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32 responses to “The Role Manual Reviews Played in The Farmer Algo Update”

  1. GrizzlyBrears

    [New Post] The Role Manual Reviews Played in The Farmer Algo Update – via #twitoaster

  2. Leo Dimilo

    Hey Griz,

    I don’t think there was as much of a manual review for selective sites but a broad sweep across the board for web2.0 properties, (actually, maybe a bit of both). There is carnage in the e-commerce review markets as well- start-ups like, testfreaks, thefind….they are all experiencing major hits.

    Interestingly enough, regular webmasters are now filling those spots as are a few scraper sites here and there (which if you see a scraper site, that means that there is a potential spot in my opinion for you).

    Personally, I figured this would happen. It was only a matter of time. I did write a little about eHow. While most of us internet marketers see eHow for what it is (a farm site), the majority of the public don’t see it that way. It is useful to them or at least that is what I am told by my non-marketing friends. We just happen to live in a marketing bubble where things that we see aren’t seen by most.

    eHow is branded. They are a big company. They are a known company. Most internet users would tell you that they know who they are and what their site is about. The same can’t be said for ezinearticles, hubpages, squidoo, wisegeek and others, who weren’t concerned about building their brand but simply using pockets of search for monetary gains. I am not saying that that is a factor. What I am saying is that the notion that you rank first and then brand yourself using the visibility you are getting from search for your brand (if you even bother that is) is a bit flawed, especially when you aren’t focusing in on a tight niche.

    Now, there is speculation everywhere, sure. And who knows what or how Google decided which site was a content farm and which site wasn’t. Who really knows if there was a manual hit or if it was an adjustment that targeted large sites with thousands of “thin” pages.

    One thing that I have noticed is the common denominators are:

    1. All the sites used adsense.
    2. All the sites targeted were general in nature, covering diverse topics.
    3. All the sites had hundreds of thousands of pages of content.
    4. All the sites had already accrued authority and trust according to google’s rules and were ranking for thousands of keywords.

    One of the ironies I see to this is that while hubpage and article marketers are lamenting the issues with the recent change, many webmasters are seeing their traffic rise to levels that they have never seen. Where there are losers, there are also winners. The tragic thing is that there are fewer winners sharing that pot as those who hung their hopes on third party sites are many.

  3. Bruno P. (Wix)


    I’m one of those regular webmasters who have been experiencing new traffic spikes since the algo update. I believe Griz has also effect from what I read on FB.

    I’m glad that I’ve decided from the beginnning to not use any auto generated content nor scraped content or something like that. All the content that I have on my websites are 100% original and written by me.

    Things do not move as fast as many people claim, but it is always good to know that whenever Google decide to throw another algo update, I’ll be swimming with the wave not against it …

    That being said, my sites are not perfect and might get hit here and there, but overall, I’m trying my best to avoid that from happening (= no more EMD sniper sites, no more rubbish content, etc.)

    I’ve actually just finished a great book on copywriting that I highly recommend:

    “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joseph Sugarman

    It is an excellent book and read for anyone out there who wants to raise the bar on their content quality … Not only that, you’ll probably be able to write way more efficient sale ads for your readers …

  4. Gayan

    Hello Griz,

    First … thanks for the info.

    I’m a bit scared actually… but I get the point. I’m not a native English writer so some of my articles may have grammatical errors. But if I understand you correctly.. as Fraser used to say (you included of course, in your own “language” ;-) ) if you want safety then you’d better make the readers happy.

    I have a thing ;-) for Linux related OS, etc… and have some decent understandings. So I have started a site recently (no link creations :( ) and write about all those things that I wanted to say so bad ;-) .

    My point is … even if I have a bit bad English still (as you pointed out in the article .. I think ) it all depends on whether you can make the reader happy or not? isn’t it?.

    In that sense I feel safe already about this “method”. Keep writing :D .

  5. James

    Hey Griz,
    Any idea if someone got their hands on the pdf there?
    Is is the same as the “General Guidelines on Random-Query Evaluation” that Aaron posted a couple of years ago?

  6. Lissie

    Interesting – there are an awful lot of long-tail EMDs on that list. OK I have a question – I have hub that has suddenly got popular due to recent events – now its a hub I have some expertise in – I have a general relevant degree (geology) but I have never worked or published in the specific area of science (earthquakes). My hub is not badly written – its unique -the structure I made up as I went along – not a format I’ve ever seen before.
    But I don’t have a paragraph about my qualification. I haven’t cited direct sources in a way that would be acceptable to a scientific journal. In fact the article wouldn’t get published in a scientific journal (which are the standards that Google is talking about above) – but the comments on the hub suggest that people find it helpful. I am confused as to how it would stand up to the above documented standards – personally I’d fail it – but frankly I have traffic because reading up on scientific works on earthquakes doesn’t give people who are worried about the risk anything they can relate to! The article is

  7. RT Cunningham

    I’m one of those people that never got into hubs, lenses or the like and therefore don’t have a bunch of links coming from them. All of my blogs started seeing more traffic a couple of days after the algorithm update went into effect.

    I also observed a complete re-indexing of all my sites just after they plugged in the update. UV had well over 500,000 inbound links before the update, dropped to around 320,000 afterwards and has risen back up to about 420,000. I can only assume 100K or more were whacked as scraper sites.

  8. Ben Willis

    I’m just happy that one of my articles wasn’t used as an example. I did find an article that I wrote on eHow some time ago though. They linked back to my site so I was OK with it.

  9. Mike G.

    I’ve just started writing a few articles on Hubpages and Snipsly. I’m currently in the process of writing my first articles intended for EZA.

    I see a lot of advice in the internet marketing world that intimates using PLR, article spinners and other tools to put a ton of content out there, albeit poor content.

    I’ve always shied away from that strategy, preferring to research my topics and write original, higher quality articles even though it means I publish less content than the article spammers.

    I’m hoping maybe this algo change will work in my favor. Any thoughts?

  10. Cat

    Interesting… my articles are a lot better than those examples, but I don’t have formal qualifications in the niches I write about, nor do I provide much information about myself or my background. So I suppose they’d be counted as bad articles by these standards. I think they’re being a little narrow-minded here. While I can see that in many cases people would want info from a credentialed source, there’s also a place for more informal articles IMO (even in niches like health), where people are discussing their own experiences and insights, rather than just referring to other sources. I don’t see anything wrong with that, so long as a person isn’t trying to pass themselves off as a qualified expert when they’re not.

  11. RED

    If I understand this correctly, Search engine companies are hiring out to other company’s to help evaluate their results and determine weather or not a particular result is with or without merit? I’ve actually seen evidence of something like this in a statcounter log. “Actual Search company” visited the site with a brand name keyword. Then immediately after another company “specializing in evaulations” visited the site for the same brand name keyword. The webpage wasn’t on the first page of results, so it was odd. Actually the page had nothing to do with the brand name store keyword, but was based on something else that was named the same and was entertainment based(example: movie, tv show, or a song). I think they may have been trying to determine weather or not the brand name store was talked about in negative or a positive light. Instead, they got a review and a link to a video about a piece of entertainment I liked that happened to have the same name. Griz, have you seen anything like this? I noticed this once awhile ago.

  12. ChrisCD

    Here are some comments that I gave to someone who asked me:

    “We saw a small drop, but not much. I think by enlarge the update affected sites that were “one-trick” ponies. Meaning they relied on only a few sources for links. And those links came from pages (“articles”) that didn’t have much of their own authority. They depended on the authority from the main domain itself (Ezine Articles, as an example).

    In addition, many sites hit hard didn’t have their own unique content. Again, like Ezine, lots of those articles are duplicated and the content isn’t unique.

    A fun experiment for those hit hard would be to actually get links for their articles and see if they climb back up (assuming the article actually has some good unique content).

  13. john

    Hi griz,
    I have followed you three years ago, w/o a concret result, i didn’t make a dime from the internet, banned from adsense, what that means? i am idiot? not clever? no skills?
    I will be very appreciated putting your thoughts about this situation?

    All the best for you.

    1. Boo

      If you “didn’t make a dime”, and you got banned from adsense, the answer is yes, you are an idiot.

  14. Dave Starr

    So refreshing to see something on this subject with examples and something other than random speculation.

    Actually, this last algo change had been great for me. A couple technically oriented sites that were ‘eclipsed’ by dozens of ‘outsourcer generated’ splogs are now ranking much better and getting more traffic. I say, rock on Google (and Griz).

  15. Coffee Sensei

    I’m with a lot of the commentators. I’ve found this algo change to be a blessing. Hopefully this will start affecting the EMDs too. I mean I understand when a site log walmart dot com ranks for Walmart. That makes perfect sense.

    But I’d like to see the end of days for redsquirrelfashion dot com ranking for red squirrel fashion just because they nabbed an EMD and placed crappy think content on it.

    I think Leo Dimilo made a good point and echoed it on his blog. Branding and building a business is what all of this should be about.


  16. ryan

    i find it laughable that google would resort to such crude way to weed out spammers. Weren’t they the ones who laugh at Yahoo for having human editors?

    I also find it funny when ehow was singled out and at the same time Google tagline is do no evil.

    Oh wait, another funny thing is how they expect these workers to know what is quality and what is not…plus which one is the original source? No wonder there is so many casualty in the latest “ALGO” change lol

    But Grizz might be incorrect too so…

  17. Jez

    I dont but this at all.

    Why would Google PAY to clean up this mess when they could simply say:

    “Clean up your own content or we will destroy you”

    and have the sites PAY to clean up their own mess.

    The examples may show articles, but that does not mean they were paid to review the the main article sites page by page.

    Let us say you were hiring people to manually inspect potential niche MFA sites and you needed some examples of worthless wooly content, where would you go to find those examples?

    Would you give the game away and say “here is an example of a worthless MFA site”, which may end up being taken down as a result, or would you give a link to a stable repository of garbage like Ezine?

  18. weput

    i can say i saw it coming…

    it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the algo gets… AI is (not yet) a replacement for human intelligence.

  19. Jez

    Another thought regarding the issue of some Hubs sticking and others falling.

    Pages are ranked for queries based on:

    Domain Authority

    Vs the competition.

    If you surpress domain authority then you can still rank where you have enough relevance / links vs the competition.

    Another possibility is that keyword filters were applied, for example to surpress pages ranking on medical terms.

    I still cannot see G manually reviewing all these pages, and Article sites were just one part of this update.

    Personally, I think it was site wide… but like you said there are a myriad of opinions on this… and very few fact holders.

  20. Nick

    Well, I know I sound like a broken record, but diversification is key here. Something I’ve been quite anal about over the past 24 months and glad I was.

    Tbh I was a little shocked when I read the above as I didn’t realise that G would outsource stuff like this on (what seems) a really large scale. Also, what if an ecommerce or business site publishes an article that’s well written but refers to the company’s own research and study – would this ‘not pass the test’ too?
    I think the way that the above directions are worded actually made me think – looks as though their targetting certain niche areas where there is a lot of spam and that they’re being quite clever going through from a crap article to a crap site – and actually saying it’s crap. Does that mean we now need to build lovely looking sites then? lol

    For me, I’m just gonna stay paranoid and try to swerve the curve balls G keeps throwing at us – now back to my different online personas ;-)

  21. Google Farmer Update Slaps Google Shopping Competitors | GROWMAP.COM

    [...] NEW: The Role Manual Reviews Played in the Farmer Algo Update [...]

  22. Trishan

    Thanks for sharing this revealing info Grizzly. I think Google has gone for knee-jerk reaction as there’s no logic to this carnage. Some of the worst adsense only articles are still ranking high :(

  23. Kenneth c Young

    As to your article on The Role Manual Reviews Played in The Farmer Algo Updates were the Hubs & EZA articles were save from been punished by Google. I certaintly hope that Google is not playing favorites here because if that is the case then Google will just eventually have their favorite businesses “The Big Cooperative Giants” using the their platform to make money online.

    Kenneth c Young

  24. Don

    My site actually got hit by a mannual review and I got a nice little mail in my webmaster tools. Though it was in relation to outgoing links that were not ‘no-followed’. So I assume either

    a) The site the links pointed to held many high positions and G started to snoop
    b) G saw a HUGE influx of links and rankings for a project page i’m working on and investigated and saw no issue with that but noticed the other links around.

    Either way I have been hit by a manual review and PR devaluation (I know a moot metric but my rankings slipped after it hit 0 though not at algo update period) and from what I heard they have been dishing them out since ‘D-day’.

    In regards to HUB’s I only created the one and from what i’ve noticed in my weekly update is ranking has slipped and a 30% drop in traffic. Though saying that the HUB was just an experiment and very thin in actual content.

    Though again Ezine why slapped in some KW’s is stubborn on one i’m chasing…7 places ahead of me (so on page 2) for a ‘affiliateish’ term. So not all power sapped.

    Will be intersting to see data in a few weeks time post fall-out.

  25. Jim Sanders

    Hello Griz,

    I found this website in a link from Gail over at GrowMap, and further found Blogger Illustrated as well. I see that he speaks well of you as well, and as another internet marketer trying to get the word out about ethical practices, not only in internet marketing but also in SEO and all things related, it’s nice to meet you.

    I found this an interesting read, and can completely agree with your reasoning as it does make sense. Of course, I see where human error can be devastating relating to this idea, but it’s the only way I see of Google really getting a grip on SERP spam, as an algorithm will always allow some of the good sites to suffer as well. Hopefully, in the end, it all balances out.

    I definitely agree about the reading level stuff as well. I’d rather see higher reading levels on the more technical stuff, especially those relating to medical/psychological “advice” offered on the net. In this aspect, I feel it’s a good move as it’s a way of trying to protect people from bad advice, in potentially life threatening situations.

    Thanks for the content. It’s an interesting read.

  26. Al Broadman

    What concerns me about some of this is Google’s inclination to go with so called experts, when every single significant discovery made by humanity has been made by someone who went against the grain and said…you know, the way were doing things now its NOT good enough. I got an IDEA.

    You do not have to be an expert to have a great idea and something significant to say about a topic. But according to Google, you need to be an expert to rank well.

    Seems to me this is some of the same nonsense being tossed about in science that is hindering innovation and creativity.

    Even if you do not have the entire idea yourself, your idea might spark someone else. But that will not happen if no one reads it because Google has decided you are not relevant because your not an expert.

    Something smells of establishmentarianism here, and a desire to keep central what is quickly becoming decentralized………knowledge of all things!

  27. Sherwin

    Hi, Griz!

    Funny thing is that my Adsense earnings has grown about 60% ever since the farm update. My advice to those that have been rattled by recent changes is to keep working!!! Improve all those niche sites so they look less MFA. Hire better writers if you have to.

    The only thing I’m puzzling over is whether or not it is still healthy to use hubpages and EZA for links. Has the big G started using them as an indicator or signal for MFA sites? I have one site that I pointed a lot of hubs, barrels, and EZAs to and immediately after the algo update, it dropped in ranking. However, in recent weeks, I’m seeing that has climbed back up to the first page for its main keyword without any intervention. Weird…

  28. RT Cunningham

    I think people don’t understand what’s really happening. There are a lot more manual reviews being done. I, for one, really appreciate it. I tire of seeing thin sites rank better than what I’m actually looking for.

    Now, Google has an optimization guide for AdSense and if you follow it, you can’t go wrong on that side of the house:

    On the other hand, if that’s all you have, the anti-spam team WILL discover your site. If you can’t pass a visual inspection, you’re done.

    Over the past three or four days, my spam pingbacks have dropped to almost nothing. That tells you that Google is doing something right, even if it isn’t exactly what you want.

  29. Nigerian Entrepreneur

    I noticed a significant increase in my organic traffic and I was wondering what happened. For some months I have become so tied up with offline activities that it is difficult updating the site. I only manage to moderate the comments. Yet the traffic kept going up.

    This article has provided the answer I was looking for. 99% of articles on my site are original content written by me. They are often written in form narration given by one to a friend.

    I guess that is what Google wants. In some of them, I actually wrote targeting certain keywords, but I make sure that the reader has something to benefit from my ramblings.

    Thanks for sharing this knowledge with us. I’ve learned first hand that original content writing with the readers in mind will pay better dividend on the long run. I personally don’t like reading junks. So I make it a personal principle not to dish out junk on my website.

  30. Hal Jones

    We took a hit following the new algorithm, and I think there is misinformation regarding its focus. As a publisher of three magazines, all of our content is original and written by professional writers who are also experts in our field of home improvement. We have seen a marked increase in the visibility of video content, shopping links and etc. displayed before web content on Google result pages. As one of the largest Adsense revenue generators before the algorithm change, Google has taken a hit in revenue from our site. On the other side is a marked increase in Yahoo traffic as a percentage and as an actual increase in the number of visitors referred by Yahoo.
    I would welcome a manual evaluation of our content, as yet it has not happened. Google has asked us to be patient, as the process is not yet complete. After looking at the pages that have done well and increased market share, there seems to be an increase in SEO techniques versus true quality content. As a publisher, I too will have to respond by employing what works. Were that Yahoo and Bing could actually compete with Google, maybe we could focus on content and not SEO tactics. However, the situation is that Google does direct the majority of traffic and therefore, we find ourselves grooming our sites to be more friendly to an algorithm and not towards usefulness to the reader. In the ideal world, quality content would be king. I saw DMOZ be raped by ruthless editors with fraudulent credentials, only to suffer a temporary ban of one month by Google. The damage they had done put many quality web site owners out of business and the derelicts had made enough money before being caught, that they opened new sites with their ill gotten gains.
    There is no perfect answer. No organization exists that could objectively qualify even the major web sites, much less the start up sites or niche sites.
    We can bitch about it, or we can continue to do business as usual, or as in our case, redesign our site to make it easier for navigation, use friendly URLs and indexable art and videos.
    We are a publisher. Our content and articles are unique to us. Our editors are the most respected in the industry, as all of them must be in the business of home improvement and not merely writers of content observing others work and constructing content without knowledge of the subject they are covering. Do we have a beef with Google? No, before the algoritm we were among the top revenue producers for Adsense. We worked with Google before February 2011, and we continue to partner with them. I was one of six original Adsense publishers selected from across the country to be Google Evangelists. So Google was not being vengeful towards us with its most recent update.
    The bottom line, the cuts made were deep and not restricted to content farms as is being argued. They also affected quality sites that were not optimized for algorithms and that is where I see us needing to change to recover the lost traffic and continue growth.
    My suggestion is others do likewise.

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