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Google signed an armistice in the Great Spamsite War some time around '08 or '09, to the effect that spam can have all the search results aside from those pointing at a few top, trusted sites, so long as they provide any content at all. Bad content is fine. Farmed content is fine. Content that was probably machine-generated is fine. Just content. Play the game, make sure your markov chain article generator or mechanical turks post every day, throw some Google ads on your page, and G will happily put your spamsite garbage at result #3.

There’s a reason for this; click through rate on ads is higher on pages that don’t achieve the user goal.

I suspect that the AI models powering the search results develop a sort of symbiotic relationship with the spam - if the user actually finds what they are looking for by clicking through an ad on an otherwise spammy page, everyone “wins”; the user found what they were looking for with minimum effort, google got their ad revenue, and the spammy page got a little cut for generating content that best approximating the local minimum that links the users keywords to actual intent...

“Farmed content is fine”. I thought that was one of the major (intentional) victims of the Panda update. https://moz.com/learn/seo/google-panda

There are a few widespread scaled publishing operations like IAC which seems to be doing well with the split up of About.com & relaunching it as vertically focused branded sites, but the content farm business model died with the Panda update.

Some of the sites that were hit like Suite101.com went offline. eHow is still off well over 90%. ArticlesBase sold on Flippa for like $10k or some such. One of the few wins hiding in all the rubble was HubPages, but even they had to rebrand and split out sites & merged into a company with a market cap of about $26 million ... and the CEO of Hubpages is brilliant.

Even with IAC on some sites they are suggesting ad revenues won't be enough http://www.tearsheet.co/culture-and-talent/investopedia-laun... "As Investopedia charts its course as a media brand, it’s coming up against the roadblock all publishers eventually hit — the reality that display revenue alone won’t be enough. ... Siegel said he expects course revenue to exceed what’s generated from the site’s free content. While he wouldn’t say what the company’s annual revenue was, Siegel said it grew an average of around 30 percent for each of the last three years."

There is also other factors which parallel the panda update that further diminish the quick-n-thin rehash publishing business model - Google's featured snippets & knowledge graph pulling content into the SERPs so there is no outbound click on many searches - programmatic advertising redirecting advertiser ad spend away from content targeting to retargeting & other forms of behavioral targeting (an advertiser can use a URL as a custom audience for AdWords ad targeting even if that site does not carry any Google ads on it) - mobile search results have a smaller screen space where if there is any commercial intent whatsoever the ads push the organic results below the fold

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