farm food
1150 days ago
 

Big travel sites hit by Google content farming clearout

A string of well known travel brands – including Uptake and Travelpod – have fallen foul of a crackdown by Google on what it calls “low-quality sites” or “sites that are just not very useful”.

The search giant announced – in a widely expected blog post – last week that it was making “big algorithmic improvements” to its ranking system, effectively punishing sites known unfavourably by many as content farms – in other words: those lacking a whole lot of original material.

farm food

Google says it wants to provide better rankings for “high quality sites – sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”.

Sensibly, Google has steered clear of naming and shaming sites it expected to be hit by such a change in its search algorithm (only in the US so far) – leaving it to the system to calculate and others to work it out.

Search company Sistrix worked on one million keywords before and after the update, ranking them by a search visibility index covering the number of keyword positions lost.

Search Engine Land asked Sistrix to provide details of a further 100 domains that suffered losses. The data is arranged by total number of keyword positions lost and the percentage lost.

With AssociatedContent.com topping the list (162,917 positions lost, around 75%), the travel brands featured include:

  • Trails – 29,835 positions lost, around 78%
  • Travelpod – 28,513, 68%
  • Uptake – 19,655, 58%
  • MyTravelGuide – 13,340, 69%
  • Destination360 – 11,167, 76%
  • Travelpost – 9,412, 75%

Clearly any site with such dramatic reductions in page rank will be searching around for some quick answers – and a change in strategy given that Google is seemingly cracking down in quite a dramatic way.

Some, however, may well see themselves as simply victims of their own service – such as those that aggregate reviews from around the web into a single platform, such as Uptake.

Either way, Google’s crackdown will no doubt be welcomed by those that have worked to build a presence in search based on original content or exclusive user generated content.

However, general manager and founder at TripAdvisor-owned Travelpod, Luc Lévesque, says he is surprised to have been on the receiving end of such a “drastic update”. He adds:

“TravelPod has millions of great travel stories, photos and videos collected since 1997 from our travel bloggers. Over the past few years, thanks to site improvements and an overall redesign our membership and content has been growing faster than ever before, and we are still getting millions of visitors per month.

“I can’t see how this benefits Google’s users to send less traffic to sites with as much rich & unique content as we have.   I can only assume it is a mistake, and that future tweaks to their algorithm will correct for it.”

Travelpost declined to discuss the matter.

Uptake CEO Yen Lee says the company has no plans to change its strategy, but admits Google’s move has hit the site. He says:

“Not sure what their methodology was, but no changes expected in our strategy. Farmer has had an impact but we more than doubling in size y/y as we have diversified our consumer channels and improved our product quality.”

 
 
Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.

He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.

 

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  1. Hey, It COULD Happen, Right? | nerd's eye view

    [...] The Google re-ranking mentioned in the FAQ is real. Travel was hit hard. [...]

     
  2. joseph spencer

    Hope this will affect also the travel industry websites in order to promote even more the good user relevance.

     
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  5. A rough guide to the dangerous world of travel content farms | Tnooz

    [...] We’re focused on travel today so let’s look at a site like TravelPod, which was highlighted as being one the major travel companies affected by Google’s change. [...]

     
  6. Sam Daams

    My personal feeling is this update hits pages on sites, rather than a degrading for the whole domain. So if you host x pages where a large chunk of the content on those pages is already published elsewhere (your own site included), those pages might get devalued. So if your site is re-using hotel descriptions/reviews, and adding in ‘uniqueness’ on those pages by tapping into snippets of other content hosted elsewhere (your own site included), those pages might trigger this. It also feels like the percentage of ad space on the page might matter (not strange given scrapers/content farms often have a high percentage of real estate going to that).

    I expect real unique content just got a lot more valuable, and a whole bunch of startups are going to go unfunded/close up shop.

    Just my own initial guesses; don’t bet your business on them :)

     
  7. Sam Daams

    My personal feeling is this update hits pages on sites, rather than a degrading for the whole domain. So if you host x pages where a large chunk of the content on those pages is already published elsewhere (your own site included), those pages might get devalued. So if your site is re-using hotel descriptions/reviews, and adding in ‘uniqueness’ on those pages by tapping into snippets of other content hosted elsewhere (your own site included), those pages might trigger this. It also feels like the percentage of ad space on the page might matter (not strange given scrapers/content farms often have a high percentage of real estate going to that).

    I expect real unique content just got a lot more valuable, and a whole bunch of startups are going to go unfunded/close up shop.

    Just my own initial guesses; don’t bet your business on them :)

     
  8. Brian

    In terms of About.com Travel:

    I manage, work with, and give constant editorial feedback, advice, and support to nearly 70 professional, well-established, industry-recognized travel writers who collectively are anything but a “content farm.” They’re called Guides when they don their About.com cap, but most all of them are also freelance travel writers with impressive bodies of work published elsewhere.

    Our Travel Guides go through a highly competitive hiring process, their credentials are considered and scrutinized, and once they’re actually hired, they are expected to produce high-quality content that’ll reflect positively both on the company as well as themselves. When Guides are not publishing content that meets our standards, they are replaced (after being given even more editorial recommendations and advice for getting things turned around).

    We are not eHow, and we are not Demand Media; volume does not always equal low quality, as with us and as with others.

    I’m proud of the hard work my Travel Guides put into their sites on a daily basis and am lucky to work with so many talented writers. We provide a valuable service to our readers: I can’t tell you how many hundreds of emails our Guides get that thank them for their help and praise their recommendations.

    In the end, I think the long-term results of any changes Google makes to its algorithm–and they do this regularly–will recognize the efforts of those sites and writers publishing with a constant eye towards quality.

    Speaking as a blogger for Perceptive Travel, yes, that one is seriously puzzling–I think corrections are still coming.

    Brian Spencer
    About.com Travel Editor
    Perceptive Travel Blogger

     
  9. Stuart

    Well, about time! What jumped out at me and was mentioned on Rwitter is perceptivetravel being on that list as it most certainly isn’t a content farm. Not sure if that suggests a flaw in the Googleslap or the report methodology, but it certainly shouldn’t have been on the receiving end. As you note this is US only at moment, should be interesting to see what happens when it goes global as many travel sites source majority if their traffic elsewhere.

     
  10. Freddie Pikovsky

    Our travel media company was founded on the principles that high quality, branded content will ultimately win this game in the long-term. As long as content providers are outsourcing and byung SEO driven content, Google would turn into the worst quality search engine there is – they’re obviously too smart and rich to let ever let that happen.
    This was inevitable, I saw it coming 2 years ago when I launched Off Track Planet. Our writers are experienced travelers, our tone is distinct within our brands guideline and all material goes through two editors before its published. Its been extremely difficult, expensive and time consuming which is why everyone has been cheating and now they’re paying the price. It’s great news for us…
    The bottom line is this – print publishers provided quality for at a direct cost, the web provides an overload of scattered information for free. Eventually, those who can provide the latter of both will prevail with innovations in web-based monetization models.
    If you’re an investor reading this, it’s all been written in our business plan for months ;-)

     
  11. Jim Kovarik

    OUCH! Nice catch Kevin. I think this definitely indicates a major shift in search marketing efforts going forward.

    BTW here’s one you missed (you guys always leave off the car travel sites ;-)

    roadsideamerica.com – 21,510, 73%

     
  12. Destination360

    We do have rank similar to their quote but I’m not seeing the drop they indicate. This is the first I’ve heard of Sistrix. I would question a report that was put out days after farmer.

    Yes we do use Priceline hotel booking which provides hotel descriptions.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @dan – cheers again. Our decision to us the report was that 1) Search Engine Land, a reputable media brand focusing search, had scrutinised it and 2) Travelpod confirmed the hit from its own perspective.

      Hopefully you can set the record straight with Sistrix.

       
  13. Kevin May

    Kevin May

    @dan – thanks so much for commenting, appreciate it.

    So the question is why do you think Sistrix has included you in its analysis?

    Also, do you have ANY content at all on Destination360 which could be considered duplicated and, therefore, farmed?

     
  14. Destination360

    After reading your article “Big travel sites hit by Google content farming clearout,” I’d like to give you Destination 360′s perspective.

    Sistrix stats are way off in our case. And while it’s nice to be mentioned with such notable sites, I wouldn’t categorize D360 as a content farm. Our site features 250 guides+ to destinations throughout the world — and our articles, images, and 360 virtual tours are original content.

    Our articles are written by writers knowledgeable about the destination, and we include the 360 virtual tours when possible. We make every attempt to provide as much information about a destination as possible.

    From my brief analysis of the farmer update, the winners appear to be big brands and domains with keywords in the domain. I’m seeing about.com, ehow, time.com, and TripAdvisor improving their rank as well as a multitude of keyword domain websites. It does appear to have impacted content aggregators negatively which is good to see.

    We will continue to produce the best work we can and let time tell the story.

    Dan Taylor
    Destination360

     
 
 

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