You might not know the phrase “content farm” but you’ll certainly have unwittingly visited one, as part of your quest for digital information. During a search, you will have ended up at a site that has you scratching your head in puzzlement because it simply repeats a few very basic pieces of information in slightly different sentences. It won’t tell you anything you didn’t already know … but it will present some attractive click-through “opportunities” in case you’d like to read even more of this sort of drivel. It’s content that makes the more established “knowledge” sites like about.com and Yahoo! Answers look erudite in the extreme.
It’s click-thrus where the money is being made: pick a hot topic, write a few pages of nonsense about it, get it online fast, post enough referring sites to give your main landing page a front-page ranking in Google search results, and kerching.
And for Google, this is driving with the brakes on. That’s why they have already started trying to weed out the content farms from search rankings, in a move described by Reuters as aiming to fend-off the New Search Wars.
This is a good thing – because the insidious rise of non-content search results on Google reminds me of the BG times – Before Google. Then, internet search was a frustrating, hit and miss affair. My favorites from those days were AltaVista combined with the aggregated results from Copernicus – but then came Google, with search results so great that it changed my search experience overnight – and kept me locked in for more than a decade.
Despite diversification, search is still Google’s cash cow – which is all the more reason why it needs to stamp out content farms. I’d like to see Google introduce a “flag this site” function where frustrated search users can highlight dubious search results that will blow the whistle on sites that told them absolutely nothing.
Meanwhile, my workaround has been to give Bing a try – with surprisingly good results. Not only have side-by-side searches yielded fewer content farms, but also Bing’s site allows a mouse-over preview of the contents, saving me the click. No doubt if Bing were to command a greater share of search, then the farmers would target these results more – but for now, grab ‘em while they’re relatively pure.