One of the biggest benefits of the Google Panda update is that it helped to eliminate content farms. Content farms were those websites that used to pop up at the top of your Google search results and took you to a page filled with keyword stuffed text that barely made sense. The goal of the publisher was to attract as many page views as possible and in turn sell advertising, affiliate links, whatever. It was even worse when they directly stole blog posts from an RSS feed (feed scraping) and published it under their own name often ranking higher in the search results than the original publisher.
This stuff worked because Google allowed it. The Google algorithms weren’t advanced enough to prevent the abuse and people took advantage. The more key word rich pages you could stuff into a website the better. Content quantity as opposed to quality became so valuable that “SEOs” had no qualms about going to a site like Elance.com and offer $50 for 50 or so 500 word articles and get them.
For the most part, the Google Panda update put an end to this sort of manipulation and in doing so, improved the search experience for everyone.
But fear not, according to a recent article on Mashable content farms are alive and well. They’ve just moved from the Google search results to your Facebook stream. According to the article, continued changes to Faceboook’s Edgerank algorithm has placed an emphasis on engagement (likes and sharing). Those looking to game the Facebook formula are quickly recognizing that images are one of the easiest ways to do it.
Don’t have images of your own, no problem. Just steal them from a website that does.
According to, Kevin Morris of the Daily Dot, (who wrote the Mashable article) that’s exactly what is happening. Those looking to game Facebook steal the images from another website, publish them on their website without attribution and then to Facebook with external links to the website.
Why Won’t You Like Me?
Since “likes” are so highly valued by Facebook’s Edgerank, Morris highlights another method of gaming the system in which an image is posted with a call to “like” in the form of a survey. For example, the “Teen Swag” facebook page is filled with posts such as “like if you brush your teeth” or even more manipulative, “Like if yes, comment if no.”
Teen Swag has garnered 1.1 million “likes” since it’s creation in late December 2012.
Impact on Facebook Marketing
Since Facebook updated it’s Edgerank algorithm last fall, more and more Facebook marketers are reporting a significant drop in reach. Add in the need to compete against content farms of this sort and you can quickly see how it is getting more and more difficult to be seen on Facebook. And it’s only going to get worse with the roll out of Facebook’s Graph Search. Graph search will pull results based on “likes” and engagement of those in your Facebook network. This will place an even higher value on engagement and potentially even more opportunity to game the results. It will also make it very hard for those not already established on Facebook gain a foothold.
So Should You Give Up on Facebook?
Not necessarily. However, it does mean you should take a hard look at your Facebook efforts and your ROI justifies those efforts. If you haven’t established a Facebook presence, I would highly recommend hard research and a clear reason for doing so now. This sort of research has always formed the foundation of a solid Facebook campaign but it is more important now then ever. You need to know that Facebook is the best place to reach your audience and have a solid strategy you know will work before starting a new Facebook campaign.
If Not Facebook, Where?
Ultimately it’s about going where your audience can find you. If you are finding it harder and harder to reach your audience on Facebook, return to the basics. Focus on developing your website with the quality content your audience needs. From there you can use the social media networks to extend your reach.
The other thing to consider is that as Facebook attempts to filter content and moves into search they are moving away from what they do best–helping people make connections. Google however, continues to refine what they do best–providing information their user seeks. As they add the social networking capabilities of Google+ to their search efforts, this is only going to become more and more apparent.
For those just getting started in online marketing, it may be too late to jump into the Facebook scrum. As Google shuts down the content farms and others looking to manipulate the system, the search return doors are wide open for those who do it right.