Today, DuckDuckGo has started "hard wiring" wikiHow as the first result on its search engine results pages for how-to queries.
wikiHow founder Jack Herrick (who also ran eHow before selling to Demand Media) tells WebProNews, "As you know, there is tons of buzz on the web about what Google's next step will be with tackling low quality content from content farms."
Earlier this week, Blekko announced it had banned sites that it views as spam. These included Demand Media properties like eHow and AnswerBag. "Months ago curated search engine DuckDuckGo.com had already removed eHow, all Demand Media properties, and other sites it considered spam content farms from its site," Herrick notes.
When asked exactly when DuckDuckGo shut down content farms, Founder Gabriel Weinberg tells WebProNews, "I'm not sure exactly, but it was a goal from day 1, and we were removing a lot of it from the get-go (launched sep 2008). As for demand media in particular, I'm guessing more like last July."
"The goal from the beginning was to remove useless sites," says Weinberg. "Made for AdSense (MFA) sites are in this category, i.e. sites with zero or very little content and lots of ads everywhere. These we try to ban algorithmically by detection via crawling the Web."
"Demand media is in a slightly different category of still lots of ads, but a bit more content," he adds. "The problem is the content is often of very poor quality. For sites like these, we've waited for user complaints. We received many complaints about eHow.com and then I launched into an investigation myself. Finding many (not all of course) of the pages to contain low quality content, it made sense to remove them in favor of better content."
"The fact that two nimble, curated search engines, DuckDuckGo and Blekko are making similar moves in the same week, may indicate a path that Google and Bing consider next," says Herrick. "If so, the web will be a very different place."
"wikiHow just hit 30 million unique monthly unique visitors," Herrick tells us. "We have grown 50% since December 2009 and doubled since June 2009. Especially impressive because we continue to be 100% bootstrap financed with only 9 employees."
"By contrast," he adds, "How-to Q&A site Mahalo has $21 MM in financing, 105 employees but only 12 MM unique visitors (source: CrunchBase and BusinessInsider). eHow (which I sold to Demand Media) is about 3x larger but relies on 13,000 paid freelancers to produce over 1 million articles per year. They also have larger financial resources as a publicly traded company with a $1.7 BN market cap."
To be clear, Herrick tells us, "There is no financial partnership, compensation, or even any contract between wikiHow and DuckDuckGo."
"I've never even met the founder. DuckDuckGo decided to do this solely because they are trying to increase the quality of search results for how-to content," he adds.
In case you are wondering how WikiHow's content stacks up against eHow, we talked with Herrick about that, and will explore it more in an upcoming article on WebProNews.