Google, content farms and one slippery slope

Summary:How will Google's algorithm determine shallow and low quality content? We could quickly get into an algorithm as censor pickle. Are you willing to ride that slippery slope for better search results. Google is ready. I'm not so sure I am though.

Google acknowledged its critics who argue that search results are becoming more spam filled and declared war on content farms and "low-quality content." The move makes sense, but does set up for a slippery slope. Who exactly judges low quality?

In a blog post, Google's Matt Cutts said that the search giant has made great strides in the spam game, but the big kicker is this:

As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content. We take pride in Google search and strive to make each and every search perfect. The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception. However, we can and should do better.

The natural conclusion here is that Demand Media, a company largely based on search engine optimization, is screwed just in time for an IPO. Memo to investors: Read the risk factors in those regulatory filings where Demand Media is upfront about its Google risk. But Google's content farm war is also going to hurt Yahoo's Associated Content and potentially AOL's Seed effort, which assigns stories partially based on anticipated keyword success.

So what has me a bit antsy about this focus on "shallow or low-quality content"? Some of that shallow content has been useful every once in a while. For instance, something shallow like "rack & pinion steering" would probably get nuked. But to a novice that doesn't know a thing about rack and pinion steering---until it's about to blow of course---may find Demand Media's eHow semi useful (admittedly not nearly as useful as HowStuffWorks.com).

Now the Livestrong.com site, also owned by Demand Media, has been a useless stray link on damn near anything health related I've researched. So I'd give permission to Google to just kill that site.

See the slippery slope here?

How will Google's algorithm determine shallow and low quality content? Is it a three paragraph post? Would five paragraphs make the cut? You get the idea. We could quickly get into an algorithm as censor pickle. Are you willing to ride that slippery slope for better search results. Google is ready. I'm not so sure I am though.

Topics: Legal, Banking, Browser, Google

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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