Cult of Mac Has Been Hit By Google’s War On Content Farms

Cult of Mac Has Been Hit By Google’s War On Content Farms

It’s a beautiful morning here in San Francisco to wake up and find your website has been effectively disappeared off the web by Google.

Cult of Mac has been downgraded by the changes Google has made to its algorithm to rerank content farms like Demand Media.

We’ve become a civilian casualty in the war against content farms.

You can read more about here in The Guardian, which highlighted us in a story about legit sites hit by the changes.

We’re not alone. Also affected is the British Medical Journal, PR Newswire, and one of the earliest online communities, The Well. According to an analysis by Sistrix, an independent search-engine analyst firm, hundreds of other legitimate, hardworking sites have also been hit.

Why us? We have no idea. The changes Google has made to its system are secret. What makes it worse is that Google’s tinkering seems to have actually improved Demand Media’s page rank, while killing ours.

We’re a blog, so we aggregate news stories like everyone else. But our posts are 100% original and we do a ton of original reporting, as The Guardian noted this morning.

Perhaps it was because we’re constantly ripped off by shitty clone blogs?

Or maybe because we ranked so highly for popular keywords like “Apple” and “iPhone.” In fact, we used to get a lot of love from Google, placing highly on Google News and Google’s general search pages. A lot of our traffic came from Google, which is why the changes are so serious. I’m already seeing a big drop-off in traffic. Over the weekend and today, the traffic is half what it normally would be.

I’m pissed because we’ve worked our asses off over the last two years to make this a successful site. Cult of Mac is an independently owned small business. We’re a startup. We have a small but talented team, and I’m the only full timer. We’re busting our chops to produce high-quality, original content on a shoestring budget.

We were just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. After two years of uncertainty, the site finally looks like it will be able to stand on its two feet.

But this is a major setback. Anyone got Larry’s cell number?

Related
  • Mattb

    Well personally I hope you guys are able to get things worked out with Google. Is there an email addy we can use to write google? GL. Been nice to see the sites evolution the past 2 years

  • Cian

    well i’ll constantly be on cult of mac,
    your the only blog in my top sites and bookmarks!!

    everyday i turn on my mac and go to my top sites, i visit twitter, facebook, cult of mac and then bing (only for the pictures) there’s other’s but there my main four!!

  • Jason

    I love Cult of Mac.

  • Phyletic

    I enjoy reading Cult of Mac on a daily basis. If I could I would shout from the mountain tops to spread the word. I empathize with you, I just wish there was something we as fans of the site could do. I look forward to reading Cult of Mac for a long time to come.

  • Luke Lucas

    there was actually a story on NPR this weekend on “On The Media” about Google & SEO. they interviewed one of the guys who works on the algorithm and he actually specifically mentioned there was a way to petition or contact Google if you feel you’ve been blacklisted unfairly.

  • Robby Wilkinson

    You tell ‘em!

  • lfom

    Causality? I hope not, CoM rocks.

  • Bryan J. Ball

    Damn the man!!! Google is out of control.

  • LotaMan

    Damn! This is seriously bad. We stand united with you, Cult of Mac.

  • GP

    How is depending on Google a major setback? I don’t give a rats ass about Google or Facebook and my sites are doing just fine. The hell with them …

  • Mike Elgan

    They even pulled the plug on like.com, which is actually owned by Google!

  • Stagueve

    What a shame…
    I’m a french full-time blogger and I hope that Google will not “farm listed’ my little business when the changes will hit the french SERP…

    Good luck guys, hang on!

  • Everyone

    hopefully now nobody will have to deal with retarded “Macs are better” people, and their stupid opinion about a company who assrapes you and everyone you know to further their pocketbook size.

  • markbyrn

    I think I found the problem in the new algorithm:

    //Java code
    public class TotalHelper {
    public stringtotalSelectValuesInRange(int upperLimit,NotOKToUse) {
    stg = mac\apple\iOS;
    {
    if (NotokToUse.isOKToUse(i)) = stg without Android Wonderful
    }
    return null;
    }
    }

  • Esoos Bobnar

    Sorry to hear you were hit. You may bounce back on your own in a few days, or you can post in Google’s Webmaster Forums and someone will almost certainly take a look at your site: http://www.google.com/support/

    You could also request reconsideration here (but I’d take the forum approach first): http://www.google.com/support/

  • fff

    Makes sense. Google’s new content farm filter seems to target sites that regurgitate press releases and generate a constant stream of mostly empty content.

  • wnyang

    That really sucks. Do you guys already have a mobile app? Maybe it’s time to depend less on Google and rely more on your brand.

  • Big Rik

    Is it war on Apple in general? CoM is THE BEST source of Apple information out there, so maybe ‘the man’ is left flanking… …Send in the reserves, I say!

  • John Howell

    Maybe its the style of your site? Many or your mailouts get flagged a spam by Apple Mail and our at work spam filters.
    However, I do enjoy many of your articles once I gloss over all the ads and “hey look, another XXXX iphone app, just $1.99!”
    I come here fo rthe Mac news rahter than the app news.

  • Andrew Wray

    Lamesauce

  • Df

    dont worry your true mac cultists will search using safari or macs site anyway. the rest of the world or your nobeleivers will use google. so deal with it, or email google and request

  • notafarmer

    Perhaps you’ve been tagged as a content farm because you actually are a content farm. I’m glad to see it, because the world does not need a billion metasites salivating over watered-down apple juice.

    PR Newswire is also a content farm, as you should realize if you’ve ever stumbled upon one of their ‘news stories’ via Google News.

  • MacGoo

    Right here for you CoM! I don’t get my updates to your site from the Goog, I get them straight from you, in my RSS reader. Still, this sucks for you guys. Here’s hoping for a speedy resolution.

  • Beast_m

    I think we should learn not to depend on Google or any other company for our business
    CoM is a news website, when I want to know about macs i come to it

    Just like I go to CNN for news, and imdb for movies

    I don’t google news , and hopefully CNN will come out

    lost traffic is probably not people wanted to see this site in the first place

  • Tyler Hojberg

    I’ll never stop visiting this site, it’s been on my bookmarks bar for a year now and is one of the only sites I check in my regular routine of data consumption i.e email, facebook, work news, exc. You guys rock…keep on keepin’ on!!!

  • Whowritesthiscrap

    Maybe it’s because you swear in your reports and mostly just repost other peoples stories?

  • Michael Henderson

    Even Google can make a mistake (and I am sure they’s never admit it). Keep pushing. Your site is one of the best of it’s kind out there.

  • Ar

    It’s a shame AppleInsider wasn’t affected as they repost everyone’s posts

  • lkahney

    @Whowritesthiscrap — That’s total bullshit ;-). We break a ton of stories, have great opinion writers, post awesome and useful how-tos, have great and riginal product reviews, and are about the only source that takes the Apple community itself seriously as a topic to write about.

    We can go toe-to-toe with any other tech news site out there. We break a ton of stuff. Go take a look at MacRumors, which is very good at giving credit, and see how often we’re cited as the source of stories.

    Yes, we report other’s stories, just like Engadget, MacRumors, AppleInsider, Wired, Daring Fireball and everyone else. That’s the news business on the Web. It’s a flow, a conversation.

    The question is whether we add value — figure out what it means, if a rumor is credible, what the historical context it. We do that and we do it well. Plus we give clear credit where credit is due (unlike the original content stealers like Engadget and Mashable. Try to figure out what stories they ripped off from us).

    In fact, f-ck you. Do you read the site? Have you been here more than a couple of times? Maybe the reason you think we’re unoriginal is because you’re reading other sites that rip us off — which happens all the time.

  • lkahney

    @notafarmer — you also are full of it. we are not a content farm. we don’t crank stuff out to trick search engine algorithms. we’re a one-stop news shop for the apple community. everything we produce is 100% original content – and of the highest quality we’re capable of. remember last year’s exclusive interview with John Sculley? That wasn’t produced by a f-cking content farm.

    and for your information, PR newswire isn’t a content farm either. It published press releases for thousands of companies. crappy spam websites pull releases from its RSS feeds and republish it as pretend content — which may be why it was down ranked by google.

  • lkahney

    @Esoos – thanks for the tips. i’m right on it.

  • lkahney

    @markbyrn — good one. i think you found it :-)

  • lkahney

    @mike — let’s hope it’s true that google tweaks its algorithms every day. it’s a gross injustice that a site like this one is getting hit.

  • applextrent

    If you have this site registered through Google Webmaster tools you can petition issues like this: https://www.google.com/webmast

    Also, many of Google’s employees are on Twitter: http://searchengineland.com/th

    May be worth hitting them up.

    I’ve been following Leander since he first started writing for Wired, and this is one of the few Mac websites I still follow.

  • Gavers

    Don’t rise to the idiot trolls, you and CoM are way above that, keep up the good AND ORIGINAL work!

  • Tager

    tru dat, prehensile.

    I presume they’ve also banned all AOL/HuffPo/Engadget material as well.

    (actually CoM in’t too bad).

    I thought it was Apple that was evil this week…. or maybe that was last week.

  • EternityFilms

    I check Com at least 4 times a day! I LOVE YOU GUYS!! Your the best Apple news website on the the net!! You still have my business!!

  • EternityFilms

    I check Com at least 4 times a day! I LOVE YOU GUYS!! You’re the best Apple news website on the the net!! You still have my business!!

  • sdf01

    This is a top-notch site, and I’ve relied on it for over a year to provide me with some of the best Apple news online. Hope you find a way to get traffic back up; I at least will be coming back as long as there are posts to read.

  • Guest

    Why are you so angry and pissed at someone called Whowritesthiscrap, that person obviously just stumbled upon this website. You should just ignore them.
    I have been following this website for over a year now, actually ever since i got my first Mac. and I AM ADDICTED. whenever i travel somewhere were there is no interent connection, the first thing i do when i come back is go back all the way to the last post i visited before i travelled. At times its about 1 month of posts. You guys are awesome and keep it up.

  • Applekoolaid

    clearly google’s attempt to “fix things” didn’t work. CoM content is EXTREMELY valuable!
    what amazing is that the new “algo” has boosted sites like ask.com, ehow, answers.com, and yahoo answers. the content on those sites is of generally poor quality compared to sites like yours. for example, over one-third of answer.com pages indexed by google have NO ANSWER!! (and they then ask users to contribute)

  • Still Reading CoM

    Calm down Leander. CoM is a content farm, plain and simple. True, there are the odd original, and well developed articles but they are by far the minority. 90% of what comes out of CoM is headline bullshit with very little worthy news. These articles are posted to bring traffic and, therefore, dollars your way.

    That being said, I still keep up through my RSS reader. Without question, CoM is the best source of reposted apple news out there.

  • Me

    Don’t worry about me, I read Cult of Mac everyday, great writings..

  • Carlos Francisco Suarez Doriga

    Damn! This is seriously bad. We stand united with you, Cult of Mac.

  • KyleAAA

    Every time something like this happens, people cry out that the sky is falling. Then Google quietly rolls back the intensity of the update, the unfortunate casualties compensate in other ways (dramatically improving their competitive positioning in the process), and resume business as usual. Just how many skies are there, anyway?

  • KyleAAA

    Well, lots of people would say the content on sites like ehow.com, ask.com, and yahoo answers is more useful than CoM. Hence the problem: it’s impossible to define “quality” content. Your content farm is somebody else’s gold mine and vice versa.

  • Andrew

    Larry’s cell number? Have you tried Googling it? Lol

    Seriously, I come here every day.

    Thanks for the hard work.

  • iHate_Is_Back

    Whoa easy there fearless leader. I’m supposed to be the nut on the threads and you’re supposed to be the voice of reason remember. What happened to your site really sucks that I agree but I strongly doubt it won’t work itself out in due time once you’ve worked through some of the Google red tape. There was one suggestion I read I really liked on here. Why don’t you guys look into maybe creating your own app. Engadget, CNN etc all have one why not COM? Give it some thought Khaney.

  • Alladdinn

    Should we be thinking nefarious, conflict of interest? considering Google’s Android other-half>

  • Maurice Walshe

    you are of course absolutly sure your sites CMS hasnt shot you in the foot? of the top of my head the urls need work you have no category’s no bread crumbs.

    for godnesses sake Your post titles are h2′s not h1′s – this is SEO 101 looks like your not doing a very good job – you need to get grip and get your site in order before going crying to the Gruniad

  • 0elvisp640

    And doesn’t Google have some connection to the Kennedy assassination too?

  • Leszekmp

    Yup. My own site (freegeographytools.com), 4 years olds, 100% original content, no farming, only the SEO that comes with WordPress, dropped 15-20% after the algorithm change. After reading your story, I guess I should feel lucky.

  • Luis Guedes

    Sounds like a great idea!

  • Zer4k

    Our blog was also hit by this algo update. We also have original content, writen by us and weve been working on it since 2006. THia updated took out 30% of our traffic. Meanwhile, crappy websites that scrape out content rank a lot higher than us. There are some feed aggregators (like blogowogo.com and others) that simply have the title of your post plus a link to the original article and occupy the second position on the SERPs, while out original article is nowhere to be found.

    Here’s another situation: one of those scrapers is copying parts of our articles in the description tag of their page, copy a couple of our images and cram them in there, and then of course, they’re on the first page and we are nowhere ot be found.

    Keep up the good job Google!

  • DarnGoogle

    How? Would it be the reconsideration request? My site was hit too, and I just filled it out 5 minutes ago.

  • Lloyd M.

    What a HUGE drag! I hope that Google takes note and fixes their code accordingly.

  • Download

    Interesting and informative post
    For more great posts:
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  • lkahney

    @Free Tibet! — you’re right of course. i was a little upset yesterday.

  • lkahney

    @ iHate_Is_Back — funny. nice reply. thanks for the suggestion.

    i honestly don’t think an app is a good idea for us at this time. too many resources, too little money. plus i can’t see that much benefit, except to say, ‘hey. we’ve got an app.’ much better to focus our modest resources on a site that plays nice across a bunch of platforms — the web, iPhone, iPad — and soon, Android devices.

  • Lee Jamie

    I second the motion…

  • LillyAnn

    You’re so right. Thanks for that reminder. Much needed ;)

  • OrionRed

    Free Tibet*

    *With the purchase of another Tibet of equal or lesser value

  • Spacehitler

    Humph, I found this article via Google News

  • Anonymous

    I also found this article on Google news..must not be working that well.

  • Guest

    @lkahney What kind of an idiot would respond to comment like that? Sure the comment is stupid but get a grip dude. Completely lost respect for this blog now, your credibility just went out the window for me.

  • redwall_hp

    It depends on the site. I have two that get 60% of their traffic from Google. Search engines are probably the biggest source of long-tail traffic to posts.

  • Ketyung

    I think we now need a way how not to depend on Google for traffic. If Google contributes 60% or more of your traffic and income, then it’s bad as slight changes of their algo could kill your site…

  • Guest

    Di you ever mean that you could control Google?

  • Ketyung

    Google seems to have NO way to differentiate the originality of the article. I think It’s better not to publish full feed, perhaps this helps Google learn the difference between your content and the scrapper’s content, which usually contains only a small part of your article. I’ve seen many bloggers start publishing summary feed since the Google Farmer update :D

  • farmguy101

    does a content farm have cows like real farms?

  • michaelra

    Tell me about it.. I was on my way to thinking to go as a full time blogger, then all of a sudden my traffic at cravingtech.com drops from 3,500 to 2,000 a day. It’s not much but all earnings go down. I write tons of unique contents (since most of the articles are reviews) per day (spend hours on one some time) :(

    Wish they have a feedback system to let your/my readers vote to re-evaluate, but I guess even this can be exploited

    Grrrr thank you, blog spammers and content farms *sigh*

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About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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