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Last week, Google unveiled an algorithm update designed to ensure that its SERPs aren't dominated by low-quality content farms which specialize in producing rivers of search engine-friendly pages.

The rationale for this update is clear: faced with increasing public criticism over the quality of its SERPs, Google had to act.

And act it did. Early analyses of the Google 'Farmer' update show that some recognizable names whose content used to appear prominently on the first page of many Google SERPs have been knocked back.

German SEO solutions provider SISTRIX, which looked at its own historical data, determined that the 15 sites hurt the most by Google's update so far are:

  • wisegeek.com
  • ezinearticles.com
  • suite101.com
  • hubpages.com
  • buzzle.com
  • associatedcontent.com
  • freedownloadscenter.com
  • essortment.com
  • fixya.com
  • americantowns.com
  • lovetoknow.com
  • articlesbase.com
  • howtodothings.com
  • mahalo.com
  • business.com

Rounding out the top 25 are a number of other recognizable names, including articlesbase.com, merchantcircle.com, findarticles.com, examiner.com and answerbag.com.

According to SISTRIX, "the number of keywords these domains are ranking for dropped dramatically." Using Mahalo as an example, SISTRIX notes:

Looking at mahalo.com as an example, it went from 33,875 keywords before the update to just 9,740 keywords after the update went public – a decrease of more than 70%. These were keywords like “zealand air“ (3), “digg“ (8) or “tax check“ (4) where the domain fell out of the top 100 results.

It’s eye-catching that mahalo.com did not only lose more than 70% of their keywords – the remaining keywords are also ranking much worse than before. More than two third of all keywords for this domain could be found on result page 8, 9 and 10.

Other analyses seem to confirm this level of pain. Dan Abbamont says that, on average, ezinearticles.com dropped 34 spots, suite101.com dropped 33 spots and buzzle.com dropped 29 spots.

Obviously, it's still early and there will certainly be a lot more analysis of the impact of the Farmer update in the days and weeks to come, but given how hard some of the most prominent content farms have been hit, it would be surprising to see a sudden reversal of fortunes.

That's bad news for the content farmers whose crops have been uprooted by Google. Worth pointing out:

  • Yahoo purchased Associated Content less than a year ago for a reported sum of $90 to $100m. If Associated Content's drop makes it harder to keep freelance writers around, Yahoo may have another addition to its acquisition hall of shame.
  • Business.com, which was purchased several years ago for more than a quarter-billion dollars, was sold again this month to a company called Resource Nation. That timing looks horrible now.
  • Mahalo, whose SEO exploits have been discussed at some length in the past, has 'pivoted' more times in its relatively short life than an Olympic athlete, but one has to wonder if it will be able to survive the drop in ad revenue it will ostensibly see after Google's SERP smackdown.

Needless to say, the Farmer update will almost certainly force many of the companies most hurt to change, but it will also be interesting to see the effects it has on those that fear being ensnared in future Google algorithm updates designed to boost SERP quality.

After all, some content farms thus far appear to have escaped Google's wrath. Perhaps the most notable: Demand Media.

One thing is certain: Google is sending very strong messages about its willingness to clear up its index, and those who ignore these messages do so at their own peril.

Patricio Robles

Published 28 February, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2483 more posts from this author

Comments (18)

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Andy Headington

Andy Headington, CEO at Adido Limited

Interesting post on the farm update. Not surprising that the big content players have been heavily hit but from our initial results, it's not just the content sites whcih have been affected. There are several examples of sites randomly popping up on some big traffic phrases, so this update seems to extend slightly wider than they say (as usual).

If this is the sign of things to come (perhaps on the back of the blekko update? probably not) then its good to see Google actively changing the game to favour less spammy/low value sites. They've talked about it ALOT in the past but things might actually change alot going forward...

about 6 years ago


Rasmus Houlind

Also interesting - what will happen to the rankings for all the sites having invested heavily in for instance article marketing (articles posted to i.e. ezinearticles)? Will the backlinks from content farms be valued lower now - thus lowering the rank for the linked-to websites?

about 6 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

The principle is good, get better content to rank higher. Not sure the article sites should be hit in this way though, their mainly provide some good content.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this rolls out to the UK and how it might affect e-commerce sites reprinting manufacturer content on product pages.

about 6 years ago


Michiel Van Kets

well, Rasmus, that was of course also my first question; we do a lot of article marketing, I have access to some of my client's google analytics and webmasterstools, so I checked those we did a lot of articles for, but I can't see any drops ... but ok, let's check again next week ..



about 6 years ago



Yes, what Rasmus Houlind says makes sense, has anybody any info on this? A lot of these article sites hit were the top recommened sites to use. Have pages been actually removed from indexing or just dropped back in terms of ranking? Maybe this wont have a knock on effect, but it is a worrying thought.

''Business.com, which was purchased several years ago for more than a quarter-billion dollars, was sold again this month to a company called Resource Nation. That timing looks horrible now.''

any more info on this story?

about 6 years ago


Lake Erie Walleye Charter

I personally got hit pretty bad. I put a lot of my articles mostly on hubpages and they always ranked very well - even better than EZA. Then the bottom fell out for me.

As someone asked before - will the backlinks become less value? I'm assuming so...

about 6 years ago

Emily Hill

Emily Hill, CEO at Write My Site

A clean up of 'content spam' has been long overdue.

I run a content agency called Write My Site and we've always needed to be very picky about which sites to use for article marketing, as we don't want our clients' content sitting alongside a poorly written $2 article from India. It's also a big relief to have our position on the importance of original content vindicated!

What is unfortunate is the hit taken by Ezine Articles, which has been an undeserving casualty of this update - according to their CEO, their traffic plunged by 35% the day after the algorithm was tweaked. This seems unfair, as a) they already inspect all the content to make sure it's not spam, and b) eHow, which has much lower quality articles, seems to have benefitted from the change.
However, if Google can sort this out, the new algorithm could be a real watershed moment for better quality web content.

about 6 years ago


Overcome Social Anxiety

What about e-commerce sites? If you look at the pages of them - they are low content. Wasn't this the type of pages Google was going after?

Personally, I think it's unfair since people are trying to make an honest living through e-commerce. The ones to gain would be informational websites I guess...

about 6 years ago

Lee Robinson Petzer

Lee Robinson Petzer, Executive Director at Applied Technotopia

I think that this was a superb update and needed to clear up the results a bit. Call me a Google fanboy, but content farms dilute search results polluting their effectiveness.

about 6 years ago



Google has no original content itself. It copies our titles and descriptions and then arrages them on their pages. Talk about duplicate content, this is the mother load. Yet Google still ranks itself as a PR10. How many times have you declined to make Google your homepage, but they keep asking every time you go there. They are no longer using sitemap.xml content to drive their indexing. I went in to check out my pages today and found a bunch of junk that didn't work because google wast throwing in parameters at random. Google needs to be gone.

over 5 years ago


Don Parker

I am new to the internet, but it seams like big brother can do just about any thing they want too. Don't think that is vary fair.

over 5 years ago



Not like i'm innocent but if you break it down take a look at article marketing. You have companies that take an article - spin the crap out of it - and keep filling space on the net; all for backlinks. There has to be a better way - but until then I will keep playing the game.

over 5 years ago


Bill Watkins

Thank you Google . Its about time. Change is good.content farms dilute search results polluting their effectiveness.A clean up was long overdue.It makes me happy to see Google actively changing the game to favour less spammy sites.

over 5 years ago



Good about time, I was tried of being out-ranked by an Ezine article that has been spun and makes no sense.

over 5 years ago



The long term impact of these changes on organic rankings appears to be a shift toward sites that engage people and generate certain user behavior statistics. Although the content must display a basic knowledge of the topic, the quality of the writing itself has become increasingly important.

over 5 years ago



I don't know whether it's just me or if perhaps everyone else
experiencing issues with your site. It seems like some of the written text in your posts are running off
the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them as well?

This might be a problem with my internet browser because I've had this happen previously. Appreciate it

over 4 years ago



Hey There. Encontrei sua página busca com o Yahoo. Este é um artigo extremamente bem escritos.
Eu vou ter a certeza de marcá-la e voltar a ler mais de suas informações úteis.
Obrigado por compartilhar isso. I, absolutamente voltar.

about 4 years ago



Eu estava procurando informações sobre amorosa e encontrou
o seu web.

about 4 years ago

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