Big Content Farm Still Thriving After Google Algorithm Change

It’s been six weeks since Google flipped the switch on its new algorithm that’s supposed to push low-value content down the search-engine food chain in favor of more robust offerings. The move was hyped as a potential boon to established media sites producing original journalism, and a serious hit to content farms.

One of the biggest losers was supposed to be Demand Media, a Santa Monica-based firm that owns sites like eHow and Cracked.com, which themselves use algorithms to produce content with high advertising potential. The strategy’s worked. Since launching in 2006, Demand Media has grown to roughly $2 billion in value by producing a fire hose of self-help/how-to content, articles and videos like How to create a home first-aid kit, and Ideas for your kid’s boxed lunch.  In the first two weeks after Google’s algorithm switch, Demand Media, according to comScore, actually saw its traffic increase, from about 26 million weekly unique users to 27 million.

Maybe without Google’s change, that number would have been 30 million instead of 27 million. But in any case, the switch hasn’t exactly broken Demand’s back.

In the meantime, blog reader Rebecca Luzenski sends over this info-graphic care of OnlineMBA.com, demonstrating exactly how content farms like Demand Media make so much cash.

Demand Media Breaking the Bank
[Source: OnlineMBA.com]

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  1. GoogleMonopoly.eu says:

    What even worse than Google’s algorithm missing the massive eHow target is that many eHow “articles” are incomplete ripoffs.

    Paid eHow ‘writers’ are stealing images outright and content with little to no modification.

    Google needs to do what Blekko did and ban eHow. eHow’s website is filled with AdSense ads. Do you think Google will lower the gavel on them?

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  2. Todd says:

    Thanks for highlighting this ridiculous practice by Demand Media. The story is even more evil when you consider the following.

    Many authority sites with professional experts have lost ground to eHow after the Panda Update. My site was one of those such sites, http://www.homeconstructionimprovement.com . My site is written my myself, a seasoned expert in the home improvement and construction industry. Before the update I ranked very well for thousands of home improvement terms. Since the update I now almost always fall behind the spammers at eHow.

    Moreover, they are actually ‘mimicking’ many of the authority sites with their algorithms. My theory is they scan our sites and compile their list from our successes. Then they have the audacity to list our sites as a reference with a pathetic nofollow link that gives our sites ZERO linking credit with the search engines.

    They are doing this to hundreds and hundreds of my articles. Just to put things in perspective I’ve listed some of their sites below, each of them contain a nofollow link to my site and the content is basically a rewrite of mine so as to not be considered copying.

    So here we have Google telling everyone out there that they now have a much better system that reports the very best content. Such total BS….when is someone from Google going to admit this is all about money and they could care less about quality and little sites.

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    • Brian says:

      Todd:

      By linking to eHow’s sites from this site, you’ve increased those article’s reputation or PageRank.

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      • Todd says:

        Maybe so….but it’s worth looking at what those guys are doing…..am I the only person that sees what is going on here?

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      • googlemonopoly.eu says:

        As someone pointed out elsewhere, eHow uses javascript to dole out the outbound links and they are all NOFOLLOW.

        With eHow being a say $2 billion company, what do you think the ad revenue to Google is?

        Wasn’t eHow specifically named by Google’s Matt Cutts and others as the definition of why a search algorithm update was needed?

        How can Google call this search change a success considering the missed the biggest content yacht of them all?

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  3. Howard Tayler says:

    It’s possible that part of the algorithm change devalued ads running on eHow. More traffic is fine, but if the ads are all junk the “publisher” still gets hit in the wallet.

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  4. Jon Svendsen says:

    Todd, you’re falling victim to the ancient fallacy that if you’re getting crushed by competition your competitor must clearly be evil. I just visited your website, and it was very boring. Nothing of interest caught my eye, and hardly any question I might have appears to be readily answered.
    You must realize that the content farms capitalize on human behavior, not as they wish that it was, but how they know it to be through data analysis and research. They have found that
    i) People find content through search engines.
    ii) People are looking for answers to fairly specific questions.
    iii) People will prefer a crappy specific answer to sifting through vague content for excellent information.
    To your great benefit, the content farms are giving you the specific results of this research for free. They are, through their published articles, telling you what they think people want to know. If you, as a field expert, compete on quality in providing the content that is actually in demand, my guess is that both the surfing public and Google search would reward you to a greater extent.
    In short, if Google doesn’t recognize the quality of the work, it might be because it only recognizes quality as perceived by the consumer. Quality as perceived by the producer doesn’t enter into the equation.

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    • Kevin P. says:

      Well said, Jon.

      This whole infographic seems to be produced by someone in traditional media or journalism with a case of sour grapes.

      I have sometimes found eHow articles to be useful, answering the immediate question that I had. Yes, they won’t win any Pulitzers. Maybe they don’t care! I don’t care either.

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  5. Jake says:

    Working for an online retailer I get online competition. And these guys are good. The way to get into google rankings is to get links, they must have them. The people linking must think that the content is somehow relevant to their topic, and it probably is. They target low hanging fruit of the search engine world and that is fine.

    I believe that google’s update was to target content farms that duplicate someone else, taking one decent article and spinning using a thesaurus to get more articles and more targeted key words. since ehow publishes original content, one can not complain.

    Just my 2 cents.

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  6. Mike B says:

    Demand Media still produces content even if the content is pretty crappy most of the time. Google was targeting the providers of fake content lifted from Wikipedia or simply computer generated. Demand Media produces content that people might be interested in and Google helps people find it. Supply meets demand, simple as that.

    It’s the age of “good enough” replacing what used to be high quality and professional. People don’t need slick expert advice if cheap advice answers their question just like they don’t need a $50,000 camera when a $200 Flip will work just fine. The old media world can’t come to terms with the fact that there are an army of ants out there who will produce articles and videos for pocket change that actually manage to help people just as effectivly.

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    • Todd @ Home Construction & Improvement says:

      This will be my last comment on this thread. We are all entitled to our opinions on the matter. However, I think each of you has missed the mark of what is going on.

      1. Google specifically said they want to list the best quality content. Matt Cutts has said it so many times he sounds like a broken record. If I were to buy into your arguments then you’re saying that poorly written, often times inaccurate answers, while short and sweet are better quality than something written by an expert.

      2. Demand Media while not directly stealing people’s content is doing just about that. They scour the net for the real expert answers, then package them on their branded site, and claim all the profits.

      3. I guess those of us who actually write real, expert content probably should get out of the business if this is truly what most folks think. Then again I don’t believe that and time will be the final judge as Google may have finally showed a chink in their armor. Especially if the other search engines start providing better quality results.

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  7. X says:

    Seem ironic that OnlineMBA.com produced this infographic for SEO link bait, especially since the content isn’t even relevant to Top MBA programs.

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  8. Josh says:

    My god people stop whining! Look at what eHow is doing and copy it for your niche site, but with good content and you will outrank them with just a minimal amount of backlinking. I do it all the time; it’s not that hard.

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