It’s no secret that I read Michael Martinez’s blogs with interest, and his post titled “What Is a Content Farm?” inspired this post from me. His points about the lack of a formal definition are valid, but I want to add some practical advice for the poker webmaster.
From a practical standpoint, I don’t need to understand what anyone thinks a “content farm” is except for the search engine I’m optimizing for. Since Google is the target of choice here, we’re in luck, because Matt Cutts described content farms as “sites that publish shallow or low-quality content.”
What’s Shallow Content?
Google and their spokespeople didn’t go into any kind of detail about their opinions of what constitutes shallow content in this instance, but we can find clues in the leaked versions of their quality rating guidelines. We can also use a little common sense.
For one thing, if your page is about “poker,” and it’s only 250 words long, then that’s pretty shallow coverage. The broader the topic, the more words it takes to cover it with any depth. Following the standard advice of launching a lot of 500 word pages is yesterday’s bad advice, and it’s a great recipe for shallow content.
Can some people cover a broad topic well in 500 words?
Will that be considered the kind of deep, rich content that Google is likely to favor in the future?
My guess is that it won’t.
What’s an example?
Suppose you launch a page that targets the phrase “Circus Circus Casino and Poker Room.” And let’s further suppose that the only information you include on that page is the address and phone number for Circus Circus.
Does that sound like shallow content to you?
(It does to me.)
On the other hand, suppose someone else writes a page that’s 800 words long, and it includes the poker room hours, the number of tables, which games are spread, the limits, and how tough the competition is there.
Do you think that’s “deeper” content than the previous page? Do you think it deserves to rank better than the previous example page?
I think it is. I think Google will too.
Let’s take a third example. Suppose someone launched a page that included the same 800 word long editorially written content about the “Circus Circus Casino and Poker Room.” And suppose also that they gave users the ability to add user reviews to the page. And over the course of the last two years, 20 poker players have written reviews of the poker room that average about 50 words each.
Which of these three pages offers the deepest content? Which offers the shallowest content?
Another example would be a page on a subject that has a lot of words, but is short on specifics. I can easily write 1000 words about the history of Party Poker that doesn’t include any specific dates or any specific names of the people involved in running the company.
But if you launch a page that includes specifics, with a timeline of events and the names of all the company executives, do you think one of those pages qualifies as shallow versus deep?
What’s Low Quality Content?
Content quality is measured in degrees. Most spun content is low quality because the word choices are made at random by an algorithm, so they don’t fit together well. But some people are better at using spinning software than others, too, so one spun article can be higher in quality than another.
What about a page that offers trite or useless advice? Or generic information?
Or how about a page that’s nothing more than an advertisement for an online poker room, but touts itself as a “review” of that online poker room?
Is it possible for an algorithm to tell the difference?
Is well-written content always high-quality?
Is high-quality content always well-written?
How many human quality reviewers does Google employ?
How much data have they collected related to how satisfied users are with the search results that they see? Can they cross-index some of that data to get an idea of what content is a better-quality result than the content is poor quality?
For an artificial intelligence program, Google seems to do a pretty good job.