Google vows renewed crackdown on content farms

Search giant promises 'even stronger action' to reduce spammy results

Something tells me Demand Media won't be mentioning this during its IPO road show. Google engineer Matt Cutts on Friday posted on his blog that the search giant will be increasing its efforts to rid user results of "search spam" generated by aggregation sites, automated blogs and content farms. (Also see: Demand Media: Worst IPO of the year) Demand Media, of course, is the biggest content farm on the Internet, producing low-quality content ("How to Tie Your Shoes. Step One: Look down to see if you're wearing shoes. Step Two: If so, grasp each end of your shoelaces between your thumbs and index fingers. Use the thumb and index finger on your left hand for the lace end on the left, and the thumb and forefinger on your right hand for the lace end on the opposite side," etc.) that's SEO-gamed to show up near the top of Google search results. Apparently Google is hearing enough complaints about "search spam" that it's decided to redouble its efforts to clean up results. Cutts writes: January brought a spate of stories about Google’s search quality. ... [We] have seen a slight uptick of spam in recent months, and while we’ve already made progress, we have new efforts underway to continue to improve our search quality. ... As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content. We take pride in Google search and strive to make each and every search perfect. The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception. However, we can and should do better. I know there are readers out there who think I'm a Google-basher. I'm really not. I use Google almost exclusively for searches. I recently bought a Droid phone and like it much more than my old BlackBerry. I think the building Google recently bought in New York City is cool. (Google's attitude toward privacy, not so much.) Further, I have no doubt that the rank-and-file Googlers who work on products and services -- the designers, engineers, etc. -- are dedicated to doing the best job possible. I'm not that cynical. I don't hate on the local teller because Bank of America sucks. And I like how Matt Cutts acknowledges that Google isn't perfect. Keeping millions of users happy in a competitive environment such as the Internet can't be easy. Let's hope his team is able to better control search spam and to keep the content farms under control. Google provides a valuable service with its search, and having it diluted and polluted by spammy results makes life harder for users.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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