At the end of February Google released an update to their algorithm that was supposed to penalize and deter content farms (sites that reproduce content from other websites or use low quality content purely for the sake of higher search rankings). Google claimed that this would affect almost 12% of all US queries. Some SEO experts have dubbed this algorithm change the “Farm” or “Farmer” update.
Now I’ve seen recent articles out there about the short term effect of the Farm update so I decided to check out some of the Google Analytics I have access to in order to see how a variety of our clients are fairing. I got a mixed bag of results as you can see in the examples to the left.
While I saw several examples of traffic spiking, falling, bouncing or remaining consistent throughout our network of individual domains more often then not our domains took a noticeable of a dip after February 25th (31% as seen in the bottom example shown) followed by an immediate traffic increase (again in the bottom example shown an increase of over 50% above the average daily traffic).
It’s all interesting, but what does it really tell us? A highly trafficked website receives traffic from a variety of sources so a dip in a single traffic referrer - in this case Google - might not show much of a traffic loss. A small website like our new affiliate blog which receives 90% of its’ inbound traffic from Google would definitely show an impact, but the low traffic volume means that we can’t trust the traffic drop to be directly correlated with the Google Farm update.
For the most part at ELEMENTS we focus on franchise companies which generally have hundreds of websites across the board and we are able to track those websites as a whole. So how will traffic to 700+ like websites be affected by the Farm update? Let’s find out.
Looks to me like there was very little if any effect at all on the overall franchise traffic for these two clients following the February 25th update roll out. Other franchises I looked up had less than a 10% degree of variance after the Farm update, so thankfully not much changed across our franchise networks.
So who wins and who loses with this new rollout? That remains to be seen. Some have reported (EZineArticles for one) a loss of up to 40% of their traffic since the Farm update went into effect and Mahalo.com which describes itself as a knowledge sharing service has reportedly laid off 10% of their staff in response to the significant dip in traffic & revenue resulting from the Farm update. On the other hand possible content farms themselves, eHow and Wikipedia are reported to have seen a traffic boost from the update. My take is that websites with a strong offline brand (perhaps even some online brands) are not going to see much negative effect from the latest update.