In the content business, there are different tiers of service providers. In my opinion, the content farm sits on the bottom rung.
As search engine optimization became a thing, web masters and marketers who wanted to outsmart search engines and climb through rankings needed content. And they needed a lot of it to be created quickly and cheaply. They needed articles that included the keyword they wanted to be associated with when it came to search results. And content farms sprung up to meet this need.
These webmasters and SEO gurus didn’t need expertly crafted content. Search engines didn’t weigh perceived quality like today, so the pieces needed just had to be optimized for search and didn’t need to be brilliant. I’m not sure if the folks requesting this content by the boatload expected any real people to read these pieces, but hopefully they didn’t. Often almost unintelligible, these posts and articles were (and still are) usually written by folks with a tenuous grasp of the language they were writing in.
While the requirements for the pieces changed with the search engines’ updates, these needed the same things, which the farm employees became experts in. They have to incorporate the focus keyword—and possibly other keywords—in a certain density. This is because you didn’t want to “stuff” the post or article with keywords or incorporate the keyword so sparsely that the search engine won’t see the keyword as being what the piece is truly about. It will also need to be a minimum number of words—generally 300 to 500—and trying to drag out the word count to meet this would be the only time these writers would get creative.
These also need to be “unique,” meaning it isn’t a replica in part or in whole of something else on the web. Often this means that existing articles are copied over and over, with synonyms being swapped out and sentences being restructured so that the words used are different but the ideas stay the same. This is article spinning, and while the content farms excel at this (whether or not this is the service the client asked for), software is sometimes used to pull this off. This is where some of the most atrocious content to grace the web comes from.
There are several purposes for this. Some are for on-site SEO—these pieces would be placed on a site so it would ping for that keyword. Some are for off-site SEO, placed on other sites with links going back to the website they want to raise through the ranks for a particular keyword. Again, the idea isn’t to provide real quality to visitors—it is an illusion of value that Google may then reward with higher search rankings.
And of course, all of this is done for incredibly low prices. Rates of $1.00 or less per piece still are common—I heard of many farms charging as little as 50 cents, making this smarmy strategy affordable, but hopefully this will be a thing of the past.
As all major search engines evolved and changed how they do their rankings, this strategy is losing favor. New content going up all the time does help you by showing that you are active and remaining relevant, but it’s more about quality and quantity. The pages people spend the most time on—instead of clicking away in disgust—are rewarded with higher ranking because those are perceived to have a higher degree of value for those searching. Also social media is becoming more popular, and sharing pieces on these sites also determines SEO value—and no one wants to share a confusing piece of poorly written gibberish unless it’s for a laugh.
Unfortunately for content farms, they don’t really excel in high quality content. Most of their team surely will lack the talent to create valuable, well-done articles and blog posts. And even if they wanted to step up their game, finding folks that are genuinely skilled at such rock-bottom price points is almost impossible. But the good news for them is that some folks are still following the quantity over quality formula for SEO—for the price of one high quality, shareable, professional post, they can get maybe hundreds of sloppy articles that may lead to a bump in traffic.
To me, the content farm model is sad. Essentially a sweatshop for words, it whips out low quality, paying the employees less than a living wage more often than not.
Impressa Solutions isn’t a content farm, and we won’t compete with them. Of course they cost less than us, but that’s like saying a day-old hamburger costs less than a fresh grass-fed filet at a fancy steak house. I know this is much to the chagrin of some of the folks who request quotes from us, but I’m not too worried about it. I mean, I can’t picture Wolfgang Puck or Mario Batali getting their aprons in a bunch because someone demanded to know why their restaurants don’t have a dollar menu.