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What If Content From One Company Dominated Google’s Search Results?

Demand Media Plans to Grow

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Demand Media continues to capture a great deal of attention after launching an IPO, and Google talking about algorithm changes. If you’ve been reading WebProNews lately, we’ve discussed it quite a bit, and our readers have had plenty to say as well. You can browse recent coverage (and comments) here

The question still remains: will Google continue to allow Demand Media content from sites like eHow to dominate its search results? Keep in mind, Demand Media will continue to grow massively and rapidly. 

Should Demand Media content appear at the top of Google’s search results as often as it does? Comment here.

According to the company’s pre-IPO SEC filing, search, social media, mobile computing, and targeted monetization will continue to be growth catalysts for Demand Media’s business, and as of the end of 
November, Demand’s owned and operated sites comprised the 17th largest web property in the U.S., attracting over 105 million unique visitors with over 679 million page views globally.

"Our wholly-owned content library, consisting of approximately 3 million articles and approximately 200,000 videos as of December 15, 2010, forms the foundation of our growing and recurring revenue base," the document says, citing comScore data.

"We intend to specifically target high-value vertical market segments, expand partnerships with brands and leading publishers and increase the scope of our relationships with our current Registrar customers," it later says of the company’s growth strategy. 

Also, "We believe our model is scalable and readily transferrable to international markets. We intend to capitalize on the growing breadth of skills of our freelance creator community and the versatility of our long-lived content that can often transcend geographies and cultures to target certain foreign, including non-English speaking, countries."

All of this supports one fact, if nothing else – Demand Media is going to keep cranking out an increasing amount of content.

An IPO Roadshow document from the company suggests that they put out six or seven thousand articles a day (emphasis on suggest, they don’t give a concrete number). Let’s say they put out 7,000 articles in a single day. Multiply that by 365 and you get 2,555,000 articles a year. So Add that to the approximately 3 million existing articles, and that’s potentially 5,555,000 articles in Google’s index by this time next year. In ten years, you’re looking at 28,550,000. And that’s if they don’t grow, which is clearly the plan – to grow a lot. 

Sidenote: "We’re creating quality content at scale,’ CEO Richard Rosenblatt said in the document. "We don’t, today, do news." At SXSW last year, he said that what Demand does isn’t journalism, but from the sound of it, news isn’t out of the question for the future. That’s interesting in itself. 

So, what is the limit to the number of eHow articles Google will place among its top search results? Many queries already return more than just one eHow article (and that’s just eHow. They have other sites.). ehow itself already has countless articles on the same topics, covering just about every possible way to phrase a query.

For example, if you search eHow for "how to fix car scratch" you will get pages and pages of search results – only results from ehow.com. Now the search starts returning other results after a while, and there are some legitimate variations in the mix – specific things like "how to fix Car Scratches on a Black Grand Am GT" or "How to Repair Interior Car Door Scratches". But there are many that are not so different (granted some are videos):

"How to fix a scratch on a car"
"How to fix car scratches"
"How to repair car scratches"
"How to Repair Minor Car Scratches"
"How to fix a minor car scratch"
"How to fix a minor scratch on your car"
"How to repair car paint chips and scratches"
"How to fix a car scratch"
"How to Fix Car Scratches/chips"
"How to Safely Remove Fine Scratches from Your Car’s Paint"
"How to Fix Scratches On Your Car"
"How to Fix Scratches on Your Car or Truck"
"DIY Car Scratch Repair"
"How to fix a car scratch with paint"
"How to repair a scratch on a car’s bodywork"
"How to Fix a Minor Scratch on Your Car: Car Maintenance"
"How to Fix Car Scratches and Dents"
"How to Repair Scratches & Dents on a Car"
"How to fix Auto Paint Scratches"
"How to Remove Scratches on a Car"
"How to Repair Car Body Scratches"
"How to Fix a Scratch on Car Body: Auto Detailing"
"How to Repair Auto Paint Scratches"
"How to Fix Scratches on Car Paint"

That’s a few examples from the first five (out of many) pages of results.

eHow Car Scratch articles - made to search

Optimization by saturation perhaps? While Demand uses algorithms to determine what content to assign its writers, the message appears to be: if you can’t figure out the perfect key phrase to optimize for, keep cranking out articles until you cover all of them.

CEO Richard Rosenblatt recently told Peter Kafka at AllThingsD, "We help them [Google] fill the gaps in their index, where they don’t have quality content…" As I noted before, it would appear that they’re going a lot further than filling in the gaps, but who can blame them? If it works, then why not? 

It is up to Google, however, to determine what it thinks is quality content, and Google’s Matt Cutt says the webspam team is shifting to a focus on content farms. What is still unclear is whether or not Google considers huge AdSense partner Demand Media a content farm (although a Google search for the phrase "content farm" would appear to suggest that it does, based on the fact that nearly every result on the first page talks about Demand Media). 

Another thing for Google to consider is: at this rate of content creation, how long before a site like eHow is simply a competitor to Google? If this content is going to dominate the search results, why not just go to eHow instead of Google, if these results truly are the best for the queries, as their rankings would seem to indicate?

Granted, there are some word combinations you can use for fixing your car’s paint that won’t return eHow results, so Demand has clearly not gotten the better of Google on every query…yet. But there are plenty that do. Are all of these articles written by the experts in the auto body repair field? What do you think? 

Demand Media is simply following a business model that’s working. The ball is in Google’s court as far as how well they’re going to let it continue to work.

Does Google want content from one company dominating so many of its search results? New Google competitor Blekko doesn’t. That’s why it banned eHow and other content farms

Are you happy with the current state of Google results? Share your thoughts

What If Content From One Company Dominated Google’s Search Results?
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  • Guest

    apparently Demand Media’s is dominating it now, evenso some of the content it brings up is questionable. Google perhaps shall need to revamp it’s ranking system, need a more detailed crawler, could be a difficult task ahead for them. We want quality and if it comes from the same place so be it, but the fact of the matter is that it does not all come from the same place. I say go Google and see if you can make that engine a lot more precise.

    • Chris Crum

      It is no doubt a difficult problem. Bing even says it’s looking to Google to lead the way on the solution.

  • Guest

    “Content farm”? “Spam farm” is more like it. “Quality content”? Absolute drivel. Not one “article” with worthwhile information among their 3 million pages. As bad as Wikipedia and YahooAnswers. Meanwhile, Google continues to bury or outright exclude untold thousands of sites with valuable, well-researched content.

    • http://www.littletravellers.com Guest

      Totaly agree…

    • Chris Crum

      I wouldn’t say that there are no quality articles among their 3 million pages, but I would also argue that there is plenty of quality content on Wikipedia too. That doesn’t necessarily mean this content should rank above more authoritative content.

  • http://www.littletravellers.com Alex

    I think it is nonsence that one company can and does occupied many places on the 1st page. The information on ehow can be useful but one domain should be able to apear only once max twice.

    But ehow are not the only once. For example hotels.com. and expedia are the same company they have the same content yet they are able to hog 1st page between them as well as expedia has domain variations like .com, .co.uk, .ie etc and they are also on the first page so in principal no other company has a change getting anywhere close to the 1st page.

  • http://www.treeworld.info Eric Frei

    Some of the greatest concerns with these farms is the content being written by authors who really have little idea of the subject. They can simply scan a few other sites and then write a piece. Authority of the existing TLD is passed onto new content as is links etc which bolster an artificial importance for SERP’s.

    By creating mega farms, even Wikipedia falls into that category, the domination continues and when Google is attempting to match the enquiry to a site it fails as some-one searching for a vehicle respray doesn’t care about the encyclopaedic facts but the location and price. Google may have to offer more refined results and allow the user to determine if they are after a business/service or information.

    • Chris Crum

      Blekko is jumping in in the refined results department.

  • http://www.artwales.biz artwales

    It is very unfortunate the path Google is towing. I really do not understand why this is happening. Take the case of “search within results” that was yanked off unceremoniously despite public outcry. Well, i guess it has its good sides, at least now i’ve found antleap.com and yandex.com. Google, you just lost me!

  • Guest

    I never use Google search because it presents its paying clients ahead of, probably more relevant content. A search product, that is FREE, and provides better results is Web Ferret. The only draw back is that because of browser changes, Internet Explorer is the only browser it can place a search bar into; however, the application can be called upon without a browser being opened.

    • Chris Crum

      In a piece I wrote the other day, I cited an example where the paid results were arguably more relevant than even the organic results (which were dominated by content farms).

  • http://www.debtsolution-strategies.com carddebtguy

    Many of Ehow articles are nothing more than shallow teaser articles, with very little information IMHO. If they are ranking well in google, it’s because they have learned how to “game” google’s ranking algo – probably by inter-linking the content within their own network of articles and websites.

  • http://str82u.co Str82u

    Google and the web spam team have done this before, more than once, where content farms and link farms are concerned. I don’t know how they will do it, but it doesn’t seem hard to imagine that Googlebot will add 2+2+2+2 together that 8 pages are about the same subject, pick one and just drop the rest. That’s fair.

    If I had eight pages saying basically the same thing eight ways, I know what is going to happen to at least 6 of those pages and I’d be lucky if I get one page out of 3 different 8 page subjects (one page in 24) might make it to page one of a SERP. Really, I got that in my soul now, so the real trick has been writing for people and just do the best you can to present the best content for each subject or keyphrase that you can. With that believe in mind, if I could crank out that many articles that fast, You’d have STR82U in this page’s URL, right?

    What about all those poor authors who can turn out such well SEO’d articles naturally but are giving it away to Demand Media? The day that they decide they have enough articles to last forever, they will quit accepting submissions and un “employ” a lot of people just before the company itself turns into a stone turkey. That’s happened before too hasn’t it?

  • Guest

    Sounds like you really just don’t like the quantity coming from one entity. It wouldn’t matter what the quality level really is, would it? You are really objecting to their ability to publish material and have Google add it to SERPs. Why. If it answers the search… why do you care who the publisher is?

    • Chris Crum

      It’s about saturation, and most people seem to agree that the quality is often not there. If one blogger who is an expert in his field and has spent 20 years in said field writes a post about something in that field that happens to answer the question for which the searcher is looking, it’s entirely possible that this quality piece of content by the expert that’s not cranking out thousands of articles a day could get buried among the content farm stuff.

      • Chris Crum

        I should add that I do acknowledge that it’s possible that the quality will increase over time. It may have to. If Demand uses some of its expansion to actually get real experts in each niche it covers, to write the bulk of the content that is relevant to the niche that they are an expert in, quality certainly could improve.

  • Guest

    The fact that Google posts content at all is a testimony to their profit strategy. They are very good at what they do. They rank content so as to avoid posting web sites of companies that are otherwise forced to pay for Adwords exposure. They intentionally make SEO so hard and so unreliable that businesses are forced to bid for adword positions. They USE content to meet the search demands in a way that encourages paid click-throughs. If they don’t get the click throughs on the Adwords ads, they get click throughs on the embedded Adsense ads on the pages of “content” in their organic listings. Why are you complaining? Use it. There is no purity to be found. If Google stops ranking content and switches to web sites. everyone will just go back to buying domains. A search engine must deliver something? This or that.

    • Chris Crum

      I don’t think anyone’s suggesting Google stop ranking content.

  • http://www.jumbocdinvestments.net/ ChrisCD

    And who deems them an expert? How Can Google know for various searches who the true expert is? Should they develop an “online resume”? Whether you are twenty or forty, you could still crank out terrible content. Whether you’ve been writing for two years or ten years, you could still turn out terrible content.

    If an autobody specialist wants to crank out articles on repairing scratches he will have to define himself as an expert. He will do that through his content and citations of his content.

    Part of the problem is the articles that are ranking are ones that don’t get a lot of people trying to establish authority. Demand Media just churns out so many that they are able to make a pretty penny off of them. But, it would certainly seem that if someone wrote higher quality content and had the authority to back it up, it would in fact rank above Demand Media’s (or anyone elses content).

    I’m not sure exactly where Demand Media’s articles get the authority other than from Demand Media’s itself. But it certainly seems Google could make some changes to the Algo and lesson some signals for cites that basically feed themselves.

  • http://www.dirtyweekendshop.com.au DirtyWeekend

    I have the same issue with shopping comparison sites that dominate the top results for any products searched for, even if none of their retailers are selling the product (that’s the bit that really annoys me) .. they seem to get away with the dynamically produced spam text or an image with a name but no link, no retailer and no information AND they get to number one with it ??? At least demand media is producing content to get to the top.

  • Guest

    I do a lot of work in the automotive maintenance business, and their “how to” pages dominate a lot of search terms. They often hire unprofessional and uninformed “mechanics” and “detailers” to produce their brief articles and videos.

    Just look at the comments on this YT video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1BGodMg_OM

    There’s example after example of this.

    Fortunately, Demand Media publishes from only a few domains, so it’s relatively easy for Google to punish and devalue their content (as they did to CitySearch two years ago).

  • Adam

    Often I find better results from bing and yahoo these days – google is stuffed with seo content – real content is lost on deep pages

  • http://www.tablecontrol.com Restaurant Reservation Diary

    There are many huge brands throughout history that have over estimated their dominance and failed to deliver what the consumer wants, eventually to pay the price if you dont deliver and this will be no different for Google.

    If Google’s search results favor poor quality or repetative content from eHow then consumers will go elsewhere. Google has to remeber where they came from, it was a couple of geeks sitting in a garage that created the mighty search dominating Google and right now there is another couple of geeks somewhere looking over their shoulder saying “I think we can do this better”.

    Consumer demand will dictate how Google treats manipulated content from the likes of Demand Media.

    • http://www.treeworld.info EricFrei

      “Google has to remeber where they came from, it was a couple of geeks sitting in a garage that created the mighty search dominating Google and right now there is another couple of geeks somewhere looking over their shoulder saying “I think we can do this better”.”

      Now the couple of new geeks need to take on a conglomerate of over 20,000 employees most of who are elite in their field. I doubt they have the capital or resources to compete on the scale required.

      There are certain factors that are very hard to write algorithms to resolve. To see a problem using the human mind and convert that into an automated program is extremely hard. In one instance MR X buys 1000 domain names and creates his own link network. How will an automated process detect who owns all the sites? If an automated program does detect it then how will it know when the sites are in many family members names etc? How will the program know the difference between legitimate functional sites and content farms?

      We can as reasoning humans make the call but a program finds it much harder. I’m sure the techs of Google know of these issues and are working on them, but there has been hand vetting before however it is unreasonable to expect that as a viable long term solution.

  • http://www.contrendindonesia.com/ Medianya Orang Selayar

    My web rank 1on google

  • http://www.macoway.com Macoway Advertising

    Search Engines Must keep their criteria of sorting results. Changing it too often will bring a lot of misunderstanding.

  • http://freelancewritingnet.com OnlineWritingExpert

    This debate seems to be ongoing but as long as Google has an established relationship that is mutually beneficial, not much is going to change. Demand Studios is the flavor of the month for now, but who will be next? At the end of the day, quality plays a minor role as opposed to quantity when it comes to ranking. A few strategically placed keywords i.e. acceptable density will do wonders for your rankings and the absolute relevance of the content becomes less important.

  • http://newgenerationtechnique.blogspot.com/ Techmaker

    Within last few months when I searched on Google, it shows me top ranked pages with very poor content. Sometimes they show me pages only consist of Topic and ads. So I think it is better to shift in t an other search engine rather than doing the same mistake again and again. Anyway I made my first blog 4 month ago. I am trying to increase more traffic to my blog these days. If you have free time visit there and give me your recommendation to improve it.

  • http://www.loveforeverhandbags.com David

    I did a search on how to fix a car scratch after reading the article saying google favors ehow, but after 3 pages only one article for ehow came up. I think people shouldnt worry about it.

  • Guest

    I have become annoyed at the crap being returned on queries from Google and are switching away from it. Many of the results seem to be for people that are not matching my querie, and often have little to do with it. It just makes the real target of my search more obscure, when it often should be in the first few listings.

  • http://www.statestechnologylabs.com dapro

    It seems no matter what is going on with Google’s Search Results strategies quality focused content on your website, quality back links from websites with better page rank than your own, and social media implementation accomplishes better website visibility

  • http://www.hedgehogdigital.co.uk/ SEO Bedford

    Way to go Blekko for banning content farms. It is simply not fair for us real content creators to compete with these content farms. While the hire masses of third country writers that work for peanuts and write hundreds low quality article each week with the single intention to dominate search results. We that write content for our targeted audience simply can’t compete with that.

  • Guest

    I agree that Demand Media sites are little more than content mines and add little value. Articles on eHow are more often than not very superficial and badly researched with little authenticated referencing. There are far better sources of information on the web and Google is not serving specialty niche publishers or the public by allowing sheer masses of information to be so strongly weighted in its search results. It also makes a mockery of Google’s extensive ‘level playing field’ advocacy. I for one completely ignore eHow search results and move on to lower ranked resources.

  • Adsense Publisher

    What I want to know is where is the article about Google slowly but surely taking over it’s own organic results? It’s not content farms that we all have to worry about, it’s Google.

    Google is going to come out with so many products and such that they feel compelled to display it within it’s own organic results. It’s more of Google trying to tell us what we want instead of asking us.

    I don’t mind that I can type a query into Google and then decide, ok let’s look at only video results, or only Google maps for the same query. That’s innovation, but to show me the same query within the organic results for Google maps or youtube, or even Google books is ridiculous.

    Google is dominating it’s own search results and it’s about time the Justice Department did something about it.

  • http://www.cystovarian.com/ Leo

    Maybe google realize and seen from their statistics that many people who search first on google then get results from ehow and other same demand media sites. And on next day when the people search again for certain words they may just go directly to ehow site and type into their search box the keyword they searching instead of going to google search.

    This could become a threat to search engines when one demand media sites become popular to people like wikipedia, ehow and others. Because maybe next time when people seeking for information they want ,they could just go directly to demand media sites and search there the solution to their information needed. In this case google and other search engines loses some potential visitors. If google is wise they should make the people dependent on their searching power instead of going to other demand media site company.

  • Spamophobe

    I AM SOOOOOO SICK OF SPAM SITES WITH THEIR ‘CONTENT FARMING’ (SPAM. THERE IS NO OTHER WORD FOR ‘ARTICLE’ SITES. THEY ARE FULL OF GENERIC, INCOMPLETE, USELESS COMMON SENSE IFORMATION. AND KEYWORD STUFFING. BLERG!)Google – lately, my search results becoming harder than ever to find useful results. Use bounce and other factors more see howmany readers are actually using the sites through you massive use of googleanalytics etc… It is not so much pagerank, these days. Gaming search is all too easy, and I need results from now, not some forum with slightly related topic frm 2001 that has high ‘googlejuice’. Stop focusing on big names and brands and slimy spam houses… And focus on results.

    Google spam team: Users go where the results are; and lately they are becoming much less relevant to me through your search engine. I am finding better results sometimes with smaller search engines and niche ones. The generic search (Google) has become banal and is providing generic, useless results in more cases than the past (From my observations, this is not statistically proven or researched by me – Just relaying perosnal experience.)

    I sincerely hope that you put a lot of focus on reducing the masses of duplication also, especially amongst these content farms that are written by SEO people and copywriters rather than by real, interested people, and specialists – etc.

    The internet is first and foremost about the spread of information. I hope it stays that way, rather than more and more so about consumerism and retail.

    Sometimes when I search for something: I DON’T WANT TO BUY IT, JUST LEARN ABOUT IT. Sick of whats seem to be every SERP having Amazon links and eHow articles and very little truly relevant.

    Thanks, Generic Internet User.

  • http://lalitkumar.net Lalit Kumar SEO

    Let me put this straight then where are sites where you get info rich articles that give right ful insights to searchers…No there are not every article site whether they get submissions from expert are SEOd to divert traffic to their sites. Now since it was not scalable they never became demand media. What demand media does is palying with a loophole that Google algo has. Anything that is not caught by google anti-spam team is legal & relevant.
    No major site in www has provided articles that is info rich for readers. Every other site has UGC that is created to target particulr keyphrase. Its google to be blamed not demand media, tommorow you might find other you does the same if not demand media. Content farming is there since the emergence of search engines. Previously it was scattered now it is lead by demand media.
    Google cannot sit back with its age old page rank technology and think they are masters of search. they should innovate & improve their search engine’s quality.
    Moreover DO NOT FORGET EVERY RESULT IN GOOGLE FOR COMPETITOR KEYWORDS is DOMINATED by content which is SEOd by people like us. So google is not smart the way it is potrayed. It shows results what SEOrs like us want to show them.

    Cheers,
    Lalit Kumar
    Ten Years in Online Marketing

  • http://www.brancosolutions.com.au Rodrigo Branco Matsumoto

    In my opinion the bottom line of all is exactly how to determine what sort of articles have quality content. Difficult to image the HOW.

    Great post.

  • http://www.vacuumspot.com.au Alec nelson

    I have written a few articles for the purposes of SEo in my time but I write my best and longest stuff on my own websites. Really e-how have no rewards for writing a quality piece but rather they encourage many pieces which in my mind come at the cost of quality. I have had a look at articles relevant to my field and I wish I could use some on my site but a good 95% are overly generalized and under researched rubbish. I really hope that it doesn’t start to overpopulate the top results because that will just mean more trawling for quality like 1o years ago.

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