Content farms

In this type of farming it is the surfer who becomes the cash cow. Content farms are sites that produce thousands of pages per day, written by contributors with low wages who retrieve content from other sites and try to produce a maximum of lines in the shortest time.

This is bordered by the site, choosing the most requested keywords on search engines. Demand Media has filed a patent on a method to find keywords!
Content farms are considered a pollution of the Web by webmasters. Bad competition to spam search engine results on all queries, without providing useful content.

A remarkable example taken from the site Mahalo has been given by Business Insider. An article on how to to learn xylophone, containing essential key words, but judge by yourself the interest:

First step: Be sure you want to play the xylophone

"Choosing the right instrument is essential to your success in learning to play. To see if the xylophone is right for you, visit a music store and try out one of their xylophones. You can also try playing a piano to see if you enjoy it. If you like playing the piano, you will more than likely enjoy playing the xylophone."

The article was revised after publication of this review, Mahalo has spent several hundred dollars to pay an author. But they have added an new killer video: How to grate a potato!

Definition of content farm

These sites are characterized by:

Adding that the pages does not contain external links. To avoid the many contributors to use the opportunity to put links on their sites, they are prohibited in content farms.

Content farms in numbers (in 2011)

The AOL Way

Here is the "AOL Way", as given in an internal note to all writers :

  1. Each article should be profitable and generate at least 7000 page views.
  2. The SEO checker to be used on 95% of stories by March. It is a tool produced by the firm to its writers.
  3. Decide What Topics To Cover based on, in order:
    1. Potential traffic .
    2. Profit.
    3. Turnaround time. From 5 to 7 posts must be produced per day.
    4. Editorial integrity.
  4. Use freelancers sparingly unless paid for by advertiser.
  5. Carefully craft headlines to grab users’ interest by incorporating in-demand terms and entice them to click onto the article.
  6. Use editorial judgment & insight to determine production.


This site was originally designed to be a search engine and in response to the presence of too much spam on Google. The idea was again to involve users to select content.
A principle that has failed with Wikia and others, because spammers are those most involved in these sites.
Then Mahalo gradually turned to content production and eventually become one of those farms whose contents it complained.
The site  wanted to make amends and produce better products, hiring authors and paying them thousands of dollars. But after several updates of Panda algorithm, wants to abandon this type of content.
In 2011, Mahalo has laid off 50% of its staff.

Demand Media

The recipe for this company that publishes on eHow is to retain all that people queries (Google's suggestions are a way for this) and systematically produce pages with the corresponding keywords.
The authors are low paid and make poor content. Articles are produced in variations ranging to infinity. For example, the query "brand x cheap car" will have a page for each model of existing vehicle.
eHow creator who had sold the site to Demand Media recently complained of lower quality. Quality and quantity do not fit altogether.

Huffington Post

The site recently acquired by AOL according to Mahalo is composed of 80% extracts of other articles merged to produce content looking new. Example of post: How to have a hamburger for $ 1? First step: go to a fast food...


Having bought Associated Content, a site that pays contributing authors, Yahoo has decided to extend the principle of contribution to all of its sites. In November 2010, it launched a campaign to that effect. After Panda, Associated Content was renamed Yahoo Voices.
The subdomain works entirely on an algorithm searching most frequent queries.

Suite 101

The site (Canada) pays according to the clicks on ads. Closed after Panda.

Then came Panda

On February 24, 2011, Google made a change in its algorithm named Panda to penalize poor content sites, which affected 12% of requests (in the USA).
Many farms contents were affected, some losing most of their traffic. Among the most important: Mahalo, Answerbag (Demand Media), Associated Content recently bought by Yahoo!.
Why eHow did he not been shot? Probably because this site targets the very long tail, with millions of articles matching queries rarely made each. Difficult to penalize a site in these conditions. If it gets a penalty of 100 positions but it is the only to answer to a query, it will still be on top of the results.

On 11 April, a new change was made ​​to the algorithm for the long tail, which affected 2% of sites in the USA. This time was severely damaged.

List of content farms

In bold, sites whose traffic fell after the modification of the algorithm on 24 February 2011. This according to statistics institutes such as Citrix. What is verified on Alexa is indicated in red.
The Blekko search engine blocks all content farms including eHow and experts-exchange.

The percentage of Google's downstream is given by Hitwise in April.

Collateral damages

Some sites with original content, not link farms have been hit hard by the changes of the algorithm ...
Perhaps because many sites copy their contents! It was the case of whose traffic was back one week latter.
Google continues to conduct tests to improve the targeting of its filter link farms.
A thread has been open in Google Webmaster Central full of complaints about the change.

More information and resources