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Google's New Video Ad Highlights How Content Farms Rule At The Search Game

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So yesterday, I notice there’s a new article up on Google’s main blog, head on over there and see it’s merely a post featuring the latest video in the company’s Search Stories series, video ads which essentially aim to highlight how all kinds of people use Google Search. They’re nice and all, if pretty pointless in my book, but nothing particularly spectacular about them.

But this latest one, labeled ‘Brother and Sister’, caught my attention because of something entirely different than the narrative or the concept.

First, watch the video:

Did you take notice of the search results that are shown, and at times clicked upon?

Take a look at the screenshot below if you didn’t pay attention to them.

Here are the sites that are shown throughout the video:

1) TellMeHowTo.net – property of Clarity Media; an online community of users sharing hints and tips on how to do just about everything.

2) eHow (shown 3 times) – part of the Demand Media stable; an online community of users who publish how-tos, images and video clips and receive a percentage of profits earned from traffic and advertising.

3) Instructables.com – independent service; an online community of users who share what they do and how they do it, a place where people go to learn from and collaborate with others.

4) Teenadvice.About.com – About.com is part of The New York Times Company; the site banks on ‘guides and contributors’ to offer solutions and advice on, well, again, just about everything.

5) TheKnot – a listed niche media company that caters to brides and, to a lesser degree, grooms by serving just about everything you might ever want to know about weddings; while the main content comes from professional editors, a core aspect of TheKnot is its online community of users who actively share information, tips and whatnot on its message boards.

Notice a pattern here?

I realize full well it may not seem fair to everyone to be calling all these sites mere content farms – that all depends on what you think the term entails, or doesn’t.

But clearly, all these sites rely on users generating content to a certain degree, either in exchange for cash or other benefits, or simply for the sake of being part of an online community of like-minded souls who actively engage in content creation and curation.

In my mind, Google in its latest ‘Search Story’ perfectly highlighted that amazingly often content produced by non-professional writers tends to come out on top when one does certain types of searches on the Web (the same goes for Q&A sites, which also shows in the video).

That’s the whole point of course: companies like Demand Media, Yahoo’s Associated Content and AOL’s Seed thrive on throwing online masses of search engine friendly but often poorly researched or written content, produced by amateurs at low cost.

I mean, sweet Lord, did you read this?

You can debate if this is the future of online journalism or the definitive end of hand-crafted content all you want. What Google’s video inadvertently shows is that the strategy is clearly working – these sites are getting an enormous amount of traffic from search engines, all of which gets monetized quite efficiently in most cases (that’s what the whole business model depends on).

Thanks to Google for reminding me of Michael’s last sentence in his essay on the rise of (crappy) content farms: “Long live fast food content, it’s here to stay.”

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