Did Google’s Panda Update Smash Article Marketing?

There has been much wringing of hands and much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the latest and greatest Google algorithm update.

First of all if you were not aware of what the Panda Update was and what it was meant to do, here is a quick summary.

Panda update for SEOThe Panda update (sometimes called the Farmer Update) had a specific target in mind. When Matt Cutts (head of Google webspam) and his team of “spammer hunters and destroyers” formulated these changes they were going after some pretty common pests.

We know SEO has been packaged and sold to every online spammer and frantic marketing zealot out there -

“No wait, don’t leave this page! You can now get the front page of Google in 27 seconds for… no, not $697, not even $67, yes – you have just 14 seconds to buy at an amazing $27…

…oh, and a monthly fee of just $99… and in 14 seconds we will be taking down this offer foreeevvveeerrr!!!”

Yes, we have seen these so many times!

What this resulted in was huge quantities of spam masquerading as value-giving content. Marketers were writing a short, sub-standard piece then running it through an article spinner, then using submission software and Whammo! 1,000 back-link producing pieces of content at the press of a button! Or more! And front page results on Google! And traffic and sales!

As these practices became more and more prevalent it became increasingly obvious where this content was being published. The Google Webspam team identified what became known as “Content Farms”. For the most part these were low quality article and web 2.0 sites with thousands and thousands of pages. So they made a major change which saw these sites plunge from the front pages of Google to deep in the search results.

And this got the spammy content farms out of the picture… but the interesting part was who else was caught out by the change.

Ezine articles went from being seen as a highly respected, highly sought after article directory to being tagged a content farm overnight. Their traffic plunged by over 80% within 2 weeks – can you imagine what the drop in revenue from advertising must have been?

So they reacted – they vowed to remove all poor quality articles, to get rid of authors who didn’t reach a certain grade, to purge the site of articles with broken links, they even threatened to remove all link juice from the links in the resource boxes! (Not for long though – that would have been commercial suicide)

Other higher quality sites followed suit and tightened up submission rules and quality levels, I mean Google was supplying these sites with a massive amount of traffic and advertising revenue!

To be honest I have found indecipherable garbage on several of the main sites and I have seen multiple spun articles accepted by Ezine Articles as well, so they needed to pick up their game.

Now what does this all mean for article marketing? Is it gone as a marketing strategy?

Is article marketing pointless for search engine optimization companies?

Well, the answer is yes and no…

The days of identifying a low competition keyword then publishing an optimized article on the big article players and watching a couple of results for the same piece of content rank front page for different directories within days are gone! Leveraging the massive size of these sites will no longer give you the search engine positions you are looking for. You may place page 2 eventually if you are very lucky!

But the link power is still there. Correctly optimized articles can give you at least two anchor text links to your website. If these are great keywords and your site pages have been optimized correctly then this is still extremely valuable in SEO terms. The rules are still the same – steady, consistent, quality, structured and focused content publication strategies are still exactly what the search engines demand.

The change wasn’t anti-SEO, it was anti-SPAM!

And who benefits? The big winner on the day was quality blogs! Blogs which share expertise and quality information, analysis and opinions. Frequently updated and highly interactive blogs. Blogs by people with good authority scores on social media sites!

The truly gratifying thing is that the hordes of minimal effort, minimal training, minimal talent SEO cowboys have moved on to the next low effort – massive reward – get rich quick technique.

What do you think that might be?

Facebook marketing maybe?

Video marketing?

Oh yes – this blog is DoFollow so you will get link juice if you leave a comment that is approved.

About Mike Morgan
Mike Morgan works with innovative businesses in New Zealand and Australia developing custom web marketing strategies integrating SEO, Content Marketing and Social Media Optimisation. When not in front of his screens you will probably find Mike walking on beautiful Ohope Beach with wife Midge and doberman Cooper. Follow Mike on Twitter here and

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Comments

  1. This looks like a blog. Did your blog come up in ranking since February 2011?

    • Hi there,
      Yes it is indeed a WordPress blog.
      Blogs are definitely ranking higher than they were pre-Panda.
      Thanks for visiting.
      Appreciate the comment.
      All the best
      Mike

  2. Ha ha – hey guys, couldn’t resist posting a comment since you asked so nicely……..but good thoughts on fate of article sites and reflects my experience as well.
    Now if only the SE’s would target those annoying link farm creators…….

    • Hi Sandra,
      Thanks very much!
      Nice to see a web design company with an interest in SEO – unfortunately a rare thing!
      Appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
      I think Matt Cutts has many other spammy sites in his sights :)
      All the best
      Mike

  3. I agree that Google panda basically hurt sites with bad on-page content and didn’t really hurt the sites that the low quality sites linked to. But since panda automatically looks for differences between “good sites” and “bad sites” and generalizes, who’s to say that Google won’t start hurting sites with “bad” backlinks in the future? If it happens I just hope it doesn’t lead to the end of SEO and the beginning of Google Bowling.

    • Thanks Shaun,
      Appreciate your input!
      I don’t think that Ezine Articles etc have been put in the “bad” basket as such. More that they have been put into the “not as high quality as they think they are” basket.
      Fortunately Google encourages SEO , it is an essential ingredient for Google to allocate positions and to give the best possible customer experience.

      Getting lots of poor quality backlinks has been unhelpful for some time now so no change here either.
      Google Bowling? – thanks for that, I hadn’t heard it called that before :)

      All the best
      Mike

  4. Thanks Shaun! Great article, very informative, look forward to reading more!

  5. Good post. It is good that submission guidelines and quality levels have been revisited by these article directories. It will help to clean things up. In the end it is all about providing value with good quality original content, be it on our own sites or on a few carefully chosen, quality directories.

    • Thanks for the comment.
      Absolutely agree!
      Focus on providing quality content and less on “gaming” the search engines.
      All the best
      Mike

  6. Great post and very good explanation. DO you think the Panda update will kill micro niche websites? or maybe micro niche sites need to focus a bit more on content and getting quality back links…

    • Panda was aimed more at content farms. At the same time though Google has
      been filtering out small sites with little content, so you better have a keyword that
      has almost no competition in your niche, otherwise you won’t show up.
      Cheers
      Mike

  7. I agree with you about the sites with low quality being hit. I don’t see that Google will ever start to penalize that that have links from bad neighborhoods. They already say that you will not be penalized for who links to you. You have no control over that. What they will hurt you for is linking to that bad content yourself. If they every do decide to penalize you for bad neighborhood inbounds, it will just change the tactics that many use, and instead of creating the low quality links for yourself, you can just start making them for your competition. Even the thought of that makes me laugh a little.

    • Hi Ryan,
      Another visitor pointed out the practice of buying cheap links to damage your competition. Google has dropped a couple of major sites for buying thousands of links and so a few shady SEOs have done this to damage competitors’ sites. Apparently it is called Google Bowling and Google is having to work out who has bought the links before penalizing – a difficult task, but one they are aware of fortunately.
      My advice – stay away from lots of poor quality links – have a range from PR2 through to PR8 if possible and spread them as evenly as possible.
      Thanks for your contribution.
      All the best
      Mike

  8. The negative influence of Google Panda update on article marketing is very obvious today. As a result, we can see that article directories generate less traffic today. However, article marketing continues to be one of the most effective link building techniques. Incoming links of a website from article sites are very valuable for search engines.

    • Thanks for your input Terje,
      I agree completely – article directories are now more about links.
      Have you noticed how your blog traffic has increased in the last couple of months?
      All the best
      Mike

  9. Thanks for the Panda update. The marketing strategy was my main concern.However, your post has cleared the fear that it is still the same for the SEO, in terms of link juice for our sites.I guess this is good to see useless content in those article directories below than our quality content.

    • Thanks Michael,
      Glad I could help. SEO is a fascinating field and one that has immense challenges. You really have to devour a lot of diverse opinions on an ongoing basis in order to get a picture of what the current Google reality is. Wordtracker published an article on article marketing post-Panda which helped, and I found many snippets of information published on the big SEO blogs when I was researching this post.
      Thanks for your comment.
      Mike

  10. I agree that Panda has caused the power of article marketing to be reduced, but its still an effective way of building some volume links to domains that need it. We see the best results from quality, relevant links though.

    • Completely agree,
      Top page results are no longer easy, and this is probably a good thing, but the links are still worth chasing as part of a range of link building strategies.
      Thanks for visiting.
      Cheers
      Mike

  11. I don’t think that the Panda has done too much to make article marketing completely unvalued, it’s all part of a varied mix,m as you could relate to any marketing mix, you need a variation of different techniques to be successful.

    • Hi Andy,
      It will always be a valuable part of the marketing and link building mix but as with all successful techniques someone will find a way to shortcut the system and create a product promising incredible results! This is what led to the huge quantity of sub-standard articles and ultimately led to the article directories being penalised.
      Thanks for the comment
      Mike

  12. Provided an article is useful and has good depth of content, then it’s always going to provide value – as you say, if it’s a re-hash of existing articles and run through spin software then it’s only going to be a matter of time before Google home in on the hosting network and slam it. It’s worth mentioning advertising too – these sort of thin content hooks were the mainstay of monetised websites which leveraged click ads and banner media on their pages – over-use of advertising is another factor Google has associated with poor quality in Panda, and sites that have too much (including Google advertising) will suffer too.

    • Great point!
      Sites which are thinly veiled revenue gatherers through selling banner ads while giving no value have also been slammed. This has got to be a positive thing also. It’s ironic that Ezine Articles complained bitterly about being identified in the Panda update yet what do you see at the top of every published article?…. PPC ads from Google! = Revenue gathering using other people’s content!
      Interesting!
      Cheers
      Mike

  13. As I was looking for a certain keyword in Ezine, I found out that the spun article was poorly spun that even a grade school will know that it’s a wrong grammar. Poor Ezine, I really rely on them too much and what happened to it?

    • Thanks Kelli,

      The bizarre thing is that I have had clients’ articles rejected for really odd reasons. One was rejected and the client was suspended for publishing someone else’s content. When I checked the link that they sent me I saw that it was a scraper site with my client’s original blog post ripped off and stripped of all links! I was completely blown away that they did not even check where it was originally published – on the client’s own blog months before it was stolen! Another client is an International thought leader who has advised 50 of the top 100 companies in the world. He has had articles rejected several times for “poor punctuation and grammar”! I thought they wanted to improve the quality of their authors?

      Yet these spun articles are accepted from spammy Internet marketers!

      And the most published article writer at Ezine Articles has 24,612 articles… obviously top quality stuff!

      Thanks for the visit!
      Mike

  14. Well horrible indeed. I wonder how we can handle this. Well if we can’t eat them. I guess we’ll have to join them.

  15. If you believe everthing google and every other blog owner says or talks about SEO you are a complete moron you have a better chance watching disney.

    Article marketing still works and will always work! Its how its done! My sites were not effected and have done even better now.

    And yes spinning does work but you have to do it the right way!

    • Hi John,
      No link? :)
      I am a little surprised that you think I believe everything Google or other blog owners say.
      I only published this comment to respond as it is about as close to anonymous as you can get. (http://none? ha ha…)
      Did you read the Post?
      In summary I said:
      1. Article sites have been hit hard by Panda – up to 90% drop in traffic
      2. You can no longer game the search engines with article sites and keyword loaded rubbish
      3. Your own sites/blogs will benefit from this
      I have never read a spun article that I would be prepared to put my name on.
      Next time try reading the post before abusing the author…
      Cheers
      Mike

  16. Well, all I can say is it’s about time. Article farms, tacky spun articles and people who profit from them is like litter on the road. Now that Google has brought their street sweeper in, now authors who contribute quality content will get the rewards and credit they deserve. You go Google!

    • Nice one!
      I agree completely! If you can game a system you can package it up, build a sales funnel and sell it to the hordes…
      Buy 10,000 PLR articles and submit them to thousands of sites with one click!
      Until Google catches up that is!
      I am sure everyone is tired of this spam.
      Thanks for the comment, I can get down off my soapbox now!
      Cheers
      Mike

  17. Interesting post. I was aware of much of this but it’s interesting to see how article websites have responded to this (eg Ezine). Difficult balance for them I guess!

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks! Ezine articles have really become pretty zealous in their rejection of articles. Sometimes for slightly bizarre reasons as well – as you say they lost a lot of traffic so have had to make major changes to stay in business.
      Cheers
      Mike

  18. Thanks for sharing this informative post. We have been relying on article marketing for our SEO. But, we make sure that we produce quality articles. So, a little adjustment is needed. And we still hope to generate sales leads through this medium.

    Thanks,

    • Great Travis,
      Yes, I certainly don’t think article marketing is dead – but the emphasis has changed. As with all online strategies adjustments are constantly necessary if you are going to remain effective.
      Cheers
      Mike

  19. I spent about 2 years umming and ahhing about starting a site and finally bit the bullet and started a few weeks ago, however for those 2 years all I ever seemed to read about was article marketing so I was fully prepared to start signing up for the major sites and writing articles because I thought that was what I had to do. I guess after reading about this Panda update I will have to find another method. I try to write quality unique content but am finding that my writing is a bit rusty just like my body. Like many things its a case of “use it or lose it”. Having said that, I’m glad Google did this, I never had any interest in spamming mass articles for traffic and backlinks.

    • Hi Lyndon,
      Article marketing really was pretty powerful a while back – great search engine positions quickly and great back-links to your own site when you used anchor text correctly. As with all things to do with search we all have to constantly update our strategies and techniques. Article marketing is definitely not over – the emphasis has just shifted.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.
      All the best
      Mike

  20. I think your conclusions are absolutely correct. The days of spun content generating thousands of relevant links are gone. My only concern with the Panda update is that it seems to give the edge to the Goliaths. When David creates better content, will this be recognized?

    • Hi Richard,
      Thanks for the comment.
      Interesting point – this is a really competitive field and it is no longer good enough to set up a blog and post a few things to get traffic. There are many elements to gaining the authority necessary to feature in the top search results. Goliath may have the edge from his size but David can definitely use his quality content to get noticed – but it takes time and persistence.
      All the best
      Mike

  21. Google panda hurts many article sites this time with bad on-page content but not really hurt sites which has low quality link building. But panda update is some what good from user point view, now user will get a good and fresh content, hopefully. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Hi Suresh,
      Yes, and the user is what Google is all about! We have seen via many updates that the advertisers, content producers, SEOs, web developers are way down Google’s list of priorities. And this is why they are so good – they focus solely on the customer – that user who is typing a query into the Google search bar!
      Thanks for the visit!
      Mike

  22. I really like the David vs Goliath metaphor posted above. Besides backlinking and affiliate marketing, what will the small online presence turn to? I’ve heard facebook etc don’t really give that much juice, so it wouldn’t make such a difference in SERPs. I’m of the opinion that video will probably be the next wave.

    • Hi Arthur,
      Video continues to have a major impact in search, it helps that Google owns Youtube of course. A smaller business needs to target keywords which are attainable – no chance of competing against the huge authority sites out there. Aim for the “low hanging fruit”. Less traffic but highly targeted.
      All the best
      Mike

  23. That is great. thou I am about 6 months behind. so what can the average joe (or Josephine) do to get link backs to their sites. We are not porn but with our body jewelry, a lot harder to get vanilla sites to even talk to us, good quality articles or not!

    thanks

    N

    • Hi Nipple Rings!
      A good start would be to use your real name – it sends a signal that you are not just trying to game the site for SEO effect. My advice would be to build a brand and following within communities that are not vanilla. There are plenty of link opportunities for all types of business.
      All the best
      Mike

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