Google Farmer Update Hits Content Sites HARD… including

On Wednesday, February 23 2011, Google launched the Panda update - which is now being called "the Google Farmer update". This was a huge algorithmic change (algorithmic improvement, according to Google) which affected almost 12% of the search results.

The update was rolled out in the US only, with plans to roll it out globally over time.

Google says: "This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on." source

As you know, I was traveling when this hit last week so I didn't have the opportunity to scour the latest news & discussions on the topic. I've been catching up this week, mainly through the discussions with Elite Members in my forum.

Rick Wilson of, an Elite Member in the ClickNewz forum, started an informative thread and great discussion on the Farmer update. I asked him to share some of those same views & resources with you here...


Rick says: I know that many here use to submit their articles to. I understand they have tough standards already but it looks like it's gonna get tougher for articles to "pass muster" there from now on.

Chris Knight has a blog post about what's happened at EzineArticles and what they're gonna do next. Looks like it's going to get ALOT tougher to submit to.

Some of the examples he listed are:

  • We’re considering raising the minimum article word count to 400. Currently we give less exposure to articles that are between 250-400 words, but we still accept them. Thin content often comes under 400 words even though I have seen many high quality articles in the 250-400 range, it is rare. 600-850 words may become the new normal with 400 being the minimum.
  • Expect to see our current article rejection rate (40.6%) climb by another ~20%.
  • WordPress Plugin and API – We will no longer be accepting article submissions via these tools
  • Articles that are advertorials were already targeted by our team, but they will now get a hyper-focus to reject.

Read more posts on what Ezine Articles is going to do:

ALL this has me thinking about article marketing these days ...

There was a not-so-surprising UPROAR when EZA ( initially announced after they got hammered by Google, that they were going to do away with 'do-follow' in their links in the resource box. Now, I can certainly understand why they (article submitters) would want that coveted "link juice". But the traffic would be my priority.

If I'm submitting articles to directories like EZA, I'm hoping to get traffic to my sites thru links allowed in the articles (link juice or not). IF your articles are actually good then you will generally get a decent click-thru rate. Any 'link juice' ('do-follow') from the links is just icing on the cake.

I think people put too much emphasis into the 'no-follow' issue anyway. And I think people better get used to it and plan accordingly from now on. The big 'G' is on the warpath again. AND they will be in the future.

Every time they do their 'war dance' there is some collateral damage. This time it was ALOT! Google seems to have a BIG 'double standard' most of the time, but I don't necessarily blame 'G' for what they are trying to do as search results AREN'T very good much of the time. As we all know when we try to sort thru the search results for something.

While there are certainly legit sites that were caught up in the collateral damage, I find it amusing that some of the people complaining the loudest are the ones with the splog type sites that shouldn't have been ranked so high in the first place. It's a bit of poetic justice.

I still see BAD, obviously crappy sites ranking above better sites.

Elsewhere ...

Those over at show some stats and came up with some interesting findings:

Top Losses ...


Top Winners ...


The "top winners" is NO real surprise there - RIGHT?

Evidently about 12% of the SERPS will have been or will be affected by this change. So far it's been only in U.S. but will enentually be expanded worldwide soon. Gonna be VERY interesting in SEOland. The SEO forums are "lighting up"!

The 'cat and mouse' game between the SEO's and the big 'G' continues ...


Rick Wilson aka @CorpRebel


Resources For The Latest Google Algorithm Change (codename = Panda):

Blog Posts By Chris Knight & Staff At
Google Forecloses on Content Farms w/Farmer Update
Who Lost in Googles Farmer Algorithm Change Interview With Matt Cutts & Amit Singhal Of Google

I would be interested to know your thoughts and personal findings, and any resources/links you want to share. I'm opening this up for discussion as we all explore the implications of the Farmer Update - as both marketers and users. Leave your comment below! 😉 -Lynn

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. Allen Walker says

    Thank you for sharing a lot of great resources, Lynn. 🙂

    With regards to article directories, for people who covet link juice they are not really as effective as in the past. Web 2.0 sites like YouTube and Facebook are much more beneficial for link juice.

    The main benefit of article directories can be said to be their traffic and the possibility of your article getting syndicated. The Google change has a massive impact on both of these fields.

    Though, I don't use article directories much, preferring to use Web 2.0 sites... But as long as you have good, relevant, unique content, you don't really have to worry about much from Google changes. 🙂


  2. Well, keeping up and adapting to the ever changing web environment is what makes our skills valuable as Internet marketers. I know you've weathered worse than this, Lynn. The change will have a huge effect on those whose business model is based on EZA, but for the blogger or affiliate marketer there are plenty of other options. I think it's a good time to consider a greater emphasis on guest blogging at quality and related sites rather than article site submission. I know some marketers have had a great deal of success with that approach and I plan to put more energy in that direction myself.

  3. As someone who runs an article marketing service, I can certainly attest to the fact that a lot of articles were moved around on the so-called "Farmer Update." I can also attest to the fact that a lot more articles are being rejected by EZA from their editors for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with thin content.

    Many of my students are still having great results with other article directories, so we are funneling our traffic over there, and as far as I'm concerned, EZA is going to lose out big over time. That's their call to make and they'll have to live with the fall out.

    I also don't necessarily think the Farmer Update improved the results, at least for the niches I'm looking at.

    People who built out quality web sites to go along with their article marketing in my service are doing just fine and they still have solid and high rankings for desirable keywords.

    In addition, I am doing searches on a list of keywords in our niches daily and I still see the results being moved around daily. Based on this, I can definitely say this Farmer update is not set in stone. Thing are moving around from one day literally to the next.

    I wrote an article the other day for on some of my thoughts for article marketers that is available on their homepage.

    I have formulated a strategy going forward that, without getting into too much details, includes: less reliance on EZA, shifting more time and energy into other directories, building up the web site portion of our marketing efforts with students, which inclues "mini-sites" and blogs.

    I think one thing being misunderstood is people think if the article directories end up doing permanently worse that article marketers will necessarily do permanently worse as well. It's important not to mix them up. You can have the article marketers having reached their zenith but article marketers still doing fine.


    • Dan, you make some good points too. It's quality that will set people apart. I put EZA up there because they're considered a top tier article directory.

      Unfortunately alot of people put most of their effort into EZA when they probably should have have spread themselves out more.

      Article Marketing is NOT an exact science. Or so I'm told! LOL

      Rick Wilson aka CorpRebel

    • Bill Davis says

      Great points, Dan! (though your last sentence has me perplexed)

      I've had my run-ins with EZA and some of their reviewers. I consider myself to be a competent writer and I always offer (what I consider) good content, but I usually have to go a couple rounds with the reviewers who reject my articles due to *other* things about my website (and never about the article itself).

      Yes, the link I put in my resource box leads back to my website, which might have *something* controversial on it.

      But I digress 🙂

      Putting all your eggs in one article marketing basket may not be a wise choice. Nowadays, I'm testing content syndication and initial results are positive. The idea is to get your content, ideas, and persona out there to as many places as possible, casting a really wide net in the hopes of getting direct traffic back to your site as well as a lot of useful backlinks (which still count, nofollow or not).

  4. DeAnna Troupe says

    What? I actually blogged about something before Lynn did? It's going to snow. I think that the demand for freelance writers will probably increase as a result of this update since the article directories will be demanding more high quality original articles than they did in the past. There will also probably be more people asking to do guest blog posts in order to get the traffic that they used to get from article directories.

  5. Lynn, one thing in all this mess that people keep forgetting is that your top priority should NOT be to get placed on article directory sites. That's merely a means to an end. Your goal with article marketing should be to have your articles taken OFF the article directory site and reprinted on top-ranking authority sites within your niche.

    Yes, article sites do need to be concerned about their rankings in order to bring more traffic (hopefully newsletter publishers, bloggers, etc. who want to reprint your stuff) to their sites. But when people search for resources to get content from, they don't search for terms like "ezine articles" or "free content" etc. For most of the terms I typed in, still ranks in the top 5 for.

    It's never been about the directories. That's just a starting point. In order for article marketing to be successful, you will want me to go to (or or wherever), find your article then reprint it on my targeted niche site that has a PR7 😉 THEN you've got some serious benefits in place.

  6. Jeff Pohl says

    I have seen an INCREASE in traffic to my sites. Some have seen an increases in the 25 to 50% range. Others have stayed the same or ever so slightly increased. After playing the google games for a couple years, I threw in the towel and only write original stuff and do things pretty much above board so I am not to frightened by Google changes.

    Give Relevant content and you will get along with Google.

  7. Thank You Lynn, for posting my perspective on the latest 'G' shenanigans. 😉

    I've gotten emails saying I'm just picking on EZA or EZA is being unfairly picked upon.. Let me just say that I mentioned as an example, since they WERE one of the top sites that got the 'hammer'. Plenty more BIG content sites were 'hammered.

    I'm NOT much of an article marketer, but I CAN see what's going on. I also think that this goes beyond just article marketing. It's about quality content for the SEs to index.

    To be honest, in many ways, the EZA site looks sketchy (to me) as it is and Chris Knight has mentioned they are looking into revising the site's layout. I think that is a good, open-minded attitude to take.

    Bing is picking up speed but the big 'G' still is on top, whether we like it our not. My guess would be that many sites that actually provide good unique, content won't suffer too much ... NOW or in the future.

    That's what we all need to strive for!

    FWIW .. I still have ALOT of work to do myself! heh heh

    Rick Wilson aka CorpRebel

  8. "less reliance on EZA... Amen! Never put all your eggs in one basket. Google has proven time and again that (online at least) this is not a good strategy. There are dozens of quality article directories online that offer exceptional exposure. Why limit yourself?

    I agree with DeAnna that this will most likely bring about a positive conversion in the article marketing segment. I'd love to see less of the bulk/junk articles cranked out by the hundreds for the sole purpose or attempting to boost rankings that started once the average Joe discovered the power of link popularity. I'm looking for a movement back to quality being king as it was in the early days of article marketing. One can hope

    Rick... glad to help 🙂

  9. I have seen the changes make the sites that scrape from ezinearticles and other article repository sites rise in the SERPs with this latest change. Here`s a comprehensive list of sites that got hit by latest algo change:
    Also,Google`s Search Engineers were interviewed about the latest algorithm change .. it`s really awesome and I thought it could be useful:

    All the best,

    • Hi There,

      First off Lynn, thank you as always for your coverage of all things IM. Also thank you Eren for that sistrix list. Those are pretty dramatic numbers.

      I can't help but think G's mission here is, for at least this instance, noble. If you go to the content farms all over the net and look, these farms are almost exclusively loaded with G's Content Network Ads. These are basically "Content network farms" for G?

      If all these sites lose visitors isn't G a big loser as well?

      It didn't really occur to me until I saw the list Eren shared.

  10. I noticed that Buzzle was popped pretty hard during the update. What does that tell us? Well, It tells me that unique content isn't the end-all be-all in search results. It's only one metric and, apparently, not a very important one.


  11. Eren Mckay says

    Hi Lynn,
    I already commented before .. but I just had to comment again -lol.
    I understand your perspective on submitting a articles just for the traffic but honestly it is not worth all the hassle for me to submit to EZA solely for click through rates. We have to remember something about click throughs: it truly depends on the niche that you are marketing in. For example, if my niche is about birthday parties there is no “desperate need” for people searching for that. Of course I could make the entire article kind of induce the reader to want to click through and while there is nothing wrong with that per say.. that is not in my nature or writing style.... nor do I want it to be. There are psychological triggers that can make the reader “want” to click through and if you gave me and hour I could use my brain and rewrite a good informative article for that exclusive purpose...
    However I usually don`t like writing that way. I prefer to focus on good information and not worry so much on getting people to click.
    That may not sound so marketing savvy but I treasure my low stress levels - LOL.
    The average click through rates on my articles are really low. And I honestly don`t care about that. My personal purpose for submitting to Ezine is to get link juice. That`s it. Now if someone clicks through .. well it`s just the icing on the cake for me 😉
    Why did EZA (and other places) get such a hit? Well maybe it has something to do with the fact that most of their huge site is not unique content... And Google has always said.. keep it unique so that your quality score does not go down. Well... many people don`t listen to Google and then bam. I saw a video the other day where Matt Cutts kept emphasizing unique content as a quality score.
    Also when reading their latest interviews they said that data from Chrome gave them insight as to which sites were considered low quality by users. I am totally supportive that EZA should change their way of doing things -- maybe should have changed a long time ago.. They should make quality be their high priority. That way they can keep earning their adsense revenue and we can keep getting our link juice from the articles. That would be win win for everyone.
    Now if they decide to make it no follow... well then it is win lose in my book. The reason I honestly believe this is because of some tests I have done with the nofollow tag. No follow wont prevent indexing but it doesn`t pass link juice (according to Matt Cutt`s statements). As a writer it just is not advantageous to submit there and not get any link juice to my pages. So as long as they are do follow.. I`ll stay there. If and when they ever switch over, I`m gone and so are my articles. It`s more about taking a stand for what I believe in. And I believe in honoring a writer`s work and giving credit where credit is due.
    I did a guest post on nofollow that might be an interesting read over at Leigha Baer`s blog:
    All the best,

  12. Thanks for informing us Lynn. I have only written two articles for ezinearticles. I have written 9 articles for Bukisa, and want to write more. I agree with Karon when she says, "Our goal with article marketing should be to have your articles taken OFF the article directory site and reprinted on top-ranking authority sites within your niche." Blogger is making some big changes and I don't think they are all fair. My blog has just been flagged for spam which it isn't. I am now in the process of trying to get it unflagged. However, I am looking into WordPress. My goal has always been to switch to WordPress anyway.

  13. Peter at B2Web says

    Thanks for the post and links to sources. Much appreciated.

    When I first heard about G's change, I was on the fence with whether to continue submitting articles to EZA. However, after a dip in traffic from EZA the first few days after G's change, my traffic from EZA picked up to higher levels than before. Better yet, my syndication stats improved dramatically.

    I publish pretty good articles on EZA and do my best to be informative and write quality. My primary aim is syndication. It works. I welcome both G's change and EZA's change because I expect it will rid the article directories of many article writers. My traffic from EZA continues to do very well.

  14. I must think about it. Google change many thing about Algol.I publish my article at ezine to.

  15. Portland SEO Firm says

    This is going to be interesting to see how it plays out. Sites like Ezine have to play a real tough balancing act. If they overreact to Google's changes and make the allure of people placing articles on their site not as attractive, they may do more damage on their own by losing contributors who will look elsewhere to market themselves.

  16. Suraj Deshmukh says

    It was really not surprised to hear that Google has changed its algorithm on Feb 23 2011, as it is known for delivering quality results to users, with the result of this sites having genuine content will experience high rankings in google and sites with duplicate ones will be penalized and further removed from the results. This is really a good move by google.

  17. Gail Gardner says

    The sad thing about Google's ever-increasing promotion of the sites you list as gainers in this article is that one would hope few would need to see YouTube, eBay or Facebook in the serps to find their sites.

  18. "Digital" Don Hill says

    Sometimes we, as marketers, lose sight of what Google, Bing, and the other search engines are actually there for - to facilitate the delivery of the EXACT information that PEOPLE are looking for.

    The search engines have to walk a fine line between helping people find what they're looking for and providing traffic to their PPC advertisers, who basically bribe the engine in order to get to the first page without actually "earning" that position. That's why most people avoid the "sponsored" links altogether, in favor of the "organic" results.

    Blogs have held a position of prominence for some time as being sources of "quality" content, but now with the proliferation of "auto-blogs" which are nothing more than glorified RSS aggregators, blogs are beginning to fall from favor too.

    With regard to EZA and other article directories, a significant number of articles (especially in the "Internet Marketing" niche) are "spun" PLR content - and often aren't even proof-read to see if the article makes sense to a human reader. Of course, it seems like there's a new "product launch" almost every day that revolves around some sort of "loophole" or "secret" to cut in line to reach the top of the SERPs.

    I'm of the school of thought that if you never lie, you don't really have to worry about anything you've said. As other commenters have pointed out, the changes have had little (if any) negative impact on them because they've been providing good relevant content that PEOPLE have attested to as being relevant by their clicks.

    Bottom line - if you stop creating content aimed at trying to satisfy the nebulous "requirements" of a search engine, and instead focus on providing content that real PEOPLE find useful, you may be surprised at how much that does to propel your link closer to the first SERP.

    That's not to say you should ignore the fundamentals of SEO - just that you shouldn't spend an inordinate amount of time and resources on "tweaking" your pages and articles so much as providing information that - you guessed it - PEOPLE want to know.

    A very thought-provoking post, Lynn - as well as the comments following. I found your blog via a link from "Internet Marketing NewsWatch." I've bookmarked you in RoboForm, and I'll most definitely be back!

  19. This was a much needed update to reduce content farm but I do not believe that ezine articles has been hit by this update because they are the best article directory on the net and besides they do not allow duplicate content in their article.Youtube and Facebook are always expected to gain no matter what changes Google make in their algorithm.

  20. Kirk Ward says

    I'm hurt that everyone seems to be talking about Google's change in their algorithm is to "improve the user experience." Or, even thinking that Google and Bing are here to provide the exact content that users are looking for.

    Google and Bing are businesses, and they are here to make money for their shareholders. Google's modifications to their algorithm was a response to Bing's 10% increase in search market share, and their lackluster response to social engines Facebook and Twitter. It also came about after a change in the executive suite where Eric Schmidt was "promoted" (or was it really demoted) and Larry Page was given the job of CEO.

    Google is in the advertising business, and Google is losing audience. That is a business problem that can only be solved by giving the audience something they want. They're trying to do that by paying more attention to their core principles, but I wonder if it's too little, too late.

    Will Google stay relevant with things like the social media encroaching on audience share when they don't have a social network, and all their attempts to create one have failed miserably?

    I wonder?

    • Yes! You nailed it alright. Google is publicly traded company and they do things that will increase their value on the market.
      If your site get promoted in the serps after the algo change, that's great. If your site gets caught in the crossfire, well too bad.
      What I find difficult to swallow is how come eHow didn't get affected, because it "deserves" it!

  21. Cindy Brock says

    My husband (who is not a big internet person-if that makes sense) read about all this and summed it up like this: "So, does this mean if I type in the word 'elephant' I will no longer get a bunch of crap sites, flooded with ads, and have really nothing information or interesting about elephants?" (Couldn't have said it better myself!)

  22. I own about 50 web sites...several of which are the very best offering in their genre. Most of my rankings didn't move at all, and some improved. But there are a handful that suffered a severe (and inexplicable) ass-kicking. I'm hoping that Google is hard at work tweaking to restore to right some of the damage they've done. They usually do figure it out in I'm not raising a stink yet.

    I can understand sites like Ezine Articles getting spanked. It's not that they are without value...but EVERYONE knows that the reason they are popular is that they basically function like a glorified link farm. Otherwise...we'd keep all our own content on our own sites...and articles would be written with legitimate value in mind, rather than trying to own a keyword phrase.

    And I agree...I still see poor-quality sites outranking sites of value.

    But I figured Google is still trying to get it for now, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.


  23. I have to say that search results have been pretty bad lately so it sure will be great if this update helps in that department. It's pretty discouraging when you see sites with almost no content outranking good content sites so let's hope this update will help things overall.

  24. Here is what I can't help wondering:

    In their zeal for unique content, Google has punished sites such as article directories that have loads of duplicate content. Ok, that is understandable.

    However, when I post a unique article on my site, which may have taken three hours for me to research and write, and seconds later (due to RSS feeds or automated software) that article is now live on dozens of other sites -- how on earth can Google figure out which site wrote the article first? They only crawl my site once per day, and they don't crawl through all of my old pages at each crawl!

  25. "It tells me that unique content isn’t the end-all be-all in search results. "

    But this isn't unique content. Those same articles are published all over the place in hundreds of other directories. On many article sites, the only content is duplicated content... nothing else is there. Nothing original. Just reprints.

    • @Karon

      I realize that the articles are syndicated, but I think you misunderstood me. Buzzle only accepts unique content. After it is published, all bets are off. So initially, it is unique. You would think that this would count for something, but apparently not.


  26. Also, please keep in mind that there is a LOT more going on behind the scenes that the average Joe knows about. You should read Jill Whalen's assessment. Hidden content, spammy tactics, black-hat tricks... lots of things nobody would be able to see from just visiting the site. Jill has a very detailed article about this in the last issue of her High Rankings Advisor newsletter.

    • Jill Whalen's HRA newsletter is great, have you seen Pot Pie Girl's newsletter?
      She thinks that there are some "poisonous" topics that Google smacked down on - really interesting theory.

  27. That previous algorithm update from Google surely pummeled a lot of business, especially content spinning services (good thing I don't use those tools). Scraped sites are also getting bad vibes from these changes. Well, that's just good news for those who are really focusing their campaign with quality. There are still a lot of options to consider (like guest blogging, press release, site building), just stick with quality and for sure your site will stay on the web with good search ranking positions.

  28. I am in full support of this update. I'm aware of everybody trying to game Google, and it took me months to realize the truth that eventually, if you are trying to pawn off bad content, they will get you. I've also seen bad sites ranking high in the search rankings (search for DSLR Reviews and look at the cruddy site that comes up number 2), but I am sure over time this will change. Google still seems to give precedent to websites with the keyword in the domain name, I wonder when they will start pressing those sites for more valuable content?

  29. It seems like if your site has unique content and does not scrap or copy other peoples content then you should be fine and the update should have not effected you. It seems like Ezine got penalized as such because of people submitting articles there and to other sites as well which would count as duplicate content. It looks like people will be updating their sites more often now with fresh content. Something they should have been doing from day one.

  30. Vincent Abry says

    What thing I don't understand is why the Panda update didn't affect websites like May be they are in the Google Whitelist ?

  31. Michael Tubers from Traffic Malady says

    There's nothing to lose with this Google recent change. In fact, I found out that it was to my own benefit. I had couple of mini niche sites that was on top 10 in 2011. Fortunately, 4 of them are now on top 1 for competitive key phrases. I have also seen great conversion on my affiliate sales and opt ins.

    I believe quality is the watch word here.
    If we all aim for quality while putting the money second, Google slap and kicking will not affect us and even if it does, with your marketing skill, you can trounce the market and still have your own slice. Lol!

    Thank you

  32. Rahman Mehraby says

    There seems that the most miserable thing is to leave your life in the hands of ONE giant, the big G! We should find other ways in order not to be entirely dependent on it.

    Of course, social media is there, but what's the difference between the big G and soon-to-come big F or big T? Facebook and Twitter could also change their mood and dump us sooner or later.

    I wish the web could become a community of small islands where you could choose your target audience and go there. You need more islands? Train agent for special missions! Seems to be too wishful!

    Rahman Mehraby
    Site Booster Blog

  33. I have used both Buzzle and Ezine a lot in the past to build links and they are both much more strict on their content now than they were before the changes.

  34. It is crazy how many website Google has laid it down to. Check out this article and just look at the keyword comparison of the before and after results of some websites. A few dropped all the way to page 100

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