I have been building websites and working with SEO since 2003, while that’s a drop in the bucket… One thing has remained true for all of this time. Google hates duplication and crappy content. That being said, I have made dedicated endeavors to point shop owners in the correct direction… Down the path of light if you will. However, time constraints, disbelief and sheer laziness have caused many shop owners to ignore the logical business model that Google has always used. Google as a company is there to provide services for their users. They seek to make income from advertising and other venues centered around the one main goal of serving unique, relevant and quality search results. If I owned Google, this would be my own business model as well.
While Google has done, and continues to make regular improvements and tweaks to their algorithm to accomplish this, yesterday they made a huge adjustment. This update, deemed the “Farmer” Algorithm Update is a really big deal for those of you residing on the “darkside”. The name Farmer is derived from the unofficial target of content farms. While this huge update affects nearly 12% of all Google search results, it is really the second wave of what is this endeavor to clean up their results announced here in the Official Google Blog post identifying both their intent and means of which they intended to accomplish this. While this was back in late January, most didn’t heed the warning.
The first wave, the scraper update, was confirmed by Matt Cutts on 1/28/2011 affected only a small 2% of Google’s search queries. This probably went unnoticed by most, if not all shop owners as scraper sites are a pretty tight and defined category of which you are not likely to fall in.
“Scraper” sites are those widely defined as not having original content but instead pulling content in from other sources. Some do this through legitimate means, such as using RSS files with permission. Others may aggregate small amounts of content under fair use guidelines. Some simply “scrape” or copy content from other sites using automated means — hence the “scraper” nickname.
While I was very excited to see these plans from Google come to fruition (some pretty crappy content with stronger links outranking us for some queries we are targeting), I think most of the ecommerce community was/is completely oblivious to what’s going on…. Much less how it will affect them.
What Google’s Farmer Update Means to You!
This update is designed reduce rank for websites which have low quality content. Note the use of the term websites as opposed to web pages. This means those of you who have largely duplicate content, lousy, spammy or utter lack of content may have been skating by in the past on a few quality pages… and that is no more. These low quality content websites will/have had their organic rank for the entire site lowered. Logically speaking, this allows websites with quality content to rise above you… Including that one great page or section you have relied on in the past.
While plenty of low quality sites remain in Google’s search results, I don’t at all expect that they will stop here. Google has the one thing that any company needs to continue down this road…. Closely matching feedback of low quality sites collected from their users via the new Chrome browser extension to report spam. A blessing from your users is a very compelling reason to “keep up the good work”.
Avoiding the “Farmer’s” Wrath
- Your content is not duplicated anywhere on the web. So those manufacturers descriptions you copied and pasted are included in “low quality”.
- Enough targeted content (WORDS) on each page so that they are deemed unique from all of your other pages.
- Create “fresh” new content on a regular schedule…. FOREVER.
- Block Google and the other search engines from garbage pages like the shopping cart, login, contact form and conditions pages. (Why on earth would these be displayed in a search result?)
- Ensure that you are using a proper robots.txt and sitemap to help the search engines locate your”quality” content.
- Don’t buy links, create good content that people willingly want to link to for FREE.
- Use good and clean code to present your text. Proper paragraphs, avoid listing a bunch of keywords with a separator, use proper heading tags, short and targeted page titles and last but not least keep each page’s content topical for the page. Avoid site wide content expressions.
- Don’t spam in your alt and title tags.
- Don’t create spammy internal links to boost your own content from other pages.
- Create usable content. Content I CAN (not 20 paragraphs in one block with a 6px font size) and WANT to read.
The simple truth is, that it’s way to simple and easy to do these things. Nothing pleases me more than doing things I believe to be right and correct, being rewarded by a company like Google with the same belief. That old adage goes …
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
Seems very appropriate! I like it. get to work, fix these issues and start building the type of online store you can feel proud of and count on to represent and fund your business.