The recent departure of three of the founders of Demand Media marks if not the final chapter then perhaps the penultimate chapter in the whole content farming debacle of which Demand Media was the poster child.
For those who haven’t been following the Farmer/Panda saga here’s the Cliff Notes version. A few years back some very bright folks figured out that if you searched the query logs of the big search engines for popular search terms and created content which exactly matches that request (even if that content was poorly written and in many cases just wrong) you could land some serious search engine visibility.
They then slathered those pages with tons of ads and got the content created for pennies by freelancers. Bingo…instant content farm. That worked for a while but (as always) it’s a horrible idea to base your business on hoping that Google will not notice what you are doing.
Well, just about a year ago Google released the dreaded Panda algorithm update and that was game over for the farmers. Now if you want to get good placement you had better have great content with minimal ads.
The other shoe to drop was (of course) Facebook. Facebook is always the other shoe. People share cool or funny stuff on Facebook and whilst search is still huge, people who are creating useful, cool or funny stuff are increasingly finding that their content is being discovered through Facebook sharing rather than search.
That’s not to say that you can’t make a good business out of creating great content, especially if the content targets topics people are interested in. Meanwhile, the funeral of the farmers will be held at the zoo in the Panda compound … rest in peace.