Algorithm Rolled Out: February 23, 2011

Algorithm Summary: Overall Gist 

This Google Farmer Update is intended to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites that provide little value to users, copy content from other websites, or are not very useful—and it should be a good thing for the Web—both for users and those who work tirelessly to create quality content. The priority for any business is to keep a close eye on its analytics. Are your rankings for keywords for which your site was previously ranked high? Are overall figures declining? Let’s hope not. However, there are some things you can do to ensure that your traffic does not suffer. 

Be aggressive in expanding your user base. 

Search is effective, but it is not the only way to drive traffic to your website. Create a strong social media following and work hard to increase email sign-ups and newsletter subscribers.

Solicit high-quality backlinks 

High-quality links will continue to be an important factor in search engine rankings. Network with other content creators and work hard to get links—quality links, including those with keyword-rich anchor text. Purchasing links is never recommended.

Create a variety of content 

Search engines enjoy a bit of variety. Consider creating a video for a YouTube channel, a photo log on Flickr, or an iTunes podcast in addition to a company blog.

Hire a good writer 

Some businesses may need to hire a skilled writer in response to the public’s call for quality content. Well-written and compelling content attracts links and social mentions and spreads through online communities. Remember that today’s skilled writer is also capable of producing SEO-friendly content.

Three Things to Consider for Merchants:

This update also emphasizes, as it should, Google’s emphasis on unique and high-quality results. This fact has three potential consequences for online merchants.

For starters, it may no longer be acceptable — if it ever was — to copy and republish manufacturer descriptions.

Consider the Schleich Knight’s Castle toy as an example. According to the product description on the manufacturer’s website:

“The Knight’s castle is a realistic-looking refuge for your favorite Schleich Knights.” You can manipulate the castle design to match your thoughts while saving it from a brutal attack. This castle includes imaginative play in your home with its endless possibilities. “

Second, merchants may need to create more unique, product-related content to increase traffic. It should have been obvious before Google’s Farmer update, which made it nearly mandatory. However, e-commerce marketers must provide an interesting and informative shopping experience to attract customers.

Third, merchants should avoid any SEO strategy that does not emphasize good, well-organized content. It includes using good HTML structure (CSS layout versus tables), content semantics such as proper title and header tags, and generally attempting to make a page easy for human readers while avoiding other less ethical SEO tactics that attempt to anticipate the Google algorithm or even guess what the Google bot can and cannot read.


The Google Farmer update improves search results. However, site owners, including online merchants, must provide rich and useful content. Ecommerce marketers should focus on creating good, unique content while minimizing SEO tactics aimed at “gaming” legitimate search results.

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