From Chris Knight, CEO EzineArticles.com
Last month, we served 57 million unique visitors. Next month, that number may be in half. UPDATED March 14th 2011 2pm: We continue to serve in excess of 1 million daily visitors daily.
Year after year since our inception in 1999, we’ve made tough decisions to ensure that we only accept high quality original articles that are exclusive to the EzineArticles Expert Authors who wrote them. In addition to the 70+ full-time people on our team who impact every single article published (quality control, link quality checking, landing page quality scoring, spam abuse detection, etc), every article is double-human reviewed by hand (primary Editor and a QC Editor).
The dual-human review process is designed to eliminate the 1-4% error rate our primary Editors may make in the subjective decision-making process … which over-time results in our members seeing a more consistent article review process and our QC Editors (our most experienced Sr. Editors) catching/deflecting low-value thin content that should never be published. We’re not perfect and we’ve also got work to do.
We’ve been both quietly and publicly at war with a small percentage of our membership who aim to use our site to game the search engines with what we refer to as “article vomit” or thinly-crafted software-spun articles. At the core of our ability to keep highly-derivative content out, we use our own proprietary software that identifies article submissions that should never be accepted so our human editors don’t make the mistake of accepting an article that on its own merit looks fine to accept but compared algorithmically against our millions of published and rejected article history, doesn’t make the grade.
This past Thursday, Google announced an algorithm change to 11.8% of their U.S. search query results. Their target was aimed at content farms that are typically low-quality sites, sites with only copied content and sites with low value content.
While we adamantly disagree with anyone who places the “Content Farm” label on EzineArticles.com, we were not immune to this algorithm change. Traffic was down 11.5% on Thursday and over 35% on Friday. In our life-to-date, this is the single most significant reduction in market trust we’ve experienced from Google.
Google has a lot of smart PhD types working on this problem that I believe is not over by a long-shot. Reason: If you do a query for popular terms that we formerly ranked very high with, instead of an EzineArticles result, you may find low-quality sites that deliver even lower value to the user than our own members’ content! This is frustrating for sure.
Why did EzineArticles do so well in the years leading up to Thursday?
Simple: Our Expert Authors DELIVERED great content that caused visitors to either click on a link back to their website or on an advertisement (how EzineArticles stays free to our members) instead of bouncing back to Google or any search engine to look for a better result. If a traffic referral to EzineArticles failed to deliver in a split second what the user was looking for, they would bounce back instantly to Google and Google could use this bounce-back data to determine if value was delivered or denied, and adjust their search results accordingly.
We’ve had a day to digest a serious amount of data to determine which series of actions we’re going to take to move past this issue and re-earn market trust with those who deliver us a significant amount of our traffic.
Here is a short-list of actions that are either already in progress or will be shortly:
- Our proprietary anti-derivative software has been modified to reject another 10+% of article submissions that are not unique enough. This will result in more false positive on legit content, but that’s a risk that we feel is necessary.
- Our WordPress Plugin will sunset this week and we will no longer accept article submissions via wordpress blogs directly.
- We’ll be evaluating ways to reduce the number of ads per page to improve the perceived user experience and improve our members CTR (Click Thru Rate) for the traffic delivered to our members.
- [UPDATED: Word count raised to 400 words.]
We’re considering raising the minimum article word count to 400. Currently we give less exposure to articles that are between 250-400 words, but we still accept them. Thin content often comes under 400 words; even though I have seen many high quality articles in the 250-400 range, it is rare. 600-850 words may become the new normal with 400 being the minimum.
- Our keyphrase and keyword density limits are already thought to be too intense by many, but it’s clear to us that spammers can be identified by statistically unusual keyphrase limits. Watch for the bar to be raised here.
- Certain categories that are typically filled with thin, spammy content (men’s issues, reverse cell phone lookup, acai berry (which we took a harder-line position against last year) etc.) will experience an ‘over-correction’ by our team. Many thousands of articles were removed Friday and potentially tens of thousands may be removed as we complete our sweeps.
- Expect to see our current article rejection rate (40.6%) climb by another ~20%.
- Articles that are advertorials were already targeted by our team, but they will now get a hyper-focus to reject.
The rel=”NOFOLLOW” attribute will be added to all links on all articles very soon. Currently, it’s included in the article body of any links but now it’ll also be included in the resource box.Updated 7:30am CST Sunday: I’m less certain this move will change anything, so for the sake of this discussion, let’s remove it from the table. I will comment further below.
- Articles submitted are currently required to be exclusive to you (ie: Our software and human Editors won’t find your article submission on the Internet under someone else’s or no name) but they do not need to be exclusive to EzineArticles.com. We may change our position on this and begin rejecting content that is not unique to EzineArticles.com alone. More research is needed as this would be a radical change… and one that we will invest a serious amount of market study/discussion with our members before moving ahead.
How long will that take before traffic recovers and climbs again? I have no idea. I’m hopeful that Google won’t allow sites with even lower quality content to take the positions that our members previously had occupied.
I know many will be as upset as we are about this. I’m going to leave the comments on this blog post open so you can share your thoughts and ideas for how we should respond to this event. I read every single comment and appreciate your suggestions.
We are committed to being the best platform that helps you share your expertise in the form of short, informative, high-quality original articles that can attract traffic & media exposure back to you and your website or blog.
The end goal is to rebuild the market trust lost on Thursday and to reiterate with action our commitment to delivering our tens of millions of monthly end-users with a positive experience every single time they surf EzineArticles.com.