Earlier this week, Google made a significant change to their search algorithm that will impact about 12% of US search results. This update will weed out a lot of so-called “content farms” out of search results, punishing pages that have a lot of “shallow” or “low-quality” content. While this has significant implications for SEO, one might think that it will not affect pay-per-click advertising. I think that’s a little shortsighted, and this change will affect some PPC accounts.
If you’re running any ads on the Google Display Network, it’s very likely that your ads are showing on some content farms. If you’ve ever seen URLs like www.ehow.com, www.expertvillage.com, www.hubpages.com, or www.squidoo.com on your reports, then you might have been displaying ads on a content farm. These are only a few examples – there are thousands of other minor URLs that scrape content from other sites, or contain low-quality, keyword-rich content just for the sake of displaying ads. But, it’s pretty easy to tell a content farm page by the plethora of ads and the lack of truly informative content.
Content farms are a big piece of the display network pie. Since they depend on ad revenue to turn a profit, there are usually a lot of ads on there from the Google Display Network and others. So, a significant chunk of your clicks could be coming from these kinds of sites. If you get a lot of traffic and conversions from these types of pages, then you could see a significant drop in traffic and conversions now that these pages have been wiped from the SERPs.
It’s tricky to predict whether or not you will get better or worse display network performance due to this change, though. On one hand, content farm pages tend to be so terrible that they drive users away from the site to find what they want to know. If you have an ad displaying on the page that might answer the user’s need for information, you might get a click and a conversion out of it. But on the other hand, content farms tend to drive a lot of unqualified traffic since they target users who are merely looking for information, and not seeking to make a purchase related to their question. So it’s something that’s best analyzed on a case-by-case basis, since your results will likely vary depending on what kind of industry you are in.
Bottom line, this algorithm update is going to remove a lot of content farm pages and their associated ads from the search results. This will definitely reduce the traffic you get from the display network. The one thing that’s unclear, though, is whether this reduction in traffic will reduce your display network conversions, or merely improve the overall quality of traffic you get from the network. Your mileage may vary – be sure to keep a close eye on your display network campaigns over the next couple of week’s to find out how it will affect your business.