There’s a great article in the NY Times today discussing how the sale of the Huffington Post to AOL was driven largely by it’s SEO tactics. The Huffington Post, Demand Media (Livestrong), Associated Content (full disclosure alums of AC work for Fruition), and other content farms (or content mills) have a pretty simple strategy. Get has much low to absolutely unreadable content and then use the proper SEO tactics for internal linking and general site structure. The result is Google eats up the content and you start ranking higher for what are referred to as long tail searches. Long tail searches are not as competitive as a primary phrase. For example, the search phrase “Denver Colorado” is extremely competitive. Where as the search phrase “coffee shop in wash park in Denver” isn’t competitive. Because the searches are less competitive you simply have to stick up some content to rank well on Google for the long tail phrase. The problem is the Huffington Post and the other content mills don’t really provide any useful information to the visitor. They just get the clicks from Google and essential arbitrage the value of the traffic.
So where is Google headed with this to improve search quality? The easiest thing for Google to do would be to increase the weight Google places on how long some stays on a page. If the person bounces (leaves right after arriving) odds are the content was fairly poor. But I have feeling this rather elementary fix is going to be trumped by a bigger innovation on Google’s side. Google has told SEO companies to be careful with the quality of the content you’re sticking your websites and suspect they will begin grading content based on averages for each language. Only time will tell but for now SEO is absolutely essential and it created the Huffington Post and the other content mills.