A Convenient Content Truth

    December 28, 2009

Big businesses with huge pageviews fueled by Google have emerged in recent years that exist only because of a unique SEO / Adwords relationship with Google. Google gives them a huge presence in the long tail SERPS and they in turn give Google increased revenue by being a Google Adsense partner. Not just any Adsense partner, but a Google partner that turns Google search generated traffic into billions of Adwords clicks totaling tens of billions of dollars. 

Demand Media, for instance, was created with this business model. Figure out what people are searching for, create somewhat unique content in bulk that matches the title tags and other keywords in the search terms, place Google ads all over this content and  voila … Demand Media’s eHow.com articles rank on the first page of Google search result for hundreds of thousand of searches. By the way, Demand Media is reportedly going to generate $200 million in revenue this year and may be worth a billion dollars in large part because of these Google Adwords clicks.

It is a fascinating business model; A content assembly line creates content specifically for Google searches and Google then pays millions for Google ads clicked on that content. Unfortunately, it does raise questions about whether Google has a conflict of interest in being both the main supplier of traffic and revenue for these bulk article sites while also earning substantial revenue for itself? After all, if these articles didn’t result high in Google searches this mass content production model wouldn’t work.

I have followed the SEO industry for years and our WebProNews reporters have interviewed countless Google product managers on the subject of ranking well in Google.  Google’s mantra has been for publishers to make quality content for their users and not for its search engine. Google’s position is that quality content will rise to the top of its SERPS. 

However, Google seems to be sending content creators a mixed message. Demand Media is creating as many as 5,000 articles and videos each day for the purposes of ranking in Google. If Google’s message is for publishers to create content for their readers, not just to rank in Google, then why is Demand Media’s content ranking so well in Google? 

The answer could be that for thousands of long tail searches, Demand Media’s content is quality enough. The vast majority of Google searches on any given day include a search term that will get less than a hundred searches a day. What content farms such as Demand Media do is provide articles and videos that are optimized for these rarely searched terms. The content is often mediocre, but it is unique and it has a title tag and other keywords that match these targeted searches. 

The problem as I see it is that while Google is highly ranking the content of these mass production publishers it also has a financial incentive to do so. Almost all content farms use Google Adwords for their revenue. So while Google on the one hand encourages publishers to make content for their readers and not just for search ranking, it is in partnership with sites that do just that. 

This should make publishers wonder about their business models. Should they spend thousands paying reporters and editors to create quality content for their users or should they simply create a content farm that pays little for bulk quantities of articles and videos but gets lots of Google love?  

I guess if you can make content for the purpose of ranking in searches … but make it targeted, unique and not horrible, then you might find that Google well reward you quite well.

Is this the future of online publishing?