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Google Farmer Update: Who’s really affected?

By Marcus Tober

In a major update Google changed its algorithm last Thursday to tune down content-farms. Nearly 12% of all search results on were affected. One thing is almost certain: this was an algorithmic update!


Here at Searchmetrics we gather a lot of data from the Web. Over 55 million domains and 25 million keywords are continuously monitored, and all this data is then analyzed on a weekly and monthly basis. Over the last week, we’ve been intensely tracking the recent “Google Farmer Update” and algorithm changes to see what effects it is really having.

Überraschung: hat gewonnen
Surprise: wins

Visibility: The Organic Performance Index (OPI)

As you may know, following the big media buzz around the story in the New York Times, on 2/24/11 Google made some changes to its search algorithms to try and stem the ever-increasing presence of farmed content on the search engines results pages (SERPs). Being touted as the “Farmer Update”, Google has noted that this change has noticeably impacted 11.8% of their queries.

For purposes of this analysis, we used our own Organic Performance Index (OPI), which is calculated according to a keyword’s search volume, position and the statistical value of traffic distribution.

While speculators are calling this the “anti-Media” update and content heavy websites are quickly trying to pass themselves off as “anti-OnDemand Media sites” one site, eHow, is actually benefiting. Originally being fingered as a site that would be impacted by this update, eHow has actually gained 14% in visibility in the days following the change.

With its nearly 80% increase, the biggest winner in terms of traffic and percentage change is A remarkable increase considering that in contrast to Wikipedia, appears to be a classic definition of a content farm. Similarly, Yahoo! Answers experienced an almost 30% increase, in contrast to and, a site that experienced an almost 60% loss. Statistics such as these are clear indicators that the update must indeed be algorithm-based, fully automated and not carried out manually.

The results displayed are from data that we gathered between the 02/22/2011 and the 03/01/2011.

We analyzed 39 so-called “content farm” domains. We also looked at reputable, content heavy sites such as Facebook and the Huffington Post for comparative purposes. Overall, there was a 57% average drop in our OPI.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)

The biggest losers in percentage were: hat 92.5% verloren lost 92.5%
Domain OPI_today OPI_last Difference % 11,024 529,970 -518,946 -97.9% 19,874 263,529 -243,655 -92.5% 2,970 38,237 -35,267 -92.2% 23,687 281,343 -257,656 -91.6% 13,492 157,958 -144,466 -91.5% 7,170 83,184 -76,014 -91.4% 15,971 140,951 -124,980 -88.7% 23,216 192,128 -168,912 -87.9% 56,305 442,563 -386,258 -87.3% 2,694 19,995 -17,301 -86.5% 35,691 259,516 -223,825 -86.2% 13,507 93,993 -80,486 -85.6% 6,109 38,783 -32,674 -84.2% 11,648 70,404 -58,756 -83.5% 10,605 62,372 -51,767 -83.0% 30,289 157,037 -126,748 -80.7% 122,796 618,406 -495,610 -80.1% 113,436 489,014 -375,578 -76.8% 78,206 335,304 -257,098 -76.7% 8,069 33,231 -25,162 -75.7% 20,195 83,133 -62,938 -75.7% 10,961 42,877 -31,916 -74.4% 13,107 46,769 -33,662 -72.0% 9,607 32,385 -22,778 -70.3%

Download all data in Excel-format.

The biggest losers in terms of absolute visibility were: gehört zu den Verlierern is one of the biggest losers
Domain OPI_today OPI_last Difference % 662,274 1,673,406 -1,011,132 -60.4% 682,274 1,673,410 -991,136 -59.2% 11,024 529,970 -518,946 -97.9% 122,796 618,406 -495,610 -80.1% 3,199,369 3,689,144 -489,775 -13.3% 56,305 442,563 -386,258 -87.3% 113,436 489,014 -375,578 -76.8% 23,687 281,343 -257,656 -91.6% 78,206 335,304 -257,098 -76.7% 19,874 263,529 -243,655 -92.5% 35,691 259,516 -223,825 -86.2% 23,216 192,128 -168,912 -87.9% 13,492 157,958 -144,466 -91.5% 30,289 157,037 -126,748 -80.7% 15,971 140,951 -124,980 -88.7% 43,101 142,296 -99,195 -69.7% 13,507 93,993 -80,486 -85.6% 7,170 83,184 -76,014 -91.4% 20,195 83,133 -62,938 -75.7% 57,140 117,708 -60,568 -51.5% 11,648 70,404 -58.756 -83.5% 34,554 87,086 -52,532 -60.3% 10,605 62,372 -51,767 -83.0% 2,970 38,237 -35,267 -92.2%


Winner were:
Domain OPI_today OPI_last Difference % 455,031 254,087 200,944 79.1% 524,056 406,523 117,533 28.9% 944,950 831,961 112,989 13.6% 666,073 574,523 91,550 15.9% 1,262,562 1,173,229 89,333 7.6% 3,157,406 3,094,804 62,602 2.0% 80,142 68,685 11,457 16.7%


Who are the winners if the content farms are the losers?

It’s very hard to categorize the winners and losers. Obviously, it’s similiar to the Mayday update from last year where we saw that the loss of visibility was spread around a large number of different types of domains. Nevertheless, there are winners, notably the news portals like,, and

So Far, only US searches are affected

hubpages_uk in in in

An analysis of similar domains with a extension on index showed that there was an overall slight increase in traffic. Thus, as of yet, the update is only really effective on and still has to swap over to Europe. However, the UK counterparts of domains like or should be prepared to see changes.

Now what to do?

Although has always been taken as an example of industrial low-value content, they have actually gained visibility following this update. While the content may be of questionable value, like how to buy a teddy bear, user criteria such as bounce rates, visit duration, and social reach, for example, have obviously been part of the quality guidelines of the update. We also believe that if pages that are genuinely visually attractive to a user, the page will be spared by the Farmer Update.  Meaning  that  ranking is going to come down to how a user values a page, as opposed to just what content is on it.

Was Demand Media really not affected?

Some still question whether Demand Media has in fact been affected by the Farmer Update. In looking at popular Demand Media sites and, we think the answer is loud and clear.


Here at Searchmetrics we gather a lot of data from the Web. Over 55 million domains and 25 million keywords are continuously monitored, and all this data is then analyzed on a weekly and monthly basis. Over the last week, we’ve been intensely tracking the recent “Google Farmer Update” and algorithm changes to see what effects it is really having.
Marcus Tober

Marcus Tober

My name is Marcus Tober and I’m the founder of Searchmetrics. Because we really love to analyze all kinds of online data, we can give you more insights than any other company in SEO, SEM and Social Media. It’s not a job, it’s passion.

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