It’s official. Website owners who depend on search engine rankings and traffic for clients and revenue are going to have to start stepping up their game and ponying up more dollars for results – and they have Google’s “Panda” update to thank for it.
On February 23, Google made a significant change to their algorithm – the mathematical rating system that assigns rankings to websites. The “Panda” update – named for the Panda-like Google engineer whose work made the update possible, was previously dubbed the “Farmer” update by Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan. “Panda” immediately impacted 1 in 8 sites and 11.8% US searches, devaluing sites guilty of peddling duplicate, shallow, and low-quality content; and rewarding purveyors of in-depth quality content with boosts in visibility.
Google finished doling out punishment to offending amateur and big-brand sites alike three weeks ago when the update launched, but the “Panda” algorithm update carries with it serious implications for every website, now and in the future.
Why All the Fuss?
When Google says jump – the only prudent response is “how high?” Google’s grasp on search engine market share is mighty, boasting more than 65% of all Internet search traffic. That means that websites who run afoul of Google stand to lose up to two-thirds of their traffic and revenue.
Google’s economic empire relies heavily on its ability to deliver a search engine result of higher quality than its competitors. That is because relevant results keep surfers satisfied, ensuring a steady flow of traffic to the search engine. And, traffic to the search engine ensures a windfall of ad revenue – enough to keep the Google team driving Bugattis far into the future.
In the last several months, Google has come under fire – from surfers unhappy with their search experience – for a perceived degradation of result quality. That fire, fanned by Bing and Yahoo in an attempt to propel their consolidated power forward, has raged along steadily, while low-quality “scraper” sites and spam peddlers infiltrated the highest ranks of Google – gaining greater traction and higher search visibility by gaming Google’s algorithm.
So the Google team puzzled over how to bring quality back to the web. And, using questionnaires designed to help surfers identify and communicate what they thought was quality and what was spam, Google began to formulate a new algorithm designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Then, Google released the Personal Blocklist extension for Chrome, empowering surfers to manually remove any undesirable or low-quality sites from their search results. Google gathered and analyzed the data from their blocklist experiment. What they found only validated their hard work – the sites blackballed by the Personal Blocklist were the same sites that the new algorithm punished.
What Does It All Mean?
Google’s “Panda” update means that simply adding optimized copy to your website to drive traffic – a long decaying strategy – is finally, truly a dead practice. As is churning out duplicate content and linkfarming.
If website owners want their traffic and revenues to survive the next decade, they’ll need to set their sights higher. Google says it wants “high-quality” sites – sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis, and so on.” Ideas are what is important – the authentic, challenging, robust kind of ideas that keep people reading, get people thinking, and get people tweeting and linking.
The name of the game is thought-leadership, so if you don’t have thoughts – you’re out for the count. If you do have quality theories, strategies, stories, and advice, but lack professional writing ability, all is not lost. Team up with a copywriter – someone who will listen to your insight and spin it into engaging content that’s rooted in a solid search strategy. That means paying more money, and expending more time and effort to achieve the close partnership necessary to make that high level ventriloquism a success.
Also dead are dated, poorly organized, hard to use sites. Google cares about your bounce rate – it’s time for you to care too. If you’ve been contemplating a redesign, now is the time to smash the piggy bank, reach under the mattress, find the money, and make the investment in your site’s future profitability.
Check out How To “Panda” Proof Your Site for a detailed approach to surviving the latest Google tweak.
- Google Farmer Update: Who’s Really Affected (Searchmetrics)
- Google: We’re Working To Help Good Sites Caught By Spam Cleanup (Wired)
- Was Google Too Hasty with the Farmer Update (SEO Roundtable)
- Finding More High Quality Sites In Search (Google blog)
- A Q&A With Google’s Top Search Engineers (Wired)