Image by Joelk75 via Flickr

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about Google's Farming update and why it has caused such angst among search marketers. Part of that answer is simple--a lot of sites with high rankings suddenly saw them plunge. That will cause some angst, for sure. But I think there is something deeper going on here. I think part of what is upsetting everyone is that we are feeling overwhelmed at what is expected of us. We don't feel capable of feeding the content machine. It feels like no matter what we do, we have to come up with more and more content every day and that what we are able to produce is never high enough quantity or high enough quality. I feel that way sometimes, too. I think it is that feeling that leads to content farming and other shortcuts.

I post here once a week and I am not always feeling so creative. I woke up this morning not having any idea what I wanted to write about. It can feel quite overwhelming. Lest you think I could have just put this off to tomorrow, I post every day on my Biznology blog, so I have to post something somewhere. I have contributors to my blog that post once or twice a week, but most days it is me.

So, I certainly understand the feeling of, "What do I have to say?" Or "What can I say that I haven't said already?" I get those feelings a lot. Most days, I have something in mind, or I can check my notes full of ideas and dredge something up, but some days I start out flummoxed and have to figure it out from scratch. Like today.

It's tempting to just decide not to post so often. That would seem to take away the overwhelming feeling, but it doesn't solve the problem, because the reason that I am posting is marketing. From my writing I get my speaking engagements, my consulting jobs--you get the idea.

So for me, posting a lot means getting more business, which is the way content marketing works for every business. None of you would be posting content if you didn't think it would somehow make money.

That's where the problem comes in. I remember talking to veteran comedian about how the business has changed. Time was that he could work out some excellent jokes and go around the country telling them for a few years. Now, he finds that his jokes get videotaped, they get tweeted, they get blogged, they are shown on TV, and then he can't get the same laughs anymore. The content machine is causing him to crank up his output to a level he's never seen before. "The Internet eats material," he told me.

That's because the Internet eats all content and wakes up hungry the next day for more. Always new. Always fresh.

I think that some of us, faced with the overwhelming nature of how much fresh content is required, look for short cuts. We might re-post something from somewhere else. We might hire an intern to do it. We might hire Demand Media. We might even resort to the kind of screen-scraping garbage that Google is trying to eliminate with the farmer update.

Whatever we do, we open ourselves up to lowering the quality of our content. Apart from whatever Google does, with the Farmer update or any other algorithm changes, lower quality content does not propel our brand image forward, nor mark us as experts on the subject, nor lead to competitive advantage. So, regardless of whether the farmer update affected you, you will have to make your peace with the pace. And somehow not lower your quality as you do so. You might need to hire a good writer. You might need to spend more of your own time writing or producing video or whatever other content works for you.

But don't expect the pace to slow down. Don't expect to feel less overwhelmed. And don't expect the shortcuts to work for very long. Eventually low quantity or low quality will kill you.

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March 21, 2011

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


I think every writer has those days where you just stare at the computer and hope that blog or article will write itself. I find that when you are truly stuck, it helps to read someone else’s blog and write a response post to theirs. You aren't just reposting their work; you are creating an online conversation with that article. That original article is just providing a jumping off point to get you going.


I think you've touched upon a very important point. I always think of the mom and pop retail owner who is expected to tweet/blog/create product copy/create videos, etc - in addition to their "normal" business activities. It's no wonder that folks look for shortcuts.

This post is a great reminder to focus your efforts, "make peace with the pace" (love that line) and always produce high-quality content. Thanks, Mike, for such a great article.

Thanks, Heather. I know that you've preached the value of great content for years, so thanks for the high praise.

I find one of the hardest things to produce in todays world is competitive pricing that clients can understand. It costs money to build quality content and it's going to cost more as Google makes these changes. Contest is huge(I wont say "king") and it can make or break your SEO efforts.

Yes. This farmer update known also as panda update making a great change in seo industry. But i don't think it will hurt brand. But i still can see some spamy site ranked higher

I agree, you with these changes you have to constantly worry if you are doing enough to make sure you are providing new content for you to remain relevant. I work with small businesses, and that is one of the biggest complaints that I hear on a regular basis. I think that once it all plays out it will work in the best interest of anyone, but as with anything else, people are not keen on change.

True .It affected good content websites too .

You make an excellent point on the never ending appetite for content. Eventually you need to look at return on investment. The amount of work that can be sunk chasing the rankings for minimal return can be staggering.

Google Panda strategy for 2011 is too transparent:

“Fill google “places” and SERP results with poor quality results so that more and more people start depending on adwords listing at the top and right for their business needs”

Brilliant extinction level idea – Panda what an appropriate mascot for latest update.

Well, Joe, I think Google is smarter than that. This is the same company that added relevance to paid search when everyone else sold to the highest bidder and who clearly marked which results were paid when other companies were trying to fool people. Perhaps they aren't the same company now, but if you can see how this would lead to ruin for Google, my suspicion is that they could see it, too.

I am more inclined to think that, like most algorithm updates, some things get worse even if lots of things get better. I basically think that they are a lot smarter about this than I am, no matter what I would see. But I know others agree with you and think that Google is doing what it does to extract more dough. I actually think they are running abot scared as Bing makes inroads and are genuinely concerned about the quality of the search results. Time will tell if this is part of the solution to that problem or just making things worse.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > The Farmer update and "feeding the content machine"