- Internet & the Web
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.