Saturday, February 26, 2011

Google tweaks search to punish 'low-quality' sites

Google has tweaked the formulas steering its Internet search engine to lower the rankings of what Google deems "low-quality" sites. That could be a veiled reference to such sites as Demand Media's, which critics call online "content farms" — that is, sites producing cheap, abundant, mostly useless content that ranks high in search results. Sites that produce original content or information that Google considers valuable are supposed to rank higher under the new system. The change affects about 12 percent, or nearly one in every eight, search requests in the U.S.
Google spent about a year trying to come up with a way to judge the quality of the content posted on the site. That focus could hurt Demand Media, which depends on search engines for about 41 percent of the traffic to its websites, with most of those referrals coming from Google. Demand Media, based in Santa Monica,CA., assigns roughly 13,000 freelance writers to produce stories about frequently searched topics and then sells ads alongside the content at its own websites, including and, and about 375 Internet other destinations operated by its partners. Articles range from the likes of "How to Tie Shoelaces" to "How to Bake a Potato" and more. Many of the ads appearing alongside those articles are sold by Google, which accounts for about one-fourth of Demand Media's revenue of $253 million last year. Demand Media said it doesn't consider itself a "content farm" or "content mill," but rather as a more responsive approach to addressing topics on people's minds.

Click on the title to read the full Associated Press story.

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