Correlation between Google Farmer Update and Social Media Buzz?

First of all I have to say that on the whole I see the Google Farmer update as a positive change, a move towards a better quality of search, but I say “on the whole” as there is no doubt some collateral damage in the so-called ‘War on Spam’.

The power of the long tail, and Google’s drum banging of its “content is king” mantra spawned a whole era of netrepreneurs that saw the correlation between writing unique content tailored to search queries to earn traffic, then monetising that traffic either by affiliation or with Adsense (a Google product ironically).

So 1 page became 10, and 10 pages became 504,000 (mahalo.com).

Now it appears that era is over, and Google have found and deployed a new algorithmic method of analysing site/page quality. This is a revelation, and I have to say when you look at the top 25 list as covered by Sistrix I think they nailed it.

So what changed?

Over at SEOMoz, Rand and his research team have (to my mind at least) determined that it’s not a link analysis update, and in the post he speculates that:

  • “sites whose pages had fewer and/or less intrusive blocks of advertisements on them tended to be in the winner bucket”
  • “sites whose UI/design would likely be described as more modern, high quality, thoughtful and “attractive” were winners vs. the “ugly” sites that tended to be in the loser bucket.”
  • “those that tended to attract “thin” contributions (think EzineArticles, Hubpages or Buzzle) lost”

I agree with all of those points, but as Rand continues in the post, it would be hard (and dangerous) to deploy that analysis algorithmically, especially the design factor.

My Hunch

I don’t think any one element was used to score and downgrade these sites, but I have been looking around for another voice that makes reference to something that struck me immediately:

Google Farmer Update

Is Google considering Social Media Buzz when evaluating sites with lots of content?

Google appears to have invested heavily in understanding, listening to and interpreting social media buzz – with “Realtime” entries in Google search results fed from Twitter acting almost as an instant barometer of importance. To that end, I suggest that Google looks at brand mentions in the social sphere when evaluating sites.

If Google trusts the word of the masses so much in social circles, and has established that this metric would be very difficult to fake, doesn’t it stand to reason that it would use it as an informal quality score?

Looking very speculatively at brand mentions vs size of site we can compare some winners and losers of similar site size to create at least some food for thought.

Key:
M = Twitter Mentions (Note 1)
P = Pages in Google index (Note 2)
Z = ZWS Raw Buzz Score (P Divided by M multiplied by 1000)

Loser
wisegeek.com
M = 126
P = 113,000
Z = 1.1
Winner
popeater.com
M = 665
P = 63,500
Z = 10.5
Loser
ezinearticles.com
M = 17,400
P = 20,000,000
Z = 0.9
Winner
dailymotion.com
M = 70,300
P = 21,900,00
Z = 3.2

Notes On Research techniques:
Note 1: I have used a custom date range to filter out the “Buzz” now appearing about these sites as a result of the update, so the mentions occurred between 01/01/10-31/12/10.

Query Used : “brandname” site:twitter.com -site:twitter.com/brandtwitter

Note 2: site:domain.com on Google.co.uk.

The Get Out Clause

These numbers draw speculative conclusions and of course there are lots of other social media sites to monitor, but I only include these basic workings and an opinion on the matter for the purposes of starting a discussion.

There are anomalies such as Hubpages, which have quite a bit of buzz (score 1.8) where Instructables have a score of 1.

But on the whole, in my brief workings the “Winner” sites had around 6 or 7 times more buzz than their “Loser” Counterparts.

On that basis, albeit without the in-depth research this question deserves I believe that the Google Farmer update has looked for:

     

  • Social media buzz/brand mentions + links for bigger sites, just links from social media sites for smaller sites.
  • Adsense code location on page (More intrusion, less credibility)
  • Outbound links on page (Apply some “green light” ratio for number of affiliate/non-affiliate external links on a page)
  • Internal links on the page to other deep, long page name articles

All of the factors above, if combined would wipe out almost all thin affiliates and content farms for the following reasons:

  1. Mr/Mrs A F Illiate would set up sites en mass, with a formulaic approach to adsense block placement (to try to improve CTR)
  2. He/she would not want to lose visitors by linking anywhere other than to their affiliate partners
  3. He/she would use software/wordpress plugin to link with anchor text rich links to other articles on their own site.
  4. As the sites are numerous, and require a “one-hit” add-5-pages-get-5-links-wait-to-rank approach, the webmaster would have no way of setting up a social media profile for the site, and as such would receive almost zero links from these places

Conclusion

The conclusions above are my own personal opinion, but certainly the sites that are/were penalised do fit quite nicely into all of the criteria in the bulleted list above.

Keen to hear any other opinions and findings around the topic of this update.

… but to quote Socrates:

True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing ;)

Image Credit: Andrew Stawarz

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    4 Responses to “Correlation between Google Farmer Update and Social Media Buzz?”

    1. [...] Correlation between Google Farmer Update and Social Media Buzz — Liam Veitch at Zen Web Solutions has done some analysis on whether Google must have considered social buzz as a factor in determining site to whack or reward.  His initial analysis seems to support the hypothesis, but requires more study. [...]

    2. Julie says:

      Great post! I’ve been wondering the same thing… My site is only a year old, but I’ve tweeted and facebooked from the beginning of it. I tweet and post daily, and interact with people on both sites. I have grown tremendously this past year, as far as visitors go, and I survived (for now, at least!) the recent update. While I love my site, and put an enormous amount of time and effort into it, I don’t think it’s particularly better than sites that I’ve heard about that were hit. But one thing that I do that they might not… tweet and facebook every day. Did it make a difference for my site? Who knows… but I’m going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing!

    3. Rod says:

      I have analyzed my analytics in detail over the past week and I actually came up with the same conclusion before finding this article. I’d love for you to expand on more of exactly what is happening.

      First off my content was hammered 30% despite being all original and written by professionals in the field.

      Hunch one. Commments…
      I have content that has a comment field but I never accept comments on it accept my own to keep it as an ‘update’ box so to speak and it appears that those ones are hit. Pages taht contain the comments box with no comments were hit REALLY hard. What do I think: I think Google thinks that if you have no comments, you have a crappy article that no one made it to the bottom.. (hence me posting).

      Hunch two: Facebook and Twitter
      I’m going to have to agree with Julie on this one, I think Google is placing an enormous amount of respect on these sites thinking that it will tell the tale of successful content. They are thinking if it’s popular, it must be of higher unique quality. Big companies already win this battle which is why I think they have come out in flying colors on this update.

      Hunch three: Forums..
      All my forums pages did well.. they all came out ahead.. Why do they rank this content better than my articles that are written by professionals? Go figure, it might have something to do with ads, and the above two hunches…

      Hunch Three: Ratings..
      All my reviews/ratings pages did well… Again this is some sort of verification algorithm to say that users are interacting here.. lets rank this higher..

      Conclusion..

      I definitely think this update was a social update instead of a farmer update. Farmer update was just to say.. farms dont get comments so unless you’re social you’re going to get messed up.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.. Please don’t hoard your seo on the new update, everyone needs to hear more analysis to truly understand what google is looking for in a quality unique article.

    4. [...] Correlation Between Google Farmer Update and Social Media Buzz? – Zen [...]