There has been a barrage of criticism, mostly anecdotal, of the quality of results in Google. While the search engine is no stranger to criticism, some warranted some not, the new wave resonated with a lot of people. So much so that Google has now responded and, while it defended its capabilities of weeding out spam websites, vowed to do more about low-quality websites and so-called "content farms."
"According to the evaluation metrics that we’ve refined over more than a decade, Google’s search quality is better than it has ever been in terms of relevance, freshness and comprehensiveness," Matt Cutts, Google spam chief and evangelist for the company, wrote
"Today, English-language spam in Google’s results is less than half what it was five years ago, and spam in most other languages is even lower than in English," he said.
Google calls this "pure webspam," sites that constantly try to outmaneuver Google's ranking algorithm to get ahead in the search results while providing nothing more than ads and no content relevant to the user.
While spammers are getting better, Google says that it is doing better at combating this type of spam than ever.
However, the complaints were not about this type of sites, but rather sites that did provide content relevant to the search, but of very poor quality and of little actual value to the user.
Some sites create their own, the content farms which pay writers or video makers very little to create content based on known popular keywords and interests, other simply scrape original content, sometime providing attribution, sometimes not.
"We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others' content and sites with low levels of original content," Cutts explained.
The most interesting part of the post though was about the content farms, large companies like Demand Media or Associated Content, which was acquired by Yahoo.
"As 'pure webspam' has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to 'content farms,' which are sites with shallow or low-quality content," Cutts said.
"People are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content," he added.
"The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception. However, we can and should do better," he said.
He gave no timeline for the changes affecting content farms in particular or detailed what the changes will be. The timing though is interesting, Demand Media, by far the biggest culprit and owner of sites like eHow and several others, is headed for an IPO, coming next week. It should be interesting to see how or if the investors react to Google's move.