Over the last 6 months, there has been growing criticism of Google's efforts to make their search results as strong as possible. Despite the fact that they are the clear market leader with about 85% of search traffic, so much so that Bing has decided to scrape Google's results and use them in their search output (see my post called Bing scraping Google from last week), people still feel that Google needs to do more to attack web spam. And Google is listening. Matt Cutts has been put back in action and the Google anti-spam team is back together.
Google has tried to walk a fine line in their response to this recent criticism. On the one hand, they have the best search product around - and they know it. They are not bashful about pointing out how clean their results are. They are a metrics-driven company. And by all measures, their search results are more relevant and spam-free then they have ever been.
But in an effort to remain responsive, they are also launching new anti-spam countermeasures based on the feedback from the SEO community. See my blog post on this from last year and a few recent threads from Webmasterworld here and here.
Content farms are the current target
Google is announcing several changes to the core ranking algorithm aimed at removing content farms from the results. You can read more about it here and at the official Google blog Specifically, they are trying to remove (further) sites with scraped content and ensure that the original author of content is shown in the search results. This is not exactly how I would define a "content farm," but nobody asked me. Others have had the same reaction, wondering if the terms here should have been more specifically used. Of course, everyone is interested in where this will go in relation to Demand Media, the large content creation company that went public not too long ago. Interestingly, Demand Media claims they are on good terms with Google.
This change was clearly driven by SEO feedback
How many times have we seen a page with stolen content out-ranking the original publisher just because that page has more links to it? It has never seemed fair to me that very powerful sites like Digg and the New York Times get to rank with your content just because of who they are if they happen to digest your RSS feed. My guess is that this algo change will tweak the weights so that "appearing first" will carry more juice and outweigh inbound links if there is a joust.
Google also shared with us that several changes were made in 2010 toward this end. All in all, don't expect big changed in the search results as this hits a very small number of queries. In terms of our SEO reseller program, we expect zero impact as all of our content is 100% unique and only ever published once.