Plagiarism, Content Farms and Google

FarmContent farms have been in the news a good deal lately. For example, with Google’s recent Farmer update, content farms were supposed to be heavily de-valued in search results, and, as a result, many sites considered to be content farms dropped significantly in traffic.

However, content farms have been a very controversial part of the Web for a very long time and, for many bloggers, they have been a serious problem, especially when it comes to issues of content theft and plagiarism.

The reason is that, unlike RSS scraping, which rarely has a major impact on bloggers and smaller content creators, content farms are able to dominate search results.

To make matters worse, spammers routinely lift content from these farm sites, largely because there is so much material to take, giving these sites a great deal of trust with Google when it comes to having original content (though not always high quality content).

What this means is that plagiarism and content misuse by content farms can be a major disaster for a smaller blogger and can lead to serious headaches.

Fortunately though, these situations are, for the most part, easy to deal with but require one to both watch their content and know how to take proper action when they discover their work being misused. Otherwise, you may find that content farms, often unwittingly, are getting traffic that should have been yours and taking credit for your creation.

What Are Content Farms?

The definition of what is and is not a content farm differs from person to person but the basic concept is the same. Content farms are sites that get a employ a large number of either paid or unpaid freelance writers to create a large volume of content. This content, in turn, is usually targeted at gaining search engine ranking, specifically for long-tail keywords.

The idea is that these articles, which usually number in the many thousands, may receive only a bit of traffic each but, combined, generate a great deal of inbound linking, search traffic and search engine trust.

The Reason Content Farms Controversial

Content farms are controversial because, while the content is generally unique and original, it’s often viewed as being not of very high quality. Articles on such sites tend to be shorter and are often seen as being poorly written and of little use.

This is a big part of why Google worked to devalue many of such sites during its recent updates, because it felt that the quality of content was not up to par and that other sites, ranked lower, provided better information.

Basically, content farms focus mostly on quantity, not quality and many feel that this shows up in the works posted.

The Problem with Content Farms and Plagiarism

Content farm companies have little interest in receiving plagiarisms and other non-original works, In fact, the entire business model of content farms requires that the content be original for SEO purposes.

In fact, many sites considered to be content farms employ anti-plagiarism systems and use editors both to help clean up written text and catch plagiarists when possible.

That being said, with an army of freelance authors being paid small amounts to write a huge volume of content, it’s inevitable that some will and do plagiarize. Unfortunately, much of that plagiarism isn’t detected until it makes it on the Web.

But unlike spam blogs that have very little search engine trust, content farms have, for the most part, have a good rapport with the search engines. Even after the recent Google updates, most content farms still have far more search engine trust than the average lone blog or website.

This means that, when Google and the other search engines detect the duplicate content between the two sites, they’re much more likely to give the content farm the top billing than they would a spam blog. Worse still, since spam blogs routinely scrape from content farms, the search engines may mistake your site for a spam one, hurting your reputation across the board.

While these situations don’t happen in every case, the risks are greater than with a random spam blog that has no traction with the search engines.

How to Deal with Content Farm Plagiarism

The first thing you need to do is check your content regularly to see if it’s being misused. Tools like Fairshare can help, but staying on top of your relevant keywords may be your best tactic.

If you find that your work has been plagiarized on a content farm, the first thing you should do is file a DMCA notice with the content farm themselves. Though it’s questionable whether the DMCA applies to content farms since they both profit directly from the infringement and have editorial control over it, most accept and respond quickly to such notices.

If that doesn’t work, then locate the host of the site and contact them, most such sites are hosted in the U.S., making this a simple solution.

The Future of Content Farms

While content farms seemed to take a broad hit with the recent Google updates, by no means were all such sites affected negatively (some actually gained ground) and by no means was it enough to put them out of business. The sites are still very much around and still using the same tactics.

In short, this is still going to be an issue for a long time to come. In fact, many are hypothesizing that the recent Google updates may actually encourage more content farming and not less, further exasperating the situation and the plagiarism concerns.

Bottom Line

This is a recurring annoyance for many bloggers and it’s one that, if unchecked, can cause massive amounts of damage to how well a site performs in the search engines.

As a content creator who puts a lot of time into their work, you owe it to yourself to be aware of this problem and know how to address it should the need arise.

The last thing you want is one or more of your best pieces to end up on a content farm with someone else getting all the credit, search engine ranking and revenue from it.

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