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The Google Panda unleashed

Google Panda UnleashedAs I mentioned in 2 months after releasing the Google Panda Google representatives announced a major change to their Search Engine algorithm in February 2011. This was rolled out globally to all English-language Google users on Monday April 11th.

The reason behind this change is that Google is committed to finding more high quality sites. Google changes its algorithm regularly, but most changes are so minor that we do not even notice. The Panda update is believed by Google to have affected about 12% of the search results.


What is the Panda looking for?

The aim of the update is to improve the relevance of the search engine results and to remove or downgrade poor quality sites from the top of the Search Engine results pages.
It is widely accepted that "content farms" have been the main target of this change.

Content farms are Internet websites which have a high volume of content on a large variety of topics, created by many different contributors. A common practice to determine which topics to include is the monitoring of the most popular searches in various search engines, and then generating specific content geared towards these searches. Content farms are often used as a method to manipulate Search Engine Optimisation - they obtain high positions in the Search Engines due to their large volume of content and then providing backlinks to other sites.

The problem with content farms is that much of their actual content lacks any real research, thought or value. It is often poorly written, short and does not offer anything new towards the topic. The articles may even be copied from other sites, or be the result of an automatic translation of an article in a different language and hence grammatically incorrect.

Enter the Panda. It's job is to reduce the rankings of low-quality sites. This is defined by Google's Matt Cutts as sites which are "...low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful...". Although content farms have not been officially designated as one of the Panda's targets, they clearly fall into the target area and the Search Engine Optimisation community agrees the position of these content farm in the search engine results has dropped dramatically.


Who did the Panda find?

The Internet website Sistrix have collated and analysed the results of one million keywords prior to the Panda update and then performed the same analyse after the Panda update went live. The top 15 sites hit by the update and their subsequent percentage change are:

















The results are incredible. And it will be interesting to see how the hardest hit internet sites perform over the coming months.
A 87% drop in keyword visibility translates to a massive loss in traffic levels and ultimately business.


How did the Panda find them?

The exact nature of the Google algorithm is a closely guarded secret. However by analysing the sites which were affected we can determine the common denominators which would form part of the selection process by the Panda:

Traffic behaviour of the visitors - sites with a high bounce rate or low return visits or low page views have been penalised. Make your Business Website as interesting as possible to ensure visitors want to spend time there and not simple hit the back button to get back to the search engine results.

Duplicate content and sites that simple 'scrape' content from other Internet Websites have been on Google's hit list since it first came to prominence - almost all of its algorithm changes have had a go at reducing the position of sites caught performing this. The Panda update has taken this to extremes. A few duplicates here and there will not hurt your Business Internet site, too much, but if you have an e-commerce Internet site with lots of repeated text or pages, you should rewrite it to avoid duplicates.

Excessive use of advertisements is not viewed kindly. You will either have to increase the original content to improve the advert/content ratio, or reduce the overall number of advertisements to get the advert/content ratio to healthy levels.

Poor design or invalid html coding will reduce the authority of your Business Website and the Panda update will position your Internet site lower in the results pages accordingly. The advantage of using the AB Publish Internet Site Creation system to create your own Business Website is that your website will follow the latest standards and norms of the W3 Consortium. The benefits of validating your Internet site have been discussed in First, Create your own Business Validate it! but the effect on the position of your Business Website in the Search Engine results is now stronger than ever.

Overuse of external links is now deemed to indicate a link farm which will have a negative impact on the position of your Business Website in the search engine results. This is a question of common sense - if you have interesting content with a few links, there is no problem, but page after page of links will be seen as an effort to manipulate the search engine results and will be treated as such.

Title and keywords not matching the contents will be punished harder than ever since the Panda update. Check that the actual content on each of your pages relates to your page headings, the description and the extra keywords. You have complete control over these values using the AB Publish system so use them to your advantage but do not misuse them. If you are unsure how to use these values properly, please do not hesitate to contact us with your questions.


Concluding thoughts on the Panda

Google will always strive to provide the best and most relevant search engine results to the queries it receives from its visitors (it has to, or visitors will choose another search engine!).

The Panda update is a large change to its algorithm that has impacted almost 12% of the sites currently indexed within its database, but when the dust settles I am convinced it will be seen as a great move and a step in forcing internet sites to concentrate on actual content rather than cloning or generating low-value content.

Overall the winners will be everyone who uses Google as a search engine since the results will be more relevant and the only losers will be those who try to manipulate the Search Engine results and who will now hopefully be penalised.

Fri 20 May 2011 16:14:10

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