It has been a year now since the infamous Google Panda update was covertly rolled out.
Now is probably a good time to do a bit of analysis on whether it has achieved what it set out to do.
How has Panda altered the way people approach search engine optimization?
Did it succeed with what Google set out to achieve?
First of all…
What exactly is the Google Panda Update?
The Panda Update could be described as a clip-on rather than a change in the Google algorithm. The algorithm itself is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the world and it is amended and updated more than 500 times a year.
The Panda Update is run periodically to improve the quality of a searcher’s experience by providing search results that are as relevant as possible. It does this by penalising sites that appear to have thin or low value content.
The Update has been run ten times that we are aware of – the most recent one on January 18th of this year!
Who was the Panda Update targeting?
There had been a major build-up of poor quality content over the last few years. A huge number of Internet marketing programs were and still are being sold to new online marketers. The potential to make a ton of money by teaching people how to manipulate search engine results in order to make sales of products, businesses or services is just too attractive to resist for some people.
And the organic results were free!
A couple of years ago you could research a keyword, write an article, create a press release, make a video, post on a Web 2.0 site and publish a blog with almost identical content and you would end up with 5 or more positions in the search results on Page One for the keyword!
But of course this was decreasing the value of search results as individual marketers were able to dominate a range of keywords. This was pushing what Google (and most users) considered quality content further down the results pages.
And in order for Google to retain their massive market share advantage they needed to do something about this problem.
Large article directories like Ezine Articles had more than 300,000 authors published and the leading author had over 23,000 articles published. Of course he had a range of products he sold to teach people how to do the same thing!
And this was just one of thousands of directories.
At the same time many marketers were using software to “spin” articles for SEO back-link purposes. Spun articles have been run through software to replace a number of words with synonyms. We have all seen the junk this stuff produces – incoherent and often laughable garbage produced to hack search engines.
Other marketers were using mass-submission tools to auto-submit a piece of content to hundreds or even thousands of sites with the push of a button…
Yes, we have all seen the “turn-key” Internet marketing cash machines which make money while you sleep!
The other target Google was aiming for were “scraper sites”. These are sites where the content is ripped off other sites, stripped of links, then posted on a site illegally.
One such site which stole some of our content had over 1,000 pages, all filled with scraped content. When we investigated the person who owned the site we found out he owned over 400 domains, all loaded with other people’s stuff! And all around our content this guy had put those flashing, Vegas like banner ads selling everything dubious you can think of!
The effects of the Panda or Farmer update
Panda was also known as the Farmer Update for the first few weeks as it targeted what Google referred to as “content farms”.
These included Article Directories, Web 2.0 sites and even some news based sites.
And boy, did they get hit hard!
Many lost 90% of their traffic within days! Can you imagine the revenue loss?
These are some pretty massive sites.
Eventually as Panda has been adjusted in subsequent roll-outs some of the sites have recovered a percentage of their original traffic but the halcyon days for the big content platforms will never return. It is now unusual to see an individual article on a directory ranking on page one.
Blogs on the other hand have been rewarded substantially. Large, high quality blogs have a huge presence in search now.
Multi-author sites, guest posting, content curation, social sharing, content marketing have all benefited from the new focus on quality content.
And this has to be a good thing!
Unfortunately scraper sites are still out there and there is still a lot of junk being produced.
A couple of days ago I was offered “unique quality articles” for $1 a pop! As many as I like!
And I came across a video where a woman showed how you too could use the same software she does (only $9.95 for a limited time!) to create 250 blog posts from one original and how to auto-post one of these awesome articles on your blog every few hours and watch the cash roll in… while you sleep presumably!
Overall though I think the shift has been positive as many have found spam is not working as well as it once did. So many have had to rethink some of the black hat techniques they were using.
Honestly, how many articles do we really need on how to get your girlfriend back?
And sure, some sites which were based on good quality writing got caught up in the update as well and there has certainly been a lot written both for and against the Panda Update. But there was always going to be some collateral damage from a shift as major as this.
Most of the quality focused sites have had time now to adjust strategies to suit the new post-Panda web.
In my opinion the focus on value based content marketing coupled with ethical SEO implementation and social influence is making the web a better place for both marketers and users.
Check out the infographic below for a great summary of the Panda Update.
This is from one of our favourite SEO blogs Search Engine Land
Let us know in the comments whether the Google Panda Update has helped your website or hurt it and whether you have had to adjust your strategies to allow for the changes.
Mike Morgan works with innovative businesses in New Zealand and Australia developing custom web marketing strategies integrating SEO, Content Marketing and Social Media. Mike has been featured in 41 Rising Stars of SEO and Top 100 Most Followed SEO Experts on Twitter and has his opinions on SEO and Content Marketing published on a range of global content marketing blogs.