New Google algorithm takes aim at content farms

Search giant says change affects 12% of search results in U.S.

If what Google says is true, users will notice a bit less crappy content clogging up their search results, starting almost immediately. (Also see: Google vows renewed crackdown on content farms) The search giant on Thursday announced a change to its algorithms designed to "reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful." While Google isn't explicitly saying so, what they're really talking about are content farms, the web sites that pay low rates for writers to churn out a huge amount of articles and videos chosen primarily for their potential to float to the top of online searches. In other words, content farms produce content spam. We're looking at you, Demand Media, Associated Content and AOL. Here's part of the blog post from Google's Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal explaining the changes: Our goal is simple: to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible. This requires constant tuning of our algorithms, as new content—both good and bad—comes online all the time. Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries. Disclosure: I rounded up that 11.8 percent to 12 percent in the sub-headline because my SEO research shows that search algorithms favor whole numbers. Two can play this game.

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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