The human cost of content-farm cleanup

Google's aggressive algorithm change guts traffic for many sites, prompts layoffs

The collective Internet cheered Google's recent efforts to improve search results by revising its algorithms to downgrade low-quality content produced by "content farms." And while initial reports mystifyingly show eHow to have escaped major damage, the Google change hurt other search engine-dependent publishers such as Associated Content,, and, according to SEO firm Sistrix. (Also see: New Google algorithm takes aim at content farms) In's case, so much so that founder and CEO Jason Calacanis on Monday announced he was laying off 10 percent of the company's staff, saying in an email to employees that "the Google changes have led to a significant dip in our traffic and revenue." Since only has 20 or so full-time employees, that means only two people are losing their jobs. Unless you believe Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson, who reports that mahalo "laid off 11 of its 20-to-25 member editorial staff and two developers yesterday," according to a former employee. Carlson adds that Calacanis puts the number of laid-off workers at six to seven. Sistrix has created a "Visibility Index" based on traffic on keywords, ranking and click-through rate on specific positions. Its "before and after" data show mahalo's search visibility dropping 84 percent since last week's change by Google, buttressing Calacanis's claim of a revenue drop. While mahalo made Sistrix's list of the "25 biggest losers" of the algorithm update, other sites lost even more search visibility. and each were down 93 percent, down 94 percent and down 90 percent. We can pretty much count on more layoffs in the farm sector.

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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