Google: Are You Really Serious About Removing Web Spam?

    February 3, 2011

Dear Google: First and foremost, my letter to you is not personal. I am a big fan of yours and always have been. You have the best search engine in the World, better than Bing. You have the best web email service. Your Google Docs product is amazing. Don’t even get me started on Google Earth or Google Maps, just unbelievable products. Your analytics product is excellent. Everybody loves Android. All you do is create and create and still give it all away for free. Your Adwords business model is even shared with other businesses so they too can make lots of money.

Obviously, you are a great company and despite what some believe, you are not evil. You are great for America and an asset to the World, in my opinion.

However, when you stated the other day that you are taking steps to make sure web pages from content farms don’t show up prominently in your search results it follows that you Google believe that content farmers and web spammers are bad for the Web, or at least your search engine. You said it was feedback from your users that convinced you to go after these bad content makers. So Google, if they are bad (evil?) or simply not good for the Internet then why Google are they still your partners?

It begs the question, if you are serious about making articles from content farms show up less in your top search results why don’t you just do it already?

Here’s what I suggest:

Step 1: Define what a content farm is. By the way, please also define what web spam is. I mean very specifically so that everyone knows what is and isn’t web spam. I think I understand what you are referring to, but I am not sure. I guess examples of sites that fit the various definitions of content farms, web spam and ‘mostly duplicate content’ … would be helpful. I would then suggest that you threaten them … again. That way the bad guys who are scared of you might just leave our Internet for a different one. Or, maybe they will change their behavior and start creating content that is not so bad. Right…. (sarcastic tone intended).

But at least the sites on the edge of this behavior would know that they are OK by you and that they will continue to show up high in search results. There is nothing worse than not knowing if your business is about to implode.

Step 2: Identify publically who the content farms are. Who are the companies? What sites do those companies own? Well, one company should be rather easy for you to identify Google because it has been widely referred to as a ‘content farm’ in thousands of news articles and is is about to go public. That of course is Demand Media. As I understand it, this would be the first content farm to go public and if they qualify as a content farm in your book, why not tell them and their potential new investors. They even stated in their IPO related filings that one thing that could hurt their prospects in the future is if Google took steps that would hurt their business such as giving them less prominence in the search engine or removing them as an Adsense partner.

I am asking you Google for the sake of the potential shareholders of Demand Media to simply tell us if content from eHow and Demand’s other sites is considered by you to be of "poor quality". After all, if Demand Media who has a staff of SEO experts and has scientific algorithms designed to create content that will rank high in search engines and who pays just a handful of dollars per article or video and who shows up in your results for medical results right next to the Mayo Clinic and WebMD … is not considered a content farm, then who is?

I have to believe that you believe they are the poster child of content farms. Obviously Google, the writers who produce content for article factories such as Demand Media are not doctors and have no expert basis from which to write such articles. Also, I am sure everyone would agree that all content from content farms is not bad. I recently watched a great YouTube video of theirs on how to make a cocktail. I really enjoyed it and learned something too. I don’t think that’s web spam at all. So the real problem is subject area right? If eHow has an article on changing your tire that’s probably OK, but if eHow has an article on brain surgery perhaps it shouldn’t be linked to at the top of your results, right?

Step 3: Stop partnering with known companies who produce what you define as low quality content or web spam. I assume this would include Demand Media and all major content farms since the term "content farm" was a major part of Matt Cutts anti-spam blog post. Why Google do you allow sites with low quality content as defined by you to be included in your Adsense Partner Program? Or maybe you don’t and I just don’t realize it.

Again, all of Demand’s content isn’t bad. In fact, my opinion is that most of it is pretty good. The problem is that Demand (and many others) pushed the envelope too hard with accepting expert style articles written by non-experts on subjects that one would expect an expert to write. Demand also SEO’s their articles so well that your Google search engine believes the articles are from experts. And because we users trust you Google we often assume that what we are clicking to from your top results is written by experts. 

Matt Cutts also mentioned that Google was making a change to its algorithm, "..that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content". Does this include which derives revenue from Google Adsense and openly hosts duplicate content and appears high in Google search results? I read their stuff and I like it, but Techcrunch articles are on and so are lot’s of other blogs. Are you against duplicate content or aren’t you? I really want to know. I personally don’t see the big deal, but it’s only fair that if you Google are going to penalize sites that host duplicate content you should do it for all sites, not just the scrapers. Also, does this include article submission sites that often have copies of articles that appeared on the submitters blogs? Most of these article sites are your Google Adsense partners as well.

My opinion Google is for you to consider ending your Adsense relationship with all content producers who don’t follow your search engine guidelines whether that means content farms, web spammers or sites that host "mostly duplicate content" even if they have a big web audience, look nice and professional and are a famous Internet brand.

Step 4: If all else fails I suggest Google that you give web spammers and content farmers a taste of the directory massacre technique you employed a couple of years ago. Remove from your index all links to content from sites you identify as produced by content farms, web spammers or are largely and predominently hosting copies of content from others. Yes, content farms in particular have some good content but possibly a little good content collateral damage is OK in order to get rid of all the bad stuff.

Removing all this bad content from your massive index Google will make the Internet a much better place for us all, won’t it?