Can the New Aggregators Live on Data?


Can search data resurrect 90s style content aggregators? After the attack of Google’s killer Panda algorithm change, link farms and independent content aggregators alike emerged bloody from search ranking changes.

Nonetheless, The Huffington Post managed to build a nice little business around content aggregation, editorials, and US Weekly-styled sidebars. The new aggregators want to bring back convergence from the Clinton era, only with content and search. Hubpages, one of the most well-known mass content and freelancer-driven aggregators thinks search data will benefit some content farms.
“For sites like HubPages and eHow, greater than 80 percent of our traffic comes from search queries,” stated Chris Little, Hubpages’ CMO. “These are consumers using natural search to get information and ideas on a wide range of different topics. This presents an ideal opportunity for brands whose ads appear on our pages that are providing answers to reach the consumer when they are already predisposed to their message. It is the highest art of contextual targeting.”
Aside from the “highest art” assertion, search is the lifeblood of content aggregation sites, but getting consumers to pause and click is tricky for premium content brands, and far more difficult for how-to-oriented content brands.
This gap between premium and practical is where HuffPo injected life into content aggregation’s corpse. It wed social login and content-sharing to search and pulled attractive audience segments onto a structure that was built on low-and no-rent talent whom posted premium editorial content and helped pull more premium content from other well-known sites.
The potential of HuffPo’s connected audience segments searching and shopping while sharing branded content made the web property sexier to AOL than its underlying structure might have warranted if this were simply a numbers game.
“Content producers have followers often in the thousands who they interact with through article comments, Q&A and social channels,” said Little. “By associating their ads with producers of content similar to their product offerings, brands can reach sizeable audiences who are already in the mindset for more information about their products.”
That’s basically HuffPo’s model, only infused with $300 million from AOL. Search and social can’t really resurrect link farms, or low-grade content factories. They can create a pleasingly co-dependent relationship between the overflow of practical, search-driven content that exists in the blogosphere and brands that want to connect with consumers ripe for engagement.
Most aggregation sites fall by the wayside. They serve no useful purpose to consumers who can find the same content elsewhere and there is generally little quality control. That’s why Google’s killer Panda should keep snacking on slow-moving, dead-weight sites. Companies like Hubpages, with a mix of practical and niche-content will, along with HuffPo, have to innovate quickly to survive the web’s push towards higher content standards and advertisers desire to hook choice audiences in real-time.
That’s where data comes in. Content sites that can connect successfully with search and supply consumer data through a pipeline to social media that drives users back to their content will have the power to seduce top brands providing their content  can pass muster. That’s a big if — even if content is still king, Google is still the DNA of social commerce and most data. Before any of that magic can occur, content companies still have to get past that Panda.

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