Google Fights Content Farms: Is HubPages a Target?

Google is cracking down on “content farms” and many people are curious(worried) if HubPages is on that hit list. Before content farms came into existence, Google was busy working on a way to fight webspam. Webspam are sites and pages that are irrelevant and “spammy”. Webspams try to rank high in search engine ranking positions by using aggressive SEO tactics and blackhat methods. They end up cluttering search results. Although webspam is still an issue, a new category called content farms have drawn much of Google's attention. Many people have expressed their dissatisfaction with recent search results and Google is taking action. I have personally noticed an increase in search frustrations. It used to take 2 or 3 clicks from the first page result to find what I'm looking for. Now I often find myself wading through 2 or 3 pages. How does this affect you and me? How does this affect HubPages?


What exactly is a content farm? Google haven't given us an official definition but wiki states it as, “...companies (or their divisions) that employ large numbers of (often freelance) writers to generate large amounts of textual content...”


Examples of Content Farms

Demand Media is the poster child of content farms. They own eHow, Livestrong, and Expert Village. They are the largest contributors of YouTube uploading 10k-20k videos per month. As a web surfer, to say they “contribute” to YouTube is not an accurate description. “Infect” is a much more fitting word. They infect YouTube with so many videos. It's almost impossible to avoid. They have built a reputation for not being “experts” in their eHow and Expert Village videos. These videos are the worst. They are usually 2-3 minutes long and they range anywhere from “How to do Parkour” to “How to do makeup”. Now, they wouldn't be as bad if they only appeared a few times but no. They literally infect the searches.


Expert Hell
Expert Hell

Welcome To Expert Hell

When I do a YouTube search, I pray they're relevant results that's not from expertvillage or eHow. Once you click on one video, forget it. You will be forever trapped in a big loop where 90% of the “Suggestions” are videos from Expert Village. I call this, “Expert Hell”. The formula for these videos makes them impossible to be high quality. Can you really learn how to punch faster by watching a 2 minute Expert Village video? Not to mention it takes 5 seconds for an introduction and another 5 seconds for the closing remarks. 10 seconds doesn't seem like much but when you take into account the whole video is 2 minutes long, that's 8.3% of the video! It has become a serious problem.


PROTIP: You can remove expertvillage videos from your search by using the minus(-) attribute. For example, typing “how to hit harder -expertvillage” will return results without expertvillage in them.


This solution brings more problems and questions. Why should I do more work for better search results? Can't I just block them? No. Blocking them will prevent them from contacting you. Their results will still show up on searches.


Hey! You With The Face. How Do You Breathe...?

As far as Google searches, type in “How to....” and you will surely see eHow or expertvillage more often than not. These articles clutter up search results. Demand Media uses an algorithm that analyzes search engine queries and then employs freelancers to write for these searches. Although some of their articles are plain stupid, it is justified because people are actually searching for garbage like, “how to breathe”. I'm not saying that Demand Media is spam but I am saying that I do notice that lots of eHow and expertvillage articles are ranked pretty high. Higher than they should be. The reason these articles are low quality is the nature of the business. The freelancer may or may not be an expert on the field. Demand Media is paying freelancers to write articles that are just good enough. Not great. We're talking articles written at a 5th grade reading level. Demand Media buys articles that meet search engine standards, not human standards. Sure, humans may be searching for these keywords but their format is focused on SEO. It has to rank on Google. Real people don't value SEO. Real people value wit, rhetorics, humor, puns.


Crowdsourcing

In many ways, HubPages may be considered a content farm but since Google haven't released their definition, let's look at wiki's definition in detail. Content farms basically use crowdsourcing to generate income. That's not surprising. Although HubPages is similar in some ways to Associated Content and Demand Media, it does have some important key differences. HubPages does NOT employ content writers. I have not received 1 penny from HubPages. The key difference is I own all of my content. Demand Media buys their content from freelancers. Yeah, I know you can earn residual income with eHow. I'll talk about that later. Lets dissect wiki's definition. Sure, we are considered content writers but we are not employed by HubPages. We are paid by Google, Amazon, eBay, and Kontera. HubPages get a cut of OUR pageviews. It's a fair trade. They host our content, they get a cut. The key difference is we OWN our content. HubPages have writing guidelines and rules but for the most part, I can pretty must say whatever I want. I can even say I hate HubPages. The fact is, HubPages gives users way more freedom than Demand Media. No one edits our hubs. We own our hubs so we are 100% responsible for it.


...And You Turn Yourself About...

Another key difference with HubPages is their views on “quality content”. You are constantly reminded by HubPages to post “quality content”. No spam, virus, hacking, and all that good stuff. If you write less than 500 words, it can easily be picked up by their internal algorithms or flagged as “low quality”. That's another thing about HubPages. Flags. HubPages have somewhat of a tight family. People are encouraged to participate, get along, do the hokey pokey, and sing “Kumbaya” together. Let's just say, that's not my cup of coffee. As a result of building this happy little family, people are more than willing to go “hub hopping” and hunt out spammy hubs. HubPages have mastered the art of crowdsourcing turning hubbers into janitors as they clean up their site for free. Good for them.


Another Shady Move...

The eHow community on the other hand will be non-existent as I type this. Demand Media has gotten rid of their accounts in favor of a “log in with Facebook” account. They've also removed their forums. You have a right to assembly? Demand Media says, “Ha.” I've been a member of eHow and written some articles before they were bought out by Demand Media. I was earning some residual income and when Demand Media made their purchase, I didn't opt into their new program. As a result, I continued to earn residual income from them. With the new Facebook account, I suspect my residual income will disappear. I have no interest in opening a Facebook account and it's a pretty shitty move on their part. You suck Demand Media!


Another thing that differs HubPages from Demand Media is their views on SEO. SEO on Demand Media is their focus. They need content writers that understand SEO. HubPages offers you tips on SEO but you don't need to learn it. If you are content on using HubPages as an outlet to write poems, so be it. It will still be published. No need to get it pass a copy editor.


Higher Quality

Owning your content(hubs) comes with satisfaction. It also means the content will inherently be of higher quality. Think about it. If your content has a chance to make you money via Adsense or Amazon, you'll want it to be the best content ever. You have more to gain from writing good content than mediocre content. It's like having a boss versus working for yourself. When you have a boss, you just want to get the work done and go home. If it was your business, you'd stay late working longer hours to improve the business. Writing for Demand Media is like writing for your boss. Get the job done and get a paycheck. Content writing for HubPages is like a partnership. If you do well, HubPages does well.


Final Thoughts

One of the main reasons Demand Media is considered a content farm is their loyalties. They cater their style to serve search engines rather than people. Rank high and get paid. Mediocre quality? Who cares. HubPages is focused on service. They serve us(content writers) with hosting. From there, we decide who we serve. Do we follow Demand Media and serve advertisers via Adsense? Do we serve Amazon? eBay? Most of us serve you, the reader, and benefit from our affiliates on the side. The key difference is we are in control of our content. And in a way, we are also in control of how we deliver our content, not HubPages. If and when Google takes action against content farms, I hope they read this and leave HubPages out of it. I don't believe HubPages is a content farm. They should not be a target.


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Comments 23 comments

jigg2009 profile image

jigg2009 5 years ago from Cracow

For me content farm is just a spammy website with some minor keyword stuffing with no value to human visitors. Is hubpages like that? I don't think so...


Singular Investor profile image

Singular Investor 5 years ago from Oxford

Good hub Alien - well thought out, I would just add that although there are good hubs on HP there are also a lot of hubs that are a waste of space i.e. very short and containing the same information I've seen dozens of time elsewhere - but hopefully HP will improve while eHow gets whacked by Google


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

Nice Hub. I am new at this and I am learning. Much rather write for myself and the enjoyment of others than write garbage to make a few pennies.


Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

Jigg, lots of people do that on HubPages. I can't cast the first stone but I'll plead the 5th on that note.

@ Singular Investor. Yes, I have seen lots of crappy hubs as well. I don't have a problem with them actually since they don't interfere with my natural searches. Crappy hubs rarely get ranked on Google but crappy eHow articles often rank well easily. That's the problem with these content farms. I'm with you. I hope eHow(Demand Media) gets slapped hard.

@ ColibriPhoto. I don't want to give an impression that it's easier or "better" to earn with HubPages. If you need cash fast, Demand Media is tempting but if residual income is what you're after, HubPages can be a good vessel. The thing is, I don't expect this article to make me money and that's okay. HubPages can be an excellent outlet to be creative and express myself. That's what I like. Ownership. Thanks for the great comments!


irclay profile image

irclay 5 years ago from Barbados, Canada

Interesting take! I guess you dont care for Demand Media Much. I think eHow, used to be authentic and very choosy. I had a video on travel refused and one accepted. Still trying to figure that out as the refused was in my mind much deeper and more instructive. I think they did not like the links (not self service, but how does ehow know how!). Hub is not a content farm. They have very tight rules on duplicate content and will take yr hub down if it does not comply. I mention this in my hub on content farms http://hubpages.com/hub/conteant-farms-bring-down-...

Good Hub Alien, passionate! I am folowing


Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

@ irclay,

Yeah, I hate DM. eHow used to be really cool and I had a plan to split my work with HubPages and eHow. Now, I am glad I didn't put too much time into eHow.

Your deep video was probably rejected because it was too "hard" to read. No offense. Their content is written at a 4th grade level. I mean, how dare you try to write intellectually! :) Thanks for the comment.


irclay profile image

irclay 5 years ago from Barbados, Canada

:-) ah! we must dumb it down to ehow, somehow!


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago

Interesting. Well done.


Gina Coole profile image

Gina Coole 5 years ago from London

This is excellent stuff - very timely as the new Google algorithm bites - Here's hoping you are right. well done!


Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

Thanks!

I hope I am right but initial impressions prove otherwise. This has been stirring lots of drama on the forums lately. Lets wait and see.


sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest

I agree. HubPages is not a content farm. I was hoping other people would agree. I can think of some other sites that may be affected by Google's algorithmic, but not HubPages. Keep up the good work, Hubbers. :-)


Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

If HubPages is considered a content farm, then what about YouTube? Ignoring the fact that Google owns YT of course. What about Blogger? Until we get an official definition, we are still in the dark.


sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest

The Blogger thing is a good example. Blogs in general provide low-quality content, with the exception maybe of product reviews (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Maybe Google plans to create a Content Farm section in their search engine, like they did with blogs. I can see huge differences between HubPages and other article submission sites, though, so I still think we're OK.


MyWebs profile image

MyWebs 5 years ago from Sheridan, WY

I agree with every distinction you make between content farms and hubpages. Especially this part:

"If it was your business, you'd stay late working longer hours to improve the business. Writing for Demand Media is like writing for your boss. Get the job done and get a paycheck. Content writing for HubPages is like a partnership. If you do well, HubPages does well."

We retain full ownership and control of our content which gives us the incentive to create a great resource for the reader. After publishing we can keep tweaking our hubs until they are even better or more up to date to further improve the quality as much as we like. With a content farm you neither have the ability or the incentive to do these things.


Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

thanks MyWebs!

You hit a home run. That's the essence of my hub. I have go back to wiki's definition: “...companies (or their divisions) that employ large numbers of (often freelance) writers to generate large amounts of textual content...”

The key word there is "employ." I've never gotten a cent from HP. Have you? Demand media is Monsanto. We are the organic farmers.

As an example to your last sentence, I will keep this hub updated with new information. We're still waiting for Google's definition.


TheHubKing profile image

TheHubKing 5 years ago from Philippines

Associated Content and Ehow are considered by most to be content farms. If we are to compare the content of the two just-mentioned sites to the content on Hubpages, I can't really see any major difference. So I think it would be unfair to call Associated Content, Ehow, and Demand Media as content farms and exclude Hubpages from the list.

Let us not forget that the main reason why Google tweaked its algorithms is because of the not so excellent quality of content coming from "content farms". It's not because they were written by large numbers of employed freelancers. It's because the content are just plain silly. If these large numbers of employed freelancers churned out thousands of articles of great quality, I don't think Google will be tweaking their algorithms at all.

Being a "content farm" shouldn't be a negative term at all but because of the low quality content coming from such content farms, it is now a term being equated to "bad, lousy, crappy".

As to the question: "Is Hubpages a content farm?" Honestly, I don't know. As you stated in this article, there is no acceptable definition yet and I agree. But if Associated Content, Demand Media and Ehow are content farms, then I think Hubpages is a content farm as well. Their contents are no different from each other regardless of the varying ways they were written.


Sun Pen 50 profile image

Sun Pen 50 5 years ago from Srilanka

I am a newbie, But I see that Google also has a business and if it cannot bring out search results to the satisfaction of the searcher then their position as No:1 search engine will be lost.

yes, Adroit Alien, You are right.. if the quality they deliver is affected by the content farms they have to worry. natural...

If searchers love the presence of two three pages from ehow at the top of a search page Google will encourage the farms like ehow.

I think hubbers have no reason to worry. Only very good hubs appear in the first page.

Thak you Adroit Alien, Lot of new information for me.


Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

You have a good point there TheHubKing.

Associated Content and Demand Media however, owns all their content. Hubpages don't own anything I write.

Also, since the definition hasn't been defined, we are all just speculating.

If we ask the question, "Is hubpages a content farm?" then naturally we should ask the same about Blogger and even YouTube.

Perhaps Google is leaving us is the dark on purpose in order to avoid these questions.

I have started using Bing search and so far the experience have been good. Although Google is still king, it can still become the next Yahoo!


Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

Sun Pen,

You're right and I want to elaborate a bit further. Bad hubs don't generally rank well on the SERPS while good hubs have a good chance of ranking well.

the difference between these eHow and Associated Content is that they are often very poor yet they rank very highly.

I don't think Google should drop the ban hammer on Hubpages.


Chanel the Writer 5 years ago

I used to be a Demand Studios writer. It churns out articles that people are not even looking for. With HubPages, you can write about the topics people are searching for. This is a win-win with Google.

I didn't know you had to write 500 words or more on HubPages. I'll have to watch that with my articles.


Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

I may have fibbed on the 500 words. I don't know the exact numbers but internal sensor will warn you if the content is too short.

500 words is what I consider short. Personally, I like to aim at and above 1k words.


ewd76 profile image

ewd76 5 years ago from Hanover, VA

I will have to remember that 500 word mark. My first few have been pretty short.


soni2006 profile image

soni2006 5 years ago from New Delhi, India

Hubpages is not a content farm at all. Thank you so much for writing this excellent hub.

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