Google changes search algorithm to favour original content as crowd-sourced content explodes
Matt Cutts, principal engineer at Google, confirmed on his private blog that last week Google had implemented a "targetted" change to its search algorithm last week, designed to re-rank sites that 'copy others' content and sites with low levels of original content".
Cutts said the change had affected slightly over 2% of search queries in some ways, although most users would not notice.
"The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site's content," Cutts wrote.
The change came in response to a barrage of questions about the quality of Google's search results and whether the search engine could combat the use of poor quality content designed to artificially boost search rankings.
Cutts, this time writing on the official Google blog, launched a spirited defence of Google's search quality earlier this month, claiming that even as Google expands, spam is at less than half the level it was five years ago.
However, there has clearly been a huge increase in the use of content for SEO purposes.
New figures from online outsourcing marketplace Freelancer show the number of jobs for writing or rewriting content increased five-fold during 2010. The number of jobs writing articles leapt from 7,031 to 38,853, while the number of jobs re-writing articles jumped from 2,131 to 20,129.
Freelancer chief Matt Barrie told SmartCompany the "explosion in content" is being driven by one thing – SEO.
"Google loves content – it really is king if you want to rank in search results."
Barrie says the cost of getting content written on crowdsourcing sites such as Freelancer make the exercise extremely attractive.
Barrie says costs for an article range from 50c for 500 words to $5-10 for 500 words, depending on the quality of the writer and the nature of the content.
And while content that costs 0.001c a word might not be "fit for human consumption" as Barrie puts it, the words will work as search engine bait.
However, Barrie does acknowledge the debate about how the quality of content might be affecting search results and says this trend is one to watch over the next 12 months.
The debate is becoming particularly heated in the US thanks the recent successful listing of DemandMedia, which employs 13,000 writers to produce content for thousands of its websites, including eHow.
Barrie says the way Google deals with the content issue will be interesting, given that the search engine giant itself earns a lot of revenue from the AdWords that appear on many content-driven sites.
Other noticeable trends to come out of Freelancer's research into the 50 fastest-growing areas for online outsourcing include sharp rises in the outsourcing of mobile applications (where Android apps are outpacing Apple apps), video production and broadcasting, and PHP projects.
The biggest loser from the research was Microsoft, with a sharp decline of requests for help on the company's platforms, particularly in desktop products.
"Across the board, everything related to Microsoft is just tanking. For the most part it seems like complete rejection of their platforms," Barrie says.