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Demand Media Debate – Content Farming VS Unique Content on Mar. 23, 2010

If you are a SEO professional your job largely depends on developing strategic ways to allow your clients’ websites to be in a top ranking position for specific keyword phrases in search engines. There are a plenty of tips and strategies discussed on the best ways to achieve this pretty much every day in the industry. Recently, it seems that one business in particular has figured out a way to reach those number one ranking spots in Google for a number of different terms and make it look almost effortless, while doing so.
Cows

Demand Media has figured out a way to optimize new content on a regular basis with specific keywords they know will give them a higher rankings on Google. Owning three other popular sites, ehow.com, cracked.com and livestrong.com, they are able to reach an incredibly large audience. Currently their sites are reaching over 100 million hits a month, which is more traffic than Disney, NBC, ESPN and TIME. Their article topics and the way they develop their content may seem a little unorthodox to many, but has proven to be very successful.

Demand Media has established a simple business model that has expanded into a huge revenue stream for them. Based on user-behavior data coded from search engines, YouTube, Demand’s 3 websites and their advertising data, they can determine which keywords they should create content around. This information then is fed to their algorithm, which spits out the most relevant story ideas.

From there, humans are required. The process starts with a person who earns a few cents for taking the algorithm output and turning that into a headline. Then another person is charged anywhere from $3-$15 to write the article, who then passes it on to a copy editor for fact and grammar checking. From start to finish one article can cost less than $10 to produce. Once the article is posted, it immediately starts earning ad revenue.

Demand Media has been widely discussed over the past couple of months with people claiming their online articles are lacking actual knowledge and depth calling them, “fast food content” or “content farms.” Since they use thousands of cheap freelance writers, to generate revenue very quickly and are getting away with it – it is starting to make people question what Google and other search engines are finding important when ranking websites.

There are critics on both sides of this issue. Some are proclaiming that Demand Media is a threat to real journalism, SEO and social media sites, while others are saying it is helping businesses attract more customers, which is the overall objective. Based on everything I’ve read about the issue, it seems that most people are opposed to Demand Media’s strategy and believe that if low quality content continues to dominant the search results, then it will have a negative impact on the industry.

Some argue that Demand Media poses more of a threat to social media than journalists, since they provide searched optimized content for corporate sites and evergreen content for news. Others are also mentioning how these “content farms” are operating very similar to how “link farms” once did back in the day.

The almost toxic desire to develop a presence in social media and search results has lead to clogging search with cheap content, which may eventually start to turn users away. However, Demand Media does not show any sign of slowing down any time soon. At this rate it seems they will be around for a a while, but for how long is uncertain. If there is one thing I’ve learned in this industry it’s how unpredictable it can be, which means time will only tell what the outcome will eventually be. Will quality content beat out quantity? Better pay close attention to find out.

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