There is significant change brewing in the search engine world that has gone unnoticed by many. The search giant known as Google has ruled its kingdom for so long, we only seem to pay attention when their algorithm makes a radical change. This past month, we came to learn more about "Content Farms" because Google announced they were cleansing their SERPs (search engine result pages) of publishing sites with low quality content. However, for SEO analysts and those digging deeper, it is now evident that a little unknown search engine was the catalyst for the Big G to make such a bold move.
Blekko is the 'little engine that could' -and did. Back in January, the search engine that differentiated itself with slashtags that lets you customize your search results, took it upon themselves to clean up the Web of as much spam as possible. As Blekko searchers receive results, they have the option to mark whatever they feel is spam and in over time Blekko starts eliminating the ones that have received the most votes (sort of like Facebook's LIKE process in reverse). To accomplish this feat, and gain some notoriety as well, they installed a 'spam clock' that actually tallies these identified Web pages. To date, as of this posting, there were 1.8+ billion pages noted.
As a follow-up to this step, Blekko went one better and banned the worst offenders entirely - the one's they determined were "content farms" - publishing low level articles and posts with minimum relevancy or no legitimacy as to being experts on specific topics. That now includes such sites as ehow.com, naymz.com, robtex.com, 123 people.com and hundreds more.
While TechCrunch and several other techie blogs wrote about this movement, it wasn't till Google fired off their salvo against "content farms" that the world took notice. However the difference between the two approaches, is Blekko uses 'human' intervention to make their editorial decisions, while Google relies on their algorithm to weed out the 'good' from the 'bad' and the 'ugly' - much to the dismay of a good number of reputable blogs that have been providing relevant content for over a decade (see my recent post, titled "Google Algo Farmers Plow Through Content Farms").
Rich SkrentaIn this video, Rich Skrenta, founder of Blekko diplomatically outlines how search has evolved, and how Google's keyword searches and PageRank distinguished them back at the turn of the century from AltaVista and some of the other now defunct search engines of the day. The importance of SERPs being ranked "1 to 5 above the fold" is the mantra shared by many SEO agencies to this day. Skrenta, however sees that model as outdated based on all the spam that has now proliferated the Web.
So, is this the beginning of the end for the Search Lion that ruled its lair for over decade? Is it time for a mouse to roar its way into this space? Probably too soon to know for sure, but with Facebook nipping at Google's heels with its Open Graph and Blekko's aggressive attack at reshaping the search landscape, Google needs to start making some preemptive moves - without being coaxed or embarrassed by its outliers - and start by appearing as a proactive versus reactive giant.