When Google's Matt Cutts recently posted on his personal blog about an algorithm update, many people took that to mean that this was geared at cracking down on content farms, as the phrase "content farms" had made an appearance in another post on the Google blog before that.
I wrote a post called "Is This Google Algorithm Change About Content Farms or Not?" making the case for why it didn't seem like the new change actually was for content farms. Things were complicated by Demand Media (the poster child for content farms) CEO Richard Rosenblatt saying that Google was not talking about his company when it was talking about content farms, so the fact that Demand's content didn't seem to be affected didn't really prove anything in any concrete way. Google's silence in response to direct questions about it didn't help either.
Well, that silence was apparently lifted. Barry Schwartz, writing for Search Engine Land says they talked to Cutts (presumably at the Farsight search event discussed yesterday). "After we spoke with Matt Cutts today, we learned that the new algorithm that went live last week is related to blocking low quality content scraper sites and not content farms."
Ok, can we put this matter to bed now? As it stands right now, Google has yet to take action on content farms in any significant way, as far as we can tell. But that doesn't mean it's not coming.
Words from Cutts at the event indicate the company will go after content farms in an algorithmic way, rather than any manual action. Yesterday Blekko announced that it had banned 20 content farm-type sites from its search results. Demand Media content was not immune there, and it could be making the company nervous. Cutts expressed praise for Blekko, and Bing's Harry Shum even said they're looking at Blekko and others when it comes to how search quality is being handled, though he said they and the industry as a whole is really looking at Google as the leader in how they handle it.
Blekko has a mechanism that lets users mark any search results as spam. I don't know how much stock to put into it (as a rumor is a rumor), but Danny Sullivan tweeted: "rumor: google to call new button next to results you want to remove 'DisLike'".