When Google admitted that they don’t know how to do SEO, we should have known something was up. It’s taken a bit over a year, the content farm wars are in full swing, and now we can see what’s really happening:

Google Likes Search Engine Optimization after all. Content Farms, too. The GOOG has invested in Hubspot.

If you’ve never read my explanation of how Hubspot works and why you DON’T want to use it, you’re missing a treat. It’s one of the most popular pieces at Answer Guy Central, and exposes the flaws-for-its-customers parts of what looks like a great service.

And my props once again to Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan for thinking like The Grateful Dead, a group of musicians who saw the business change light shining on them a long time ago.

But here’s the deal:

Google, in buying Hubspot, is basically saying that content farms work. Which flies directly in the face of tweaking the Google search algorithm to reduce content farms’ efficacy as tools of Search Engine Optimization, as Google did a couple of weeks ago.

In buying Hubspot, Google is saying that content farms are OK, as long as Google’s the farmer.

There’s one important aspect of Search Engine Optimization that’s been on my mind but I’ve never written about before: when SEO is done by aggregating content—good or bad—on a content farm, it’s the farmer who makes all the money. The sharecropper, on content farms just as on farms where real crops are grown, gets the short end of the stick. There’s a business opportunity here, by the way, if you’re a Hubspot Consultant.

That’s actually OK in many situations. Whatever you think of content farms, I’m betting that you have more respect for the companies that run them than you do for the mostly-nameless-and-faceless writers whose words make up the content farm’s harvest. But in the case of Hubspot, the content farms’ serfs are the people who pay for the privilege of being there.

Hubspot might bristle at the idea that they’re running a content farm, and as I’ve made clear in the piece about Hubspot mentioned at the top of this article, Hubspot is a bargain and a great tool for hosting a web site and getting your feet wet in Search Engine Optimization, until it isn’t. But make no mistake: if you host your website on Hubspot’s servers, part of the SEO juice you accumulate for your business will go to Hubspot, rather than to you.

Do the math: Hubspot has four thousand customers. Since the minimum cost of doing business with Hubspot is $250 per month but they sell some plans that cost several times that, let’s guess that the average revenue from each Hubspot customer is $500 per month. That’s $6,000 of revenue times 4,000 customers, or $24 million in annual revenue. Google and some other venture capitalists invested $32 million in Hubspot yesterday, and Hubspot was previously backed by more venture capital money; as of now the total Venture Capital behind Hubspot is up to $65.5 million. And I’m quite certain that the venture capitalists who have sunk all that money into Hubspot don’t own the entirety of the company.

Hubspot isn’t worth that much money as a marketing and web hosting business. But that’s OK, because Hubspot is a content farm.

Business change comes in many sizes and shapes, and I have no problem with Hubspot making a business for themselves. But Google is judge, jury, and executioner in Search Engine Ranking, and by downgrading “low value” content farms while buying a content farm of their own, Google is abusing their own system—the system we all have to play in.

Is that the Department of Justice at the door, Google?

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