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Re: Think you're affected by the recent algorithm change? Post here.

MatP Mar 7, 2011 4:54 PM
Posted in group: Webmaster Central Help Forum

Categories: Crawling, indexing & ranking :

The Farmer Update had catastrophic consequences for our site - US traffic down 50%, PR down from 6 to 5 (

No way are we ‘spam content’.  We are the leading source of research on buying residential property in other countries.  Our site is recognized within the industry as highly original, an entirely new approach. We have path-breaking data on gross rental yields returns, house-price time-series, inheritance law as regards property ownership, housing landlord and tenant law, and taxation.  We get huge numbers of PhD students writing to us, looking for data, and substantial numbers of inward links from prestigious publications. The site is built on an original methodology, which gets copied by economists at multilateral organizations (sometimes without attribution, it is true).

Our content is almost 100% original, written by us.  The only non-original section is a small part of the Home Page, which references current news articles which appear elsewhere.

All of this is researched, at a cost of enormous hard work, by us.  Each article takes 2-3 weeks.  Our team consists of young, dedicated economists, fired with a passion to present to the world a better way of looking at residential real estate investment.  

The problem may be that our work gets copied. Everyone in the international property industry copies us, putting our information up for free, and then offering properties alongside.  At first we sent ‘cease and desist’ letters, but as an international site we have no legal remedy. The copy-cats realize this very well. So they carry on copying.  We stopped doing anything about it, relying on the Google promise that ‘you will never be penalized because others have copied your site’.

Frankly, this update is likely to kill us.  We are still very much struggling.  

We had expected to break even this year, but if the Farmer Update is rolled out to other countries, that will be the end of us.

What to do?   This is the hardest question.   Does Google hate some feature of the site?  How would we know?

Here are some issues discussed in recent commentary on the Farmer Update:

1. Appearance.  The site looks modern, is usable.

2. Link trades. We have never done any link trades.  People write to me to ask for link exchanges, I ignore them.  I have always ignored them.

3. Content copiers.  Should we spend more time insisting that people who copy our content link back to us?  We have a small staff, so this isn't so easy to do.

4. On this page you will see two possible sources of problems
The ads at the top.  Some of the commentary suggests that sites with ugly ads are penalized.  These ads sure are ugly, and they pass link juice.
The links.  We spent a lot of time creating these links in the early days.  It now seems a totally out-of-date idea - we thought it would be useful to provide 'useful links' to the main sources of real estate and economic information.  A guy did the research for about a year, supervised by our senior economist.  But it looks like a link farm.

Mainly we are puzzled and we have no idea what to do.

When I first noticed something had happened (our PR dropped from 6 to 5) I noticed that our old high PR pages had been downgraded, which came from the time when our leading economist was doing a lot of original research, and getting a lot of attention from high-profile sites.

So I thought - the target is old links. I still suspect this, because among the big 'winners' have been blogs and news sites like Huffington Post.

If so this doesn't seem like a great idea.  Posting a lot of ‘junk news’ is creating original content?  Nonsense.