Should Bloggers Worry About Google's "Farmer" Algorithm Update?

With the fairly recent Google’s “Farmer” Algorithm Update multiple bloggers (affiliates in particular) became concerned (subject also brought up by Joe Sousa in his recent post here), and started wondering if they (as content producers) may be affected by it.

The short answer is: “No, as long as what you produce is unique and quality content.”

For more detailed explanations/commentary, I’ve contacted four established SEO experts and book authors, and would like to bring you their opinions in what follows:

Quality content that’s keyword rich, but written with users rather than search engines in mind will always triumph. Sure, search algorithms change, and will continue to do so. Rankings will change. But articles and blog entries will continue to be found and spidered. Following the basic guidelines always helps: frequent updates, links, tags, a decent CMS. Content is what powers the web, and that’s not gong to change any time soon.
Rebecca Lieb, Author of The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

If your blog can be viewed as featuring duplicate content, or mostly non-unique content, you should be worried. As that’s not the case for your average blogger, and is more relevant to spammy sites, I wouldn’t worry about it.
Gab Goldenberg, Author of The 7 Curiously Obvious Rules Advanced SEOs Rely On

What’ll happen to article based content search? In general, Google’s latest “content farm” algorithm change was manual (versus automated) and intended to penalize sites with what Google perceives as low quality content. I imagine, another way of looking at what Google is attempting to reduce or penalize is content that was solely created to rank in search-engines for purposes of some form of arbitrage. Either way I’d say that any content that is likely to be perceived as low quality is at risk of being pushed out of the SERP’s. For instance, if articles are poorly written and written specifically to rank on search-engines they are at risk. In addition, Google has always had specific rules about duplicate content – in this way, using article distribution as a primary strategy for building links was always shortsighted. So the moral of the story is to make sure that you are writing high quality, unique content and that it fits into a larger strategy to rank well on search-engines and ultimately provide the end user with value.

Is it just the article sites or are keyword content blogs in danger? As mentioned above, any content that is likely to be perceived as low quality is at risk of being pushed out of the SERP’s — this includes blogs that exist solely for the purpose of ranking well on search engines. I’d strongly advise to build a site around the content, encourage user generated content, interact with readers, hold contests, open social media accounts, leverage word of mouth and buzz marketing strategies, and build links as naturally as possible.
Kris Jones, Author of Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing

I personally don’t think blogs are in danger from the Google Panda/Farmer update if they have established a credible brand that engages its audience well. We know from Google that this is an algorithmic change and they are looking to de-emphasise “sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content

SEOs have naturally speculated about the signals which would enable Google to identify this type of site. For example a high proportion of ads above the fold. But Google have said this isn’t a signal. Instead I think its useful to turn it on its head and think about how Google can identify a site with quality content that engages its audience. Obvious signals of a quality engaging blog are a higher proportion of:

  • Original content (many Article sites posts are reposts from blogs and press releases
  • New backlinks compared to new articles
  • Comments
  • Social mentions via Twitter of Facebook
  • Bookmarking via Google Bookmarks/Toolbar
  • Brand name searches

All of these signals are features of an engaging brand, that’s what successful SEO is about in 2011, so if your blog has these features there’s not too much to worry about. But these features aren’t natural features of a retail site for instance, so it’s not clear how Google differentiates these type of sites — perhaps there is also some on-page analysis of the semantic markup and use of images.
Dave Chaffey, Author of E-Business and E-Commerce Management: Strategy, Implementation and Practice

Being a blogger myself I don’t view this Google’s update as any kind of immediate or even precedent type threat. If you have something to add to the above, I would, of course, love to hear your thoughts as well (please use the “Comments” area below for it).

13 thoughts on “Should Bloggers Worry About Google's "Farmer" Algorithm Update?”

  1. Geno,

    I’m watching to see if this is really a quality issue for Google or direct economic one. Do you see a qualitative difference in the SERP sites in high position from the ones eliminated by the Farmer Algorithm? I haven’t so far.

    I suspect the reason they rolled it out was the direct economic impact of sending users to results that prominently displayed AdSense ads. Some percentage of those users, clicked those ads and caused Google a charge. Maybe they just got tired of sending Chris a big fat check and wanted to trim it down a notch or two.

    As far as bloggers, I think you’re right that it shouldn’t do much. But, if you’re income is monetizing Google PPC, I’d be looking for other methods. Who knows if there is some directive from above to cut costs.

      1. My crass paranoia is always at work. Just estimate the dollar value of the clicks from those pages. It’s like Google was just giving the article sites position that almost certainly cost a major hunk of dollars. There are $30-$50 keywords out there where Google is splitting it with the content publisher even though they don’t allow them to direct traffic to the ad. And what were they getting in return? Some more pages mentioning high value PPC terms?

        I could understand them wanting more content with AdSense display ten years ago. But now? What are they getting for click? Little that they would get anyway. That same, or closely similar ad is sitting right on the SERP. No reason to pay them. Maybe the net result is “more relevant results”. I smell the CFO looking at the balance sheet.

  2. SO far on my sites I’ve only seen increases in rankings ~ I’m hoping that means I’m doing something right, or at least not doing something wrong LOL

    I know a few folks have said that they’ve seen drops that probably should not have, people with good and real content, and hopefully Google keeps tweaking things to achieve some balance.

  3. Hey Geno – I agree with your SEO experts. For bloggers that are focusing on creating original content and engagement with readers, I don’t think it should be a huge issue – as long as they aren’t engaged in any other SEO activities that could earn them Google’s ire (sketchy link building practices, etc.).

  4. I don’t know if any specific update should scare us but the fact that at any time Google COULD turn a knob or hit a key or click the mouse and change everything should make us at least thing when we are building sites.

    Google should always be looking for quality content. If someone focuses on quality I don’t think their site should ever be in danger.

    1. Joe, I agree with both of your above paragraphs. On the first one though: as long as we focus on people (and not SEs only), I believe, we’ll always win.

  5. Geno,

    A bit of a thought-provoking post for me, thank you for it.

    I don’t think there is much to worry about so long as the original content is there. The ranking on my posts has been pretty consistent so far, and I suspect they will hold for some time. I mean “consistent” as in older posts maintaining their rank and traffic, not as in my writing and publishing. 🙂

    Imagine the ruckus Google would start if they ever did make those changes. The blogosphere would erupt, it would be on the news, Google would try to stand in front of their motto to block it so that no one might think about it during interviews. It’d be a mess.

    Dogs and cats, living together…poof!

    1. Never gonna happen. It would defeat the whole idea of quality user experience towards which we are constantly moving with SEs improving. I have a regular opportunity to compare the quality of SERPs in Russia (SEs like Rambler and Yandex) to that in the US (on Google, Bing, Yahoo), and I must tell you: the Western World is light years ahead.

  6. Hey Geno,

    I think a lot of sites could be worried, but doesn’t it make sense really?

    If Google’s main focus is to offer value added websites to the search process I would expect that eliminating duplicate, poorly written content would be their focus.

    My sites have not been affected in fact it’s opening slots for the more quality content sites, which is good, but I have heard that a few quality sites have taken slight hits.

    I imagine this will be a process for Google, like anything else they’ll be tweaking this for awhile. Producing all good results, I hope 🙂

    1. I hope so too, Liz, and yes, you’re absolutely right in saying that logically this should be “opening slots for the more quality content sites”.

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