Google has said their spam “search and destroy” team led by Matt Cutts, one of the original Google search engine algorithm engineers from the company’s launch in the late 90’s, changes the way the engine ranks search results as many as 500 times a year. But almost never do I remember an algorithm change creating such havoc as the most recent one did in February.
In the latest algorithm change, Google hoped to protect high-quality, hand-written content sites that are well maintained and updated regularly, and crush so-called “content farms”, sites with low-quality articles and blog posts that are aggregated or closely spun from existing content on the web.
While webmasters and business owners all over the country are complaining that their traffic and placement in search engine results pages got whacked, I’ve got to say, I’m pretty pleased. Not only have none of my client’s sites been affected by the algorithm change (including my own), but this most recent change could actually be a boost to my business.
The reason is because of the product and service I provide. I’m a freelance writer and journalist, and I make my living off of providing websites with high-quality, well researched and well written original content for their blogs, article directories, wikis, and pages. The result is a boost in the client site’s overall SEO visibility, because Google and other search engines reward sites that are well written and regularly maintained.
But for as many happy clients as I have, there are just as many clients I missed out on because of low-grade, overseas SEO content writers who are willing to write a 500 word article for $6. Many businesses and webmasters started using this “follow the sun” strategy of outsourcing their web content to these “writers”, and probably thought they were getting a pretty great deal.
But it’s now clear a good deal is far from what they got. First of all, those writers can’t write or read English in any even remotely proper way, and they certainly aren’t American or know how to write for an American audience. Where their writing skills lack, they definitely don’t make up in an ability to research, analyse, or boast any shred of even basic journalistic knowledge or fortitude.
And then in the end, Google came down and whacked sites that buy this shoddy, content-mill produced work anyway. So, were those short-term cash savings worth it? When your site’s traffic gets cut in half because your website’s rankings fell from the top 2nd or 3rd spot for a particular keyword to about the 4th page down, I would think the answer is an unequivocal “NO.”
So it’s exciting for me and other colleagues I’m close to within my little freelance writing industry, because the latest algorithm change from Google has essentially become a legislated bill we’ve been lobbying for a year and a half now. Blog posts and articles from content mills are unreadable and useless for everyone except the site owner, up until now. And why not? When it comes to freedom of speech and the underlying mission of Google to deliver free and relevant information to everyone, where in that lies an argument that website owners should be guaranteed fat ad-driven paychecks?
I personally read a post on a LinkedIn discussion board where a freelance magazine veteran journalist of 30 years wrote on the verge of breakdown that she realises there’s no competing with content mills.
Well, I – and now it seems, Google – disagree. There will always be a need for high-quality, hand-written web content from small businesses and their webmasters for the reader and web searching consumer to enjoy. Google is a powerful ally to writers, consumers, small business owners, and webmasters collectively, not just a bot that we need to keep trying to outsmart.