Google's war on content farms begins with algorithm update

Google took a big step Thursday night towards dealing with the issue of content farms clogging results, changing its algorithms to weed out low-quality sites. The company said the changes would "noticeably impact" 11.8 percent of all queries, and could affect the rankings for a large number of websites, the company warned.

"We can't make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down," the company posted to its blog. "It is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that's exactly what this change does."

The Mountain View, Calif. company had earlier this month released an extension for the Chrome browser that allowed users to block certain websites. Google is compiling data from the sites users block, however it said this data was not used in creating the algorithm.

It's unknown what sites have been affected by the changes, as it's hard to tell whether or not the results really have changed. But at least one company that is thought to be the target of the changes -- Demand Media -- claimed that they had not seen a noticeable difference at all.

"It's impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term -- but at this point in time, we haven't seen a material net impact on our Content & Media business," Demand Media, Media and Operations chief, Larry Fitzgibbon wrote in a blog post responding to Google's changes.

Much of Demand Media's business is based around search queries, with article titles carefully crafted to match those queries. But detractors of the site and other "content farms" like it argue that the content is often written by people with little if any actual experience in the topic, or write them for the compensation they pay without any real consideration for quality.

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