Google to Save the Innocents Hit by “Farmer Update”

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Google was under a lot of pressure to make an update that cast the “content mills” from its index. With the heavy pressure of the tech media community, spunky upstarts like Blekko calling the company out, and an acknowledgment from Google of an increase in spam on its index, the search engine giant had to act both quickly and effectively. Their most recent major algorithm change, known in the tech community as the “farmer update,” was released with bullet speed and did a great job at getting rid of a lot of spam – but at what cost?

In any war, some inncoents will be hurt, and that seems to include the war on spam. When the update went live, thousands of smaller sites lost some ranking, with some losing literally all SERP visibility. This was primarily seen in the blogging and ecommerce community, but the reach could be felt far and wide.

Google Fellow Amit Singhal stated that the company is aware of some fallout, and that “no algorithm is 100% accurate.” That isn’t an excuse or escape hatch, though. Rather, it’s Singhal’s way of saying that the company knows there’s more to work on, and that they are already plugging away, aiming on bringing the algorithm “close to 100%.” He has stated that engineers are already at work on those adjustments, building an extra “layer” on the foundation of the farmer algorithm.

While some rumors have stated that these alterations have already been made, Google has confirmed that any changes already present are minor (part of the “more than one alteration per day” that Google’s algorithm typically sees); the layer they are referring to is yet to come. In other words: “Innocents” hurt by this update will be thrown a floater in the near future!

[via Wired]

Rob D Young
Rob has been insatiably obsessed with Google, search engine technology, and the trends of the web-based world since he began life as a webmaster in 2002. His work as an SEO consultant since 2006, and subsequently to content writing for technology and internet-focused publications, has done nothing but fuel this passion.
Rob D Young

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  • Paul

    Phewf!! We got dented but need to clean up some things based on what we’ve seen with this update. Glad to see G is becoming more empathetic to the small guy.

  • Doubtful

    Don’t count on it.

  • Anonymous

    “an acknowledgment from Google of an increase in spam on its index”
    Matt Cutts has said repeatedly that Google has way less spam than ever. They have definitely not admitted this. They just said that Caffeine made bad content show up faster than before.

    “as the “farmer update,” was released with bullet speed”
    They were working on it for over a year. It’s not necessarily slow given the enormity of the update but I wouldn’t call that “bullet speed.”

    • While Cutts has defended Google’s progress, especially when compared to the early days of Google which somehow people were nostalgic for, he also admitted (paraphrasing) the decline in the quality of search results through the last few months of 2010.

      I’ll try to pull up a reference link when I have time to hunt it down.

      Bullet speed was a reference, of course, to how quickly they pushed the release from the time of the controversy. Chances are the cycle would have been very different without the “Blekko stir.” Also, keep in mind that all major algorithm changes are “in progress” for a long time, but that doesn’t mean their final appearance or priority-set are identical to what they were on the new “trunk” development.

  • Michael

    “empathetic to the small guy”?? what are you talking about?! we are a 100% eCommerce company and just got put out of business by all of this and I’m not exaggerating; we had one click overnight that cost $3.20; we quit advertising on facebook when our rates that started at 19 cents a click went up to a minimum of $1.50, Bing is too expensive; now we can’t afford the per click price on google and have zero visibility and we were spending at least $6000 per month with google, which is now almost zero, but I know that’s small potatoes, so we’re history; we’ve been in business almost 3 years and it just tanked completely

    • You honestly mean you didn’t have enough in reserve to keep the company running for more than a week?

      There will always be storms to be weathered. Yes, you need to _hold in there_ with this algorithm change, and it could even take weeks. I don’t know your story, but it seems to me that not having enough resources to endure even this short time window demonstrates poor planning or, at least, insufficient capital.

      That being said, it’s evident that small businesses are hurting from this, and every day of delay is both costly and difficult. Google is going to resolve things; that’s future tense, not present.

  • Jenny

    Got hit myself on this update. But I’m a one person show doing very well. Have lots in reserves, and did not overextend over the past few years, so I can weather the storm. While I hate being hit and actually being part of the collateral damage of this algo, I am happy about the quality goals. I feel I’ve got something to offer and am determined to keep going on strong.

    My biggest problem has been with scrapers and copycats and content thieves who’ve violated my copyright (yes I was naive, but thought all along that G would be taking care of those scrapers without issue). I was stunned the first few days and had it tough for a whole week. But this gave me the opportunity to reassess my site and spotted many ways to improve. So I’m dropping my goals to build out for now and instead of tightening up the ship. So all in all, I appreciate G’s noble goals and I wholeheartedly support their moves. I only wish they did it more “gently” to give us small business and mom and pop publishers some slack.

    I eagerly await all the new adjustments ahead!

  • JanetW

    I would like to see Google target the spam blogs and spam sites. Go ahead and look at crap sites like “retainerbrite (dot) net” It’s total CRAP and google makes it #1 when you search for that product name. Sheesh. That site, and sites like it, exist only for google adword clicks. Seems to me that google has a conflict of interest, and that a PERSON should look at some of these crap sites, not just an algorithm.

  • Good news to hear that search engine Giant Google is updated indexing algorithm but they should keep in mind one fact that if some one unable to deliver quality content but excellent in customer services must be considerable to Google.

  • Riddick

    Like it or not, google just put a major turn in the road for the web publishing industry. All the searches I’ve done indicate a major emphasis on authority. This by nature leaves MOST web publishers off #1 SERP, meaning death to organic search marketing. It seems to me that search is segmented, just like anything else. Instead of diminishing all search as one size fits all and, oh by the way, dramatically decreasing ad rev. for both publishers AND google, why didn’t they try segmenting their search index and offering it up based on the users focus.(e.g. Google Research, Google Commerce, Google Media etc.) That way all can play well in their respective sandboxes vs. kicking all but the highest authority out of the game. I’ll be interested to see googles earnings this quarter/year