The business of content farms like Demand Media is creating content in the form of articles and videos that search engines will crawl and feature prominently in the long tail of search results. Demand Media and all content farms' Achilles' heel is that much of their Internet traffic and revenue relies on Google. With Demand Media this is a subject that many investors are concerned about because they are about to launch their IPO.
What should be scary for Demand Media and content farms in general is the notion that Google could turn off or drastically turn down the traffic spigot at any moment. Over the years, all website owners held their collective breath upon every Google update of its algorithm, hoping their site would be favored. We have all heard stories of sites that have disappeared from the top Google results for their keywords or have even been removed from the index entirely. This happened to tens of thousands of harmless Internet directories a couple of years ago.
Could content farms be next? And what Google does the other search engines tend to follow, which makes content farms highly reliant on the good favor of Google. A very scary business model indeed!
Could Google possibly make changes to its algorithm that will slow down or even shut down content farm traffic? Well, Google answered this question with an affirmative just last month. At PubCon, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, said, "There is a debate going on internally at Google over whether they should consider content farms web spam." The key is how Google would determine what a content farm is. Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt says a lot of people think their content is auto-generated. "That's just wrong," he says.
So if it is not "auto-generated content," is it still a content farm?
Interestingly, there have been article submission sites around the Internet for years. The first email newsletter to power itself from article submissions was InternetDay back in 1997. Since then hundreds of article submission sites have launched with some becoming hugely successful companies such as EzineArticles.com.
In recent years there have been many other ventures launched based on the content farm strategy, such as AOL's Seed.com and Yahoo's Contributor Network. Barry Diller is also reported to be starting a new content farm called The Writers Network. With all of these big players in the content farm business it may be hard for Google to crack down. Also, since Google makes hundreds of millions of dollars on AdSense from content farms, does this protect them from losing Google traffic?
One thing is certain: the future of content farms depends on Google. What are your thoughts?