As you probably know, Google recently completed some changes to their algorithm. The changes were supposed to punish websites with poor quality or scraped content and cause better written, more original material to rise to the top.
While Google didn’t specifically mention them, many bloggers and journalists commenting on the move have suggested that Demand Studio’s eHow was a primary target for the change, along with other so called content mills which work to produce articles cheaply, though not necessarily with a whole lot of authority or quality.
A Simple Test
Following a lead I saw on another website, The Atlantic Wire, I decided to test the theory that the new algorithm would push down some of the content sites and bring up some better quality material. However, unlike their test, I decided to use two extremely popular topics, “how to make friends in college” and “how to buy a house.”
The first one is something that the New York Times has mentioned repeatedly in their coverage of eHow as offering low quality information while the second one is commonly mentioned by other bloggers as an example of something eHow covers.
I used a proxy server to switch my IP address so that I was in the United States one minute and overseas the next. According to Atlantic Wire, the results should be different because the changes have so far only been implemented in this country.
For “How to Make Friends in College,” WikiHow took the first spot with eHow occupying the second and third spots on the US server. Not exactly inspiring if the idea was to put more independent, supposedly higher quality material in the first few spots.
The same search repeated overseas differed slightly, with eHow replaced by StevePlavlina.com in the second spot. Beyond that, I did notice that HubPages and Associated Content, both of which have also been criticized as being low quality content mills disappeared from the top ten.
The results of my second test topic, “How to Buy a House” were similar. WikiHow and eHow occupied the second and third spots on the list for the U.S. server (MichaelBlueJay.com occupied first place). Overseas, third place was taken by About.com with eHow moving to fifth place. The other two stayed where they were.
What it Means for You
Google changes their algorithm constantly, so what’s true today won’t be true in a month’s time. In fact, from the time when I did my initial research to the time I started working on writing this story (a matter of a few hours), I noticed a change, with About.com’s article on how to buy a house moving from 26th place to 6th place on the U.S. server.
However, if the official reports are to be believed, independent content should get a boost with the big content mills dropping further down. A quick look at the results did show that the bottom five results were offering more independent results, though really, I think that the change is being blown somewhat out of proportion.
The bottom line is, the fundamentals of SEO haven’t changed much. You still need high quality content and plenty of backlinks to move up in the rankings. Plus, ultimately, as people get frustrated with the content mills, even if they show up in top spots in the rankings, you can and should expect that people will seek out more independent content, which should bring you more traffic.