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

    February 3, 2011
    Chris Crum

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