On Thursday, Google announced a major change to its search algorithm, designed to weed out shallow and low-quality content from its top search results. Content farms were seen by many as the target. Were they hit? Who was hit? Some figures are coming out.
If you were expecting these figures to show Demand Media’s eHow site to have been harmed — surprise! Two studies show eHow actually gained. I’m still crunching through some of the figures, but the biggest “content farm” type brand that seems to have suffered are Associated Content.
Sistrix’s Visibility Index Losers
Over at Sistrix, the company crunched through 1 million keywords that is says it has before and after placement data about. It then ranked these by a “visibility” index value that Sistrix created, which takes into account the number of keyword positions lost, specific ranking position and estimated clickthrough rate from those results.
Using an index makes some sense, because if you just rank by the percentage of keywords lost, you get some sites with relatively few ranking positions dominating the top “losers” list. Below, the domains that lost the most total visibility, according to Sistrix:
|Domain||Visibility Index Loss||SISTRIX (percentage loss)|
Note that the table above is slightly different than what you’ll find at the Sistrix site itself. I created the chart using a spreadsheet that Sistrix sent to me (more about that below), sorted by the same factor that Sistrix says it used for its own post. I’m checking on this.
Sistrix: Most Keyword Rankings Lost
Upon request, Sistrix will send people a full list of 331 domains that were found to have lost in its analysis. With Sistrix’s permission, here are the top 100 domains that suffered losses, sorted by total number of keyword positions lost. Also show is the percentage loss. For example, AssociatedContent.com was found to have 216,419 top rankings before the change, which dropped to 53,512 rankings after — a loss of 162,917, or 75%.
|Domain||Positions Lost||% Loss|
Look toward the end of the chart above, and you’ll see site Ubergizmo listed. However, in the comments below, Ubergizmo’s Hubert Nguyen suggests that Sistrix has it wrong. His site’s search related traffic has gone up since the change, and he’s posted a chart to back that up:
The data is from Google Webmaster Central. What could be happening is that Sistrix is right — Ubergizmo may have lost rankings — but it might also be better placed in some other searches where it has retained these but other sites have dropped.
Sistrix: Biggest Percentage Keyword Rankings Lost
Below, a top 25 list, this time sorting by the biggest percentage losses suffered, from the Sistrix list:
|Domain||Positions Lost||% Loss|
Sistrix: Demand Media & eHow Escape!
Interestingly, for an update that was targeted at content farms (in my view, nor am I alone in that view), Demand Media’s flagship eHow.com site doesn’t make the list. Over 300 other sites saw a “visibility index” drop worse than eHow. In fact, Sistrix says that eHow actually went up in visibility value (from 270 to 310) and increased the number of top rankings held, from 317,320 to 324,021.
A few of Demand Media’s other sites did see losses. AnswerBag.com and Trails.com just made the end of Sistrix’s top 25 visibility losers (in my chart using Sistrix’s data, they’d come in at 32 and 34, respectively. In terms of positions lost, LiveStrong was ranked 39th on a percentage basis but only 293 in total number lost. AnswerBag ranked 10th in total number lost, and Trails.com 16th. On a percentage basis, AnswerBag was way back at 158th while Trails.com was 27th.
Overall, I’d say Demand Media did well in this update, at least according to Sistrix’s data.
SEOBook On Losers…
Over at SEObook, Aaron Wall takes the Sistrix numbers above and tries to come up with a winners list. He’s come up with a list of sites that seem similar to eHow (which is run by Demand Media, and which is NOT in the Sistrix top ten above but which is considered by some to be a content farm). He then takes that list of sites to see which have had gains and losses in traffic. Top losses:
And sites with top traffic gains:
Keep in mind this isn’t comprehensive, not in the least. There could be — and probably are — sites that have gained much more from the update. But figuring that out is hard. Wall’s working as best he can within a “content farm” type category.
Dan Abbamont mined about 60,000 queries, if I understand correctly, and compared rankings on Google.com to Google.ca, which is Google Canada. His logic is that since the change is only working in the US, this will show a before-and-after look by using Google Canada.
I’m not sure this is correct. Google Canada will have geo-targeted results that will be different than Google.com. The ranking changes he’s seeing might be due to that. But here’s a summary of what he’s found:
- ezinearticles.com lost an average of 34 positions
- hubpages.com lost an average of 31 positions
- squidoo.com lost an average of 15 positions
- articlesbase.com lost an average of 29 positions
- buzzle.com lost an average of 30 positions
- associatedcontent.com lost an average of 22 positions
- suite101.com lost an average of 33 positions
Abbamont also provides his whole dataset for anyone to analyze as part of his post about the study.
And Winners (Including eHow)
The company also looked at those that had the most gains. The top ten:
BNET Gets Compete Traffic Stats
BNET worked with Compete to get before-and-after traffic data for a variety of selected sites. The summary:
- eHow: seems to be largely untouched
- Livestrong.com: had a drop
- Answerbag.com: had a drop
- Trails.com: continued an existing drop
- Examiner.com: continued an existing drop
- Helium.com: had a big drop
WSJ Gets Comments
Wondering what some of those sites listed above as being hit have to say? The Wall Street Journal has a nice article that did the rounds collecting comments. Some, like WiseGeek, confirmed a traffic drop. Others like Associated Content, said they are focusing on bringing more traffic to their articles directly rather than from Google. Google also said that if its YouTube site gained, that was “happenstance.”
More To Come
No doubt, there will be more dataset and studies to come. We’ll keep adding to them here, so this page serves as a type of clearinghouse list (there’s another one shaping up on Quora here). Also expect more analysis to come — please chime in with your own in the comments.
For more about the Farmer Update, see our other articles:
- Google Forecloses On Content Farms With “Farmer” Algorithm Update
- Google: We’ve Made No “Significant” Changes To The Farmer Update
Don’t forget that at Search Engine Land’s SMX West search marketing conference in San Jose March 8-10, we’ll have a number of sessions where this update as well as Google’s previous updates will be discussed, including:
- “Content Farms” Or The Smartest SEOs In the World?
- Social Signals & Search
- Ratings, Reviews & Reputation: Their Growing Impact On Search
- Ask The SEOs
- The Spam Police
- Ask The Search Engines (Matt Cutts from Google; Duane Forrester from Bing; Rich Skrenta from Blekko are all taking part)
This post has more about all these sessions: Google’s “Farmer Update” At Search Engine Land’s SMX West Conference.
- More Farmer Update Winners, Losers: Wikihow, Blippr & Yahoo Answers
- PPC Data On “Farmer” Shows Traffic Quality Improvement
- Your Site’s Traffic Has Plummeted Since Google’s Farmer/Panda Update. Now What?
Postscript: Google has since officially named this the “Panda” update, so our headline has changed to reflect that.