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Article Farm Madness

Posted by on Feb 12, 2011

As some of you know, I need a new roof. This isn’t a brand new issue, as I’ve written about my roof issues in the past. However, trying to get through one more winter with what we have is proving problematic, and it finally hit me that maybe I could find some information online about a home improvement grant instead of trying to go the loan route.

Organic Farm
by Charles Harker

I popped the term “home improvement grant” into Google, hit the search button, and up came almost 2 million pages on the subject. This looked really good, because I figured somewhere in there I was going to find something. And you know what? I was wrong!

What comes up are a great number of articles on what’s called “article farms” talking about grants in general. There’s not a single bit of assistance. How many times do I want to read “if you need help in paying for home repairs you can apply for a government home improvement grant”? And yet, there’s no specific offers anywhere, no real assistance, no links to government agencies, no phone numbers, no names, nothing.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term “article farm”, this is what all those sites that pay writers almost no money to produce content for them are known as. Sites such as eHow,, Associated Content, Buzzle and the like are all article farms. Because of their structure and rules for length and the like, what they end up doing is creating mass amounts of content that gives sketchy help at best most of the time. You might get lucky, but you might end up getting a mash of information that’s contradictory or useless.

Who remembers when I was writing some articles for Demand Studios? I found that two of my biggest issues with them were their saying I was writing articles that had too much information and my not being allowed to give specific answers that I knew if I couldn’t find the information to link to. I mean, health care finance is my background and I have a lot of knowledge that’s just not written up online, but they didn’t care. So, the articles I ended up actually getting on the site, though accurate, were deficient if you ask me.

Google is the first search engine that’s stated their working on algorithms to decrease the effectiveness of article farms that produce low quality content. Although I believe it’s about time, I also wonder just how they’re going to be able to do it. I mean, what would separate an article farm with low content from a blog post that their algorithm might determine isn’t written all that well? As I approach 1,000 articles on this blog, I wonder if they’ll use number of pages as a determinant, and if so, how many pages would that be?

I will say this, however. The days of searching and finding exactly what you need immediately are probably gone. There’s just so much content on the net that if it’s hard for us as individuals to find what we need, how will search engines determine what we need? Nope, I don’t envy them one bit.

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Well, Mitch, I think this is a problem you folks in America have a lot, especially because not only you but also others target the American public, thus making the us search results skewed.

We all know (well at least me) that the articles on content farms are, like you said, about general topics that are only meant to be used for traffic generation or link building.

If the articles are used for link building, then you might find the answer on the website the article is promoting, but if the article is made just for revenue share, you will most likely find a piece of content that is filled with keywords and generally useless content.

I know that Google is trying hard to fix this mess, but I too wonder how can they pin point those articles that are practically SEO spam from those that are genuine. I think will just have to wait and see what Matt Cutts and Google’s engineers will come up next.

February 12th, 2011 | 11:05 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Alex, it’s not really only an American issue. Many of the writers are from other countries, and many searches people in other countries do pulls up this same information quite often. It will be interesting to see what happens from Google, that’s for sure; it might even help the rest of us move up some.

February 12th, 2011 | 8:07 PM
Jessica Sieghart:

I’ve never heard the term article farm, but I have seen what you’re talking about. Pages and pages of hits that all have the same wording. I thought Google penalized for duplicate content? I may be wrong. Oh, by the way, I broke the million mark on Alexa today 🙂 one goal down! Now I’m going for 900,000 🙂

February 12th, 2011 | 8:47 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Congrats Jessica! As to the other, it’s not quite duplicate content because they’re all original, to a degree, but none of them really say anything new. And that duplicate content penalty thing is a bit overblown, it seems. News sites copy content all the time, and if you put an article on a site like EzineArticles it comes with the implication that others can use your article for their purpose as long as they give you attribution.

February 13th, 2011 | 11:54 AM

You are right, Google representatives officially announce this twice from the beginning of the year. Honestly I hope they will be successful with new algorithm related to content farms. Generally “content farm” are unethical way to achieve rankings, mostly through auto blogging, the other way is content spinning and submitting to thousands of article directories, for the 2nd one, I see that algorithm is working already, but results still appears in “latest” and “blog” search results.

February 13th, 2011 | 1:40 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

It’s interesting when you think about it, Carl, and so many of us contribute to doing it without thinking about it.

February 13th, 2011 | 11:56 AM

A couple of years back syndicating articles used to have a lot of SEO benefit. As a result quite a few programs have been built that do this, just look on Clickbank.

This has been abused so much that many of the article directories that accept these types of submissions just dont have the same authority as they used to have.

Apart from Ezine Articles which by all account are tighlty controlled I rarely notice much at the top of Google nowadays from public subsmission web20 sites and article directories so Im surprised you picked up so much of the same content.

February 13th, 2011 | 3:11 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Pete, it’s possible that I put in relatively generic topics, but I’m pretty good when it comes to searching for information I need. Well, I guess I should say “finding” what I need instead of searching, because I’ll go through 300 pages or so to find what I’m looking for if need be.

February 13th, 2011 | 11:58 AM

If anybody can figure out a way to lower article farm rankings it would be Google. Google is continually modifying their search ranking algorithm to display quality content at the top.

Their algorithm has recently changed in the past few years from focusing on websites with SEO coding techniques (ie. meta tags) to focusing on quality, regularly updated content.

Hopefully this means that article farm websites with little focus on quality will lose out to people like us!

February 13th, 2011 | 3:30 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Keith, I think we’ll have our shot at it, but I’m not waiting around for Google. I’m just writing and writing and expecting that my sites will move up the ladder as new stuff shows up. Best I figure I can do. But it’s good that they’re trying.

February 13th, 2011 | 8:47 PM

Are you referring to article directories, Mitch? I use them for my article marketing efforts. Although I do choose the ones that really have tight rules and regulations regarding the articles that they approve. I am using as well as Funny that you should mention Buzzle though because they are quite strict about posting duplicate content and keyword spamming, as is ezinearticles. They are also good sources of backlinks for us, business owners, so I make sure I submit only my best articles.

– Wes –

February 14th, 2011 | 1:46 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

No Wes, I mean sites like I mentioned, eHow,, and other sites that pay people between $5 and $15 to write articles of a certain style that really don’t ever say all that much. Google doesn’t seem to have any issues with article directories.

February 14th, 2011 | 2:19 AM

Oh okay, Mitch. My bad. I guess that makes me an innocent when it comes to article farms, huh? It was your mentioning Buzzle though that made me think of article directories, because I do use that and I was kind of worried that I am submitting articles to a site with a bad reputation.

February 14th, 2011 | 9:00 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Wes, I don’t know all that much about Buzzle except that when I was doing my search the other day there were a couple of articles there that still didn’t tell me what I needed to know. I think article directories are kind of hit and miss. I mean, I’ve often wondered how some people believe a 300 word article will do them a lot of good in driving people back to their sites; it’s hard to actually say anything in only 300 words most of the time.

February 14th, 2011 | 9:25 PM

I’ve been there- you feel like you’re going in circles and never arriving at what you want…

February 14th, 2011 | 8:43 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Carolee, it was kind of horrible. So if Google actually can fix this issue, it’ll be a good thing.

February 14th, 2011 | 6:32 PM

I think there’s still a ton of opportunity for niche sites that give higher quailty information, but they’ll probably struggle against the article farms to win in SEO. I wrote a few articles for demand as well and almsot felt dirty for doing it because I wasn’t proud of the work I was doing, so I stopped.

Did you ever end up finding the information you were looking for?

February 14th, 2011 | 8:49 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

No I didn’t, Ryan, which was frustrating. I mean, I looked at over 300 links and visited many sites, and just couldn’t find what I was looking for.

February 14th, 2011 | 6:32 PM

Just the other day I was researching something or other and I noticed that several of the top articles that came up were so poorly written the author obviously did not speak English, some of the information was dated and in one case it was just absolutely wrong! Yet they came up at the top of the list. This is, I’m sure, the result of zillions of MMO people thinking they’ll get stinking rich by churning out dozens of crap articles a day as long as they’re good at SEO. From what I’ve read, Google is trying to throttle in that trend because of the detrimental effect these people are having on their search results.
A while back they were talking about a new “semantic algorithm” that could – supposedly – judge the quality of the writing. How they’d program a bot to do that I haven’t a clue, but I applaud their effort.

February 22nd, 2011 | 7:08 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Allan, I applaud their efforts as well. When I first started writing for other people I’d have a guy who would give me multiple topics and tell me how many times that particular phrase had to be in an article. That ended fairly quickly, not only because I was making little money but the articles looked and sounded moronic, but they were exactly what he wanted.

February 22nd, 2011 | 7:19 PM
Martin Fister:

I’m with you all the way on this Mitch, and I’m curious to see how Google tries to take on these sites. For people like me and you who work hard to build a wealth of content that digs deep into subjects (after all, your blog posts are probably the most thorough I see on the web!), I’m curious how google will differentiate between our sites and farms.

From Google’s posts on the subject, it sounds like they’re largely going to be hunting down duplicate content… which is interesting since I thought that was already a big factor for Google. Allan’s mention of a semantic algorithm sounds interesting, but I’m not sure how far away that is. What’s more, most of these articles are often a decent quality of writing, they just don’t actually TELL you anything.

March 9th, 2011 | 8:53 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Hi Martin. Google actually talked about duplicate content along time ago, and pretty much debunks what a lot of people have been saying about it. When you think about it, it made sense because many newspaper sites copy the same content from either Associated Press or Reuters and don’t get penalized for it. Those particular pages just don’t get ranked all that highly because it’s duplicate content. Your site might be different because it’s not necessarily an article farm, but he did go take a look and there was one link I clicked on for more information that took me to someone else’s blog I believe, and even that blog post didn’t have all the information, instead wanting me to click on a third link. I have to admit that’s kind of irksome, and I don’t know how Google respond to that kind of thing. Still, I’ll think you’ll be one of the early targets of something like this, if your site is ever a target at all.

March 9th, 2011 | 11:43 AM
Martin Fister:

Aye, that is something I’m going to have to work on. To try and compensate for a lack of a news section on the site, I’ve been trying to find a good way to pull news stories from other R&B sites. However, with this motion by google, I will probably axe that feature to cover my bases and just stick with the site’s core informational base.

Your point about the Associated Press is interesting and very true.

It’s all just interesting to see what happens. With Google being the decider on what content we see on the Internet, the decisions they make will affect all of us.

March 9th, 2011 | 11:55 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

You’re right Martin, but this is one time where I think Google has the correct idea about it all. Relevance is a big deal; I think overall your site will be fine as I said before.

March 9th, 2011 | 2:29 PM

Hi Mitch, sorry, I’m not a long time reader of your site, so I might not know a lot of what’s been going on in discussions on other posts to date, but I thought it was interesting seeing that a few of the comments here related to ezinearticles and how they had tight controls… hindsight is 20/20 and in the wake of the changes you were predicting in this post it’s interesting to see that EZA was one of the hardest hit (penalized?) sites. Why? Well, does anything Google does make absolute sense. There are more than a few people reporting they have been innocent casualties in this war on webspam, while some of the sites you’ve mentioned above – ehow/about – have flourished. Who can make sense of this!

March 9th, 2011 | 8:57 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

James, I don’t fully get it either. I hadn’t expected EzineArticles to get penalized, but once I thought about it I realized that there really are a bunch of lousy, barely 300 word articles on that site from people who either didn’t care or had someone else writing these things for them just for backlinks. If they’ve changed their standards for articles then it’s a good thing. I can honestly say that I don’t have a single article there that I wouldn’t have put on my blog or use in a newsletter, and as I think about it I think most of the articles there were newsletters except for the few I posted through the plugin. Overall I’m not sure how they’ll do it, but in the end I think it’ll even the score for some of the rest of us. At least I hope so.

March 10th, 2011 | 12:41 AM