You might have heard that the hammer was about to come down on a part of the web universe occupied by white hat link builders. Lot's of screaming was taking place surrounding the pending Panda or Farmer update to Google's algo. Some hints from within Google lead to rumors about the target being sites with poor content, with finger pointing in anticipation of losses for Demand Media, eHow, EzineArticles, and other 'content farms.'
And then it just happened. Sometime around the end of February 2011, the switch was thrown, and comments from Matt Cutts suggested that the change would impact about 11.8% of the search. That's actually a pretty gigantic impact. When Google makes a change of this magnitude, the search world kind of shakes a little.
The measurable hit to these "content farms" in the first few days had some suggesting that this change would be a fatal blow to the link strategies involving them. SISTRIX showed some metrics that WebProNews picked up on along with searchenginewatch and others showing massive traffic drops for some selected sites. Very scary stuff for anyone with resources in this game.
The media is playing the algo change up as a massive overhaul that is wreaking devastation and upheaval, and some of that is unavoidably being carried into the seo community as if it were true.
This doomsday frenzy is currently being followed up with individual horror stories. Some include sites with proven records of quality content - sites that are so good that their content is always copied verbatim. One of note is fonerbooks.com - having seen the heavy hand of Google before, this is completely expected. We hope some adjustments will be forthcoming in the immediate future to roll back some of the harsh treatment improperly imposed on some good sites. Algo changes always leave victims in their wake.
We, like many other professional optimizers, build content on aggregator sites for the links, so we have an important stake in how this shakes out. In principle, we believe Google has to set standards that are high enough so that the garbage doesn't rank, no matter where it's posted. We know that's not happening - garbage is everywhere and ranking. But does it make sense to drop the ranks of genuinely useful content from certain sites, just because of where it's posted?
One of the sites taking the biggest hit according to SISTRIX was suite101.com. This is a site that has a uniqueness requirement on content posted there. In other words, if you post the same content elsewhere, suite101.com takes your content down. Yet they took one of the biggest hits. How can this be? When they look carefully at exactly what happened there, I suspect they'll discover that uniqueness is not enough to determine quality. Garbage can be easily be made unique.
A check on some of the aggregator content we recently posted for clients does not reveal any significant losses. Like any content on any site, these articles are subject to some of the same mercurial forces - meaning that even before the algo change, our forensics would reveal much of this content not indexed, or indexed in the supplemental results. Over time, well written, useful articles from some of the aggregators gradually make it into the index,and actually hold rank. So far this is not changing. One of the critical pieces of this strategy is to spread your content across many platforms. Because not all aggregators are the same, and finding the ones that have their act together is something that requires constant vigilance.
And my guess is that the value of the content aggregator link building strategy is not going to go away any time soon - and it's not going to change very much for those creating high quality work. Because if Google were to begin to use a standard other than quality, no matter where the content resided, it would lead to the collapse of relevance within their search results. I also noticed that content copied from our sites are still holding ranks for the copiers, something I was hoping to see change. But this still makes sense - the fact that people copy and reuse quality content only proves its stature, and that stature very likely will continue to be rewarded if the evaluation is really based on perceived value.
Our recommendation is to continue to put resources into content aggregator programs used for relevant link building, provided the content created meets a quality standard that is rigorous. The key is and always was quality. Content is still king.
We are finding other sites that support similar views, like nichebot and potpiegirl