I am sure that everyone reading this has had the same experience at some point when they have looked for something online.
The first sites that come back from Google, or any search engine for that matter, look promising on the results page. Then you go into the site and discover nothing more than links to other sites, ads and maybe some badly written articles. You are left wondering how on earth such a useless site got to number one on Google, before you head off to look for a site which might actually contain the information you need.
While the actual process which the Google search engine uses to rank sites is top secret there are some firms who have deliberately set out to do little more than fool Google into thinking that their site has the kind of information which could be interesting for users.
They do this through a process known as search engine optimization (SEO), which involves cramming in as many potentially valuable words and phrases as possible and building shady links to key pages. They then rely upon people who search for these same words stumbling upon the site and clicking on their ads.
The biggest firms like these, often known as content farms, make millions of dollars a year from advertising revenue and generally outsource their work to freelancers across the globe. Have a look at any internet freelancer site and you will see that there are people who will write low quality articles such as those used in these sites for as little as $1 each.
The time pressure which this system puts the freelancers under if they want to earn decent money also means that they often simply copy information from other sites or hastily put together articles which in essence say nothing or are riddled with grammatical errors. This means that the content farms fill their pages with articles which contain all the relevant words but often make no real sense to the human reader.
The good news is that Google has recently announced a change in the algorithms used to rank sites, and it is expected that the big losers will be those which have been designed not to give a good service to their readers but simply to hook people in and gain income from them.
The official word from Google is that the around 12% of search queries through their service should now be affected to be a significant degree. In these cases the top two or three ranked pages will have changed. The idea is that the top spots are now occupied by web sites which you can enter into and actually get some worth from.
Why not pay a little bit of attention the next you look for someone online and see whether you are getting back more results that suit you than you did before.