Definition of Content Farm (Content Mill)
There are many different definitions of the content farm:
- A content farm is a company that uses search algorithm data to create articles, videos and other media that are designed to rank highly in the search engines. (Technopedia)
- The content farm (According to Danny Sullivan in SearchEngineLand):
- Looks to see what are popular searches in a particular category (news, help topics)
- Generates content specifically tailored to those searches
- Usually spends very little time and or money, even perhaps as little as possible, to generate that content
- A content farm also called a content mill, is a Web site whose content is written for search engine bots instead of human readers. Topics on a content farm are chosen specifically for their ability to rank highly in search engine results. (TechTarget)
- In the context of the World Wide Web, a content farm (or content mill) is a company that employs large numbers of freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by automated search engines.(Wikipedia)
As you see all definitions of the content farm share the same meaning: preferring search engines to the real audience.
Most of the analysts criticize content farms for ignoring user interests and exploiting the search engine algorithm for themselves. But still there are people who mention them with a positive tone.
Dorian Benkoil believes that the “content farms” are exploiting new digital information technologies and systems to turn the model on its head, remove the friction caused by the inefficiencies, and reap the economic rewards.
First use of the term content farm
It’s not clear that who has coined the term. However, most of the references mention the ReadWrite article published in 2009 as one of the oldest articles that have addressed the term.
Nevertheless, the term content farm did not become popular before the rise of the Demand Media.
Demand Media is an American content, and social company founded in 2006 and currently owns many different content publishing websites including but not limited to Cracked, Livestrong, and eHow.
The original idea behind Demand Media was looking for attractive SEO terms and creating low-quality shallow content for attracting user traffic and driving a revenue stream through selling advertising plans.
Despite the fact the company gained serious public attention and the IPO in 2011 was wildly successful, the Google Panda’s Farmer Update claimed that the content farms and low-quality content providers will be demoted in the search engine result pages.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of popular content farms beside Demand Media, adapting themselves to the dynamic world of search engine policies and the broad range of user interests, and survive most of the threat using the cash flow advertisers inject in them.
Examples of content farms and farming practices
eHow, Ask, Answers, Find Articles, WiseGeek, and Yahoo Answers! are among the most well-known content farms.
Here you can find a relatively comprehensive list of the content farms suggested by the author as a recommended blocking list!
Future of the content farms
No one will be happy to see a shallow article on a content farm after clicking a link in the SERPs. Therefore, search engine put so much money and effort in fighting against content farms.
However, as content farms are very high-margin businesses, still it’s feasible for their owners to take the risk and develop and maintain content farms.
We should not forget that still even many humans who reach content farm articles are not able to differentiate between a real deep and reliable article and a low-quality article published on a content farm.
As search engines improve their ranking algorithms based on learning from user behavior, it seems that the story of the war between content farms and search engines will continue for years till the content analysis engines reach to an acceptable understanding the more complicated and higher-level patterns of content farming.
This is the reason that still many content farms (like The ContentFarm) exist and prosper despite the governing anti-farmership culture.
To close this article, would be insightful to recite the quotation appeared in Richard Macmanus’ article in ReadWrite:
Chris Ahearn from Thomson Reuters claims that journalism will “do more than survive the Internet Age, it will thrive.”
Tad Chef has prepared a list titled How to Avoid Being Labelled as a Content Farm.
Even though his article dates back to 2011, most of the points are still useful and valid for one who seeks practical tips in this regard.