SMX Live: "Content Farms" Or The Smartest SEOs In the World?

Mar 8, 2011 - 6:35 pm 2 by
Filed Under SMX West 2011

Live Blogging Coverage SMXBelow is live coverage of the NAME panel from the SMX West 2011 conference. This coverage is provided by Barry Schwartz of RustyBrick and Keri Morgret of Strike Models.

Disclaimer: The coverage is brought to you in real time, using a custom live blogging tool. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments for inclusion into the live coverage. During the live event, live notes will auto-scroll with newest entries at top. After the session is complete the archive version will have the oldest entries at the top. We ask you to please excuse any typos, as these are live notes.

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Barry Schwartz: 3:39:07 pm
Starting in 5 minutes...
Barry Schwartz: 3:39:11 pm
"Content Farms" Or The Smartest SEOs In the World?
You may not be familiar with the names, but companies like Demand Media, Seed.com and Associated Content are big businesses built on closely watching what people are searching for and creating content to match. Using cheap or free labor, these "content farms" sometimes get derided as being low quality. They disagree. A look at some of the issues, as well as lessons from publishers who think SEO from start to finish.
Moderator: Matt McGee, Executive News Editor, Search Engine Land
Q&A Moderator: Max Thomas, President & Founder, Thunder SEO
Speakers:
Luke Beatty, Vice President & General Manager, Yahoo! Contributor Network, Yahoo!
Matthew Brown, Founder, AudienceWise
Byrne Hobart, Marketing Consultant, Blue Fountain Media
Gil Reich, VP of Product Management, Answers.com
Tim Ruder, Chief Revenue Officer, PerfectMarket
Barry Schwartz: 3:39:32 pm
Speakers:

Luke Beatty, Vice President & General Manager, Yahoo! Contributor Network, Yahoo!
Matthew Brown, Founder, AudienceWise
Byrne Hobart, Marketing Consultant, Blue Fountain Media
Gil Reich, VP of Product Management, Answers.com
Tim Ruder, Chief Revenue Officer, PerfectMarket
Barry Schwartz: 3:42:29 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 3:45:50 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 3:46:09 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 3:46:16 pm
Matt McGee is the moderator for this panel...
Keri Morgret: 3:46:23 pm
And we're getting underway.
Keri Morgret: 3:46:59 pm
Session hastag is 1b4.
Barry Schwartz: 3:49:40 pm
Promo over and now starting...
Barry Schwartz: 3:49:53 pm
Matt said content farms is a hot topic for past few weeks.
Barry Schwartz: 3:50:14 pm
Gil can't talk due to Answers.com being in the process of being acquired...
Barry Schwartz: 3:50:21 pm
:(
Barry Schwartz: 3:50:45 pm
More on content farms, see http://www.seroundtable.com/recover-after-google-farmer-13080.html
Keri Morgret: 3:51:01 pm
Matt comments that speakers themselves had different definitions of what a content farm is.
Barry Schwartz: 3:51:11 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 3:51:14 pm
See, he is looking right at me
Keri Morgret: 3:51:38 pm
Some content farms can have both low-quality content but high-quality content too.
Barry Schwartz: 3:52:14 pm
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Damien: 3:53:51 pm
Sure, but the ratio of shit to diamonds is what the engines baulk at
Barry Schwartz: 3:53:57 pm
Yahoo is now up
Barry Schwartz: 3:54:22 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 3:54:48 pm
Yahoo acquired associate content recently
Keri Morgret: 3:55:01 pm
Overview of the contributor network at yahoo. About 400,000 contributors.
Keri Morgret: 3:55:50 pm
They're now focusing on putting this content on the Yahoo network as opposed to Associated Content.
Keri Morgret: 3:56:29 pm
associatedcontent.com's google referrals: 93% of the site's assets remain indexed on google.
Keri Morgret: 3:56:58 pm
They haven't seen things stabilize yet, based on their internal queries.
Barry Schwartz: 3:57:12 pm
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Keri Morgret: 3:57:15 pm
Their premium content on the Yahoo network seems to be doing just fine.
Damien: 3:57:38 pm
Does that mean kept traffic or cache
Barry Schwartz: 3:57:39 pm
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Keri Morgret: 3:57:53 pm
Question they're asking themselves:

What do the contributors think?
How will this affect quality?
What's the overall impact on Yahoo! Traffic?
What is the impact on marketers?
Barry Schwartz: 3:58:06 pm
@damien, can you clarify your question?
Keri Morgret: 3:58:25 pm
Yahoo! traffic is up.
Barry Schwartz: 3:58:26 pm
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Keri Morgret: 3:58:37 pm
Puts pressure on contributors to create higher-quality content.
Barry Schwartz: 3:59:04 pm
It will improve quality on the internet and discovered in Google.
Keri Morgret: 3:59:06 pm
Jury's still out on if Google did a good job of deciding what is high quality content, in his opinion.
Barry Schwartz: 3:59:59 pm
http://contributor.yahoo.com/
Damien: 4:00:11 pm
Their 93% still in index comment, still cached or still recording traffic from G :-)
Barry Schwartz: 4:00:23 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:00:28 pm
@damien, i think he means a site command
Barry Schwartz: 4:01:07 pm
In 2008 they stopped using contextual ads and started using hyper targeted display ads
Damien: 4:01:13 pm
Thanks Bazza
Barry Schwartz: 4:01:33 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:02:21 pm
70% of the content you consume on a daily basis is crowd sourced. 30% of the content you consume on a daily basis is by someone you know.
Keri Morgret: 4:03:19 pm
They can employ their contributors to write things that big places want.
Keri Morgret: 4:04:12 pm
If content farm is creating content at a massive scale, then that's what we are. Just like eBay is an auction on a massive scale.
Keri Morgret: 4:04:46 pm
Tim Ruder up now.
Barry Schwartz: 4:04:54 pm
No PPT
Barry Schwartz: 4:05:08 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:05:14 pm
This is a really important topic to him
Keri Morgret: 4:05:24 pm
He's spent his whole career in marketing of content to traditional publishers.
Barry Schwartz: 4:05:30 pm
In 1995 he started this stuff with the Washington Post
Keri Morgret: 4:05:43 pm
Values that traditional media brings to the table he thinks are important to maintain and keep.
Barry Schwartz: 4:06:06 pm
By looking at content farms we can apply some of what we learn from there in traditional media
Barry Schwartz: 4:06:27 pm
He plays a video clip from Saturday night live
Barry Schwartz: 4:08:27 pm
saturday night live season 7 episode 8
Barry Schwartz: 4:09:29 pm
Basically, how you spell Gaddafi and there are like 25 ways it is spelled
Keri Morgret: 4:09:37 pm
He's talking about the many ways to spell Kadaffi.
Barry Schwartz: 4:10:20 pm
So lots of ways to search for it and come up for those misspellings
Barry Schwartz: 4:10:48 pm
News organizations know how to produce hundreds of stories each day...
Barry Schwartz: 4:11:02 pm
He sees over 5,000 unique articles written each day and the quality is high
Barry Schwartz: 4:11:40 pm
Consumer demand: Publishers take into account what readers want to know and even think in the future of what readers want to know in the future.
Keri Morgret: 4:12:09 pm
The idea of what people is searching for is almost entirely absent from the deep process of news gathering and reporting.
Keri Morgret: 4:13:24 pm
News sites often have disconnect between creating of unique content and optimization of that content. Example given of how one portal for Lybia on a news site had articles that each spelled Gaddafi in a different way.
Barry Schwartz: 4:13:41 pm
Commercial Demand is important in the mix also. It is about measuring and extracting value at the individual article.
Keri Morgret: 4:15:26 pm
Content costs can be amortized over a five-year period in some businesses.
Keri Morgret: 4:15:56 pm
content not developed or considered in a longer-term fashion in many cases.
Keri Morgret: 4:16:46 pm
Market pressure is forcing a change on the low-quality content, and especially the Panda update.
Barry Schwartz: 4:17:18 pm
Content farms will continue to improve, place more quality controls, etc...
Keri Morgret: 4:18:26 pm
The time is right now for traditional publishers to learn some lessons from content farms while keeping some of the values that they already have.
Keri Morgret: 4:19:05 pm
Need to think about your content in a more granular way. Difference in people browsing the newspaper vs. coming in from an exact search query.
Keri Morgret: 4:19:42 pm
Byrne Hobart up next.
Barry Schwartz: 4:20:00 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:20:31 pm
"Why did someone get $15 for writing 'how to pour water into a glass cup" is the subtitle of his presentation.
Barry Schwartz: 4:20:43 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:21:12 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:21:13 pm
Supply media:
Content based on outside source.
Monetization: get a big audience, sell ads.
Barry Schwartz: 4:21:57 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:22:21 pm
"Demand" media.
Giving people what they want: that's happened for years, we're just targeting better.

Monetization: highly targeted contextual ads: "If you're reading this, you're probably willing to pay for that"
Keri Morgret: 4:22:40 pm
Demand Media: getting $13.45 per thousand page views.
Barry Schwartz: 4:23:12 pm
The worst thing for a content provider is to solve the problem with your content. You want them to do something else to make you money.
Keri Morgret: 4:23:25 pm
Ridiculous economies of scale.
Best monetization strategy out there for old domains..or for celebrities.
Barry Schwartz: 4:23:41 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:24:26 pm
What's next -- how Rachel Ray would pour a glass of water? [km side comment]
Barry Schwartz: 4:24:34 pm
Who wins in this change?
Keri Morgret: 4:25:00 pm
Anyone with more money than time
Online "absentee landlords"
Lots and lots of nontraditional employees
Searchers looking for really long-tail terms
shareholders.
Barry Schwartz: 4:26:10 pm
nontraditional employees in this business is often stay at home moms
Keri Morgret: 4:26:30 pm
Example of long-tail terms: good places to get dinner around the san jose marriot.
Barry Schwartz: 4:27:16 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:27:17 pm
Losers:
People with more time than money
Traditional Media
Active Bloggers
Anyone trying to break into the industry
Searchers looking for head terms.
Keri Morgret: 4:28:07 pm
SEOs are now "old media" he says.
Barry Schwartz: 4:28:44 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:29:18 pm
Revolution:
More efficiency = a "Red Queen" scenario (everyone has to move faster, from Alice in Wonderland)
Biggest labor arbitrage since China.
Keri Morgret: 4:29:46 pm
Responses to content farms:
Complaining to...
.. the media
.. google
.. our followers
Barry Schwartz: 4:29:56 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:30:49 pm
These sites are a cut above "Made For Adsense"
Barry Schwartz: 4:30:55 pm
Better Options:
* Shoot for quality content
* Sneak by with the social meda (twitter results in Google)
* Do email marketing and newsletters
* Made for AdSense sites are not great, but if u do not rank, buy that traffic.
Barry Schwartz: 4:31:30 pm
Google, in the end, will figure out how to rank high quality content...
Barry Schwartz: 4:32:22 pm
Matthew Brown, Founder, AudienceWise is last up
Keri Morgret: 4:32:36 pm
"Strategies in a Post-Farmer World".
Barry Schwartz: 4:32:53 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:33:24 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:33:43 pm
Algo change aimed at low-quality content, doesn't matter if it was 10 people getting paid $1,000,000 or 1,000,000 people getting paid $10 if the content is low.
Barry Schwartz: 4:33:55 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:34:15 pm
He talks about when he worked on topics pages at New York Times.
Barry Schwartz: 4:34:34 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:35:01 pm
Speaker says Google is correcting for domain authority, gives example of how NYT ranked really well in past for really thin content.
Barry Schwartz: 4:35:19 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:35:34 pm
Sites that got hit got hit pretty sitewide
Barry Schwartz: 4:36:14 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:36:22 pm
Possible Farmer/Panda Signals

Quality:Quantity ratio
Big sites relying on domain authority
Small sites with few quality pages
Sites with an overload of ads/links
Barry Schwartz: 4:37:02 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:37:10 pm
Ad:content ratio. Are your ads outweighing your content? Are there a ton above the fold?
Keri Morgret: 4:37:19 pm
What's common among the survivors?
Barry Schwartz: 4:37:25 pm
Survivors included ehow, huffington post, etc...
Barry Schwartz: 4:38:00 pm
Brand factors were not hit as hard because they have strong domains, etc. (my Q: hmm, mahalo?)
Keri Morgret: 4:38:09 pm
You're looking for "that elusive brand smell"
Barry Schwartz: 4:38:12 pm
Maybe Google News inclusion is a signal?
Barry Schwartz: 4:38:29 pm
You get links from reddit, digg, twitter, shares on facebook, etc.
Keri Morgret: 4:39:03 pm
You have a balanced ratio of deep links vs index page links. You don't want all of your links concentrated on your home page. You don't look like a brand when you have hundreds of thousands of pages, and links to only five pages.
Barry Schwartz: 4:39:04 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:39:37 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:39:38 pm
Don't complain to Google, man up and figure it out...
Keri Morgret: 4:39:59 pm
He compared Mahalo and eHow for the same query, showing that eHow actually has better content.
Keri Morgret: 4:40:21 pm
Other things you can do:

Remove your thin content if you can, clean up your site.
Barry Schwartz: 4:40:31 pm
Get rid of your low quality content by deleting them, noindexing them, etc.
Barry Schwartz: 4:40:32 pm
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Keri Morgret: 4:40:42 pm
Build out brand signals. Get link popularity, get deep links.
Barry Schwartz: 4:41:43 pm
Side note: let me introduce you to the content farm characters...
Barry Schwartz: 4:41:48 pm
Mario with the Google Hamer
Keri Morgret: 4:41:57 pm
Scale your promotion to your content creation. Spend some effort on promotion, not just on a ton of content with no links.
Barry Schwartz: 4:42:16 pm
And the Mushroom (for farms)
Barry Schwartz: 4:42:17 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:42:43 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:44:01 pm
Q&A time now...
Barry Schwartz: 4:45:42 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:46:42 pm
Low quality to quantity ratio? Might be reason you were hit by Farmer/Update: Matthew Brown #SMX #1b4

Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/dannysullivan/status/45282106770862080
Keri Morgret: 4:46:43 pm
"pageview meth addiction" is my favorite phrase so far. Referring to launching a ton of pages because we can get pageviews.
Barry Schwartz: 4:46:44 pm
Low quality to quantity ratio? Might be reason you were hit by Farmer/Update: Matthew Brown #SMX #1b4

Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/dannysullivan/status/45282106770862080
Keri Morgret: 4:47:03 pm
Q: If we're using crowdsourced content, what are some of the things we should avoid?
Keri Morgret: 4:47:18 pm
Avoid people doing garbage seo tactics.
Barry Schwartz: 4:47:37 pm
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Barry Schwartz: 4:48:00 pm
Wants to see who can rank for 'How to tie a fishing lure' by the end of this segment #smx

Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/NugeKnows/status/45284531481227264
Keri Morgret: 4:48:11 pm
Engagement of users is the purpose of crowdsourced content, not to drive traffic. Shouldn't be to create inventory, but to add depth to your site. This is the attitude to take.
Barry Schwartz: 4:48:42 pm
"The purpose of crowd-sourced content is to engage users and add depth, not drive traffic." - Luke Beatty. AMEN! #smx #1b4

Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/Doubleohd/status/45284747559174144
Keri Morgret: 4:49:25 pm
Matthew likes images, videos, likes, tweets. Things to show you're not targeting a random keyword phrase.
Keri Morgret: 4:51:12 pm
Byrne reminds us that the people in this room are not your average internet users.
Barry Schwartz: 4:53:07 pm
What this Content Farms panel needed was an angry blogger taking all these guys to task. Surely they could have found someone. #smx

Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/LisaBarone/status/45285722588057600
Keri Morgret: 4:53:17 pm
Don't forget that Google's business model relies on user trust and their brand. Even if ad revenue from crap sites goes down because of an algo change, it could be good in that it helps people continue to trust google.
Keri Morgret: 4:55:29 pm
Matthew does think that eHow's site design does help them keep some of their rankings.
Keri Morgret: 4:55:53 pm
Yahoo! - source best content and surface that to Yahoo! properties.
Keri Morgret: 4:56:19 pm
The wifi hamsters are really slow, so I'm in two different browser windows to update, and some updates may come out of order.
Keri Morgret: 4:57:38 pm
Down to last couple of minutes, and several questions have been submitted.
Keri Morgret: 5:00:43 pm
@LisaBarone has interesting commentary in her Twitter feed about the expressed opinions about how much quality content should have.
Keri Morgret: 5:01:04 pm
And this session is over.
 

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