Content farms were first on the block, as Google announced a few weeks ago it had tweaked its search algorithm to “provide better rankings for high-quality sites”. This meant moving content farms as far away from the first search page as possible, but it seems more legitimate sites, such as e-commerce vendors, have been unintentionally affected.
Google described a content farm as “low-quality sites: sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful”. But as Google’s update is thought to be affected significantly by user click data, e-commerce sites could find their search rankings suffering.
Google can track the length of time a user spends on a site, and tell how many people immediately hit the back button and go back to the search page, Adam Bunn, director of SEO at search marketing firm Greenlight, told SiliconRepublic. These are the kinds of actions that can, en masse, tell Google whether the site offers real user value.
While pushing content farms further back into the search results seems like a good thing, it seems clear the system is open to manipulation. It is also a reminder of how much power Google has when it chooses what to present when we “google” something, and the fact that few of us really understands how this process work.