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Love them or hate them, content farms are a reality on today's web. Thanks to the strength of the search economy, savvy upstart publishers realized that there was money to be made mass-producing search engine-friendly content on the cheap.
But content farming's success may have been its downfall. As the SERPs filled up with articles of dubious value, search engines have fought back. Some went so far as to ban well-known content farms from their indexes.
Banning large, prominent sites is, for obvious reasons, a challenging proposition for Google. But it too has fought back hard against content farms using ts algorithm.
While the verdict is out as to whether it's changes are improving search quality on the world's largest search engine, it appears that some content farmers are adjusting their businesses.
Content farming may be a big business, but that doesn't mean that companies in the business of content farming are particularly well-liked.
The questionable quality of content produced by armies of authors paid to crank out search engine-friendly content has, not surprisingly, led Google to crack down on the content farmers.
But the internet is increasingly finding content from a new and perhaps even more controversial source: computers themselves.
Google's Panda update was designed to eliminate spam and content farm content, thus improving the quality of Google's index and SERPs.
Many sites caught in Panda's grip claim that they were unintended victims of the update, and have sought ways to recover.
Recently, Google has stepped up its effort to improve the quality of its SERPs. But despite its effort, which seems as concerted as it is genuine, one thing is clear: there's only so much that can be done.
Google can't uncover every paid link, and even after cracking down on content farms, there are those who think it hasn't done enough.
Blekko may not be a big player in the search space, but the upstart search engine is trying to make a name for itself by playing up its focus on eliminating web spam and content farms from its SERPs.
The company's timing couldn't have been better: Google is increasingly criticized over the quality of its search results, and many say the search market's 800 pound gorilla isn't doing enough to crack down on those who look to game it for profit.
As consumers, techies and the media trade some of their infatuation with Google for the latest crop of super-hot web upstarts like Facebook, the world's most dominant search engine is finding that more and more people are pointing out its flaws.
The quality of Google's SERPs have increasingly come under question, with some complaining that Google isn't doing enough to weed out web spam and low-quality content that ranks well but doesn't offer consumers much value. I am one of those who have been highly critical of Google's capabilities in these areas.
There can be little doubt that there's a market for content produced by so-called content farms. And that this is having an impact on the market for online content in general.
But are content farms sprouting profits that match the popularity of their business model? Perhaps not.
USA Today, like the majority of dailies in the United States, has a problem. Last year, its circulation suffered a significant drop, and it's now the number two daily after being surpassed by the Wall Street Journal.
So what's USA Today to do? Obviously, it needs to change. And a small change is coming in the form of a deal the newspaper has struck with Demand Media to provide 'Travel Tips by Demand Media' on USAToday.com.