Google’s latest algorithm change, referred to as “Panda” or “Farmer”, has been live in the US for several weeks now and is already making a huge impact in the business world. With the goal of reducing low quality content, primarily from content farms, the new update gives original content publishers a big advantage over sites that aggregate and republish other content.
Encyclopedia Brittanica is an excellent example of the power of organic search placement. With the Farmer update, Brittanica.com moved into the number one search listing 15% more often and into the top three results 18% more often. According to Greg Barlow, CMO, this resulted in a 40% increase in their Google traffic.
Another happy camper is the Online Publisher’s Association whose member websites (e.g. CNN.com, AP.org, ConsumerReports.org) saw a traffic increase between 5 to 50% the day after the update went live. The OPA estimates that $1 billion dollars will be redistributed across their industry due to this one update.
With a substantial change to search results there are going to be big winners but also big losers. Many legitimate websites have been hurt by the update and are still reeling from the impact. While how-to sites like e-How.com and Instructable saw gains of 15% or more, another how-to site, Maholo.com, took a big hit prompting them to cut 10% of their staff.
For webmasters who believe their sites have been unfairly punished, Google suggests that they “extensively evaluate their site quality” noting that low quality pages on one part of the site can affect the ranking of the overall website. Google has also created a forum where they are collecting feedback. They will not make any manual or individual changes to the algorithm but will continue to make tweaks in response to legitimate concerns.
It’s a bit unnerving to realize that even small changes Google implements can instantly shift millions of dollars and even determine the fate of thousands of businesses. But this is the world we live in and as technology continues to shape how we interact and conduct business there is only more to come.