom are not paid for their services but gain through back links and through readers clicking onto their own sites to read more.
The intention behind this change of ranking is clear. With so many web sites publishing articles the market place could become satiated and the quality of the content drop. The constant repetition of articles, copied from one web site to another or uploaded by the individual writers to a multitude of sites, does nothing to advance the level of knowledge nor to promote a specific writer. The originality of a work is lost, they argued, when exactly the same article appears on five or ten different sites, no matter how good the original article may be.
There are several different levels of Content Farms. The highest ranking ones, those which publish an article first, have a good layout and higher editorial standards, remain at the top of the list. The next level is those which either have no editorial controls or which publish as soon as an article is submitted. The lowest level is those sites which have little or no original content submitted, but which take articles from other sites and, with the appropriate links, republish them on their own. Over the last few years many sites which fulfill the third criteria have sprung up, using open source and free software, to take advantage of lax ranking rules and an ease of gaining advertising. Taking an article from another site - which is allowed in many of the Content Farm sites with few restrictions - is free of all costs: editing is not required; formatting is already in place. It was seen as a quick and easy way to make money using a tried and trusted format.
The battle for a high ranking in search engine results is not something any company can take lightly: if a person is looking for specific information on a research subject, or even a favorite brand of shoes, the first to appear on Google's pages, or those of any other search engine, are those which will gain the visitors and, as a result, the custom. A lower ranking will result in fewer visitors, higher costs and less sales, less revenue. The abundance of lower quality Content Farms not only damaged the search engine results with mass repetition, but also the reputations of the better Content Farms who would be automatically lumped in with those consisting of quantity rather than quality. The abundance of lower quality sites has also lessened the overall quality of the Internet as a source of information and opinion. Where no editorial control is in place anything with the right number of words could be published, using the appropriate keywords and phrases but giving the visitor no useful information. Spelling and grammar in lower quality Content Farms would not be checked, facts and figures simply republished as they stood with no checks for accuracy. The lower level, and many of the middle level Content Farms had become simply a means of gaining advertising revenue - for the sites themselves - and a mass of back links for writers and content producers linking back to their own sites and personal homepages in the hope of achieving a higher personal page rank.
The changes to the Google algorithm for assessing the worth of a Content Farm should have resulted in many sites simply disappearing from the top search result pages. It is to be hoped that these sites consist exclusively of the lower quality re-publishers, along with some of the middle level publishers. The change, however, has a small factor which must also be weighed in: many sites using the Content Farm format also have Google Ads as their main sponsor. A change to their placing in search results would not only lower their potential income, but also that of Google itself. Fewer visitors to a site, fewer clicks on the advertising or views, and Google would find itself with fewer advertisers or fewer potential sites where their advertising could be placed.
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