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Google's Panda Update: Are We Better Off Yet?
Sunday, March 20, 2011
First let me preface this post by saying that I applaud Google's attempt to crack down on spam content and spam sites. The verdict on whether Google's Panada Update has taken a step in the right direction remains to be seen. A lot of quality sites have been impacted. I happen to work on one of those sites. Google has been hammering this site since the rollout of Caffeine, the MayDay update and the recent Panda updates.  As a result we have taken measure to improve the quality of the pages on our site.  A couple of tactics that we have been working on include:
  • removing AdSense heavy pages (which quite honestly were not really overwhelming)
  • removing lower quality pages or what we perceived as "placholder pages" if you will
  • blocked pages that we felt may be considered "low quality" by Google until we can revisit these pages and improve the "quality" of them.
  • we have enhanced the "quality" of pages that we felt required it (we will continue to do this as required)
  • we have been going after sites that have stolen our content (and there a a large number of them)
So this past Thursday I thought that I started to begin seeing some of our placements come back (and I have) but our traffic has taken a serious hit since the first algo update of the year in late January.  My question asking are we better off with these new results is one that is quite perplexing to me.  Many of the sites that have replaced us in the results are no where near as content rich  as ours.   We have a talented team of writers who have produced great content over the years, and while I get that Google has no obligation to rank a site in top spot year in and year out, you would think that a site that has placed in top spot for a given phrase for 8-10 years is probably a highly relevant resource.  The results are not better, at least not yet.  And we are not the only ones who are seeing this.  There have been no reports of sites that have regained their traffic post Panda update.  Or at least none that we have come across.  People are not happy with the results.  In fact one of our readers commented:
The fact that Google has this much power to influence the success or failure of websites is scary. They are too big - and the little webmasters got them to this point. And the same people who made them rich are the ones that Google is ditching.

So....this algo update - what Google is saying is that they provided low quality search results for over a decade.

Honestly, this is a shock and awe tactic by Google for their new CEO. They want everyone to come and look at the NEW GOOGLE. Well, the new search results are horrible. Most lead to websites selling products - and who wants to click on ads when this is the case? I predict a substantial decline in Google revenue.

And all the people who got Google to where they are today - Google is stomping them to death. They don't need them anymore.

Google needs to take a good look at their motto 'don't be evil'.  As to the best search engine - it's now Bing...

Feel free to read others' take on the update via the thread that Google has set up in order to obtain feedback.

In the past year, Google has:
  • scrambled to keep up with real-time search results by releasing their Caffeine update
  • made an attempt to clean up web spam by focusing on sites that were "optimizing" for long-tail with their "MayDay Update"
  • tried to help people search better by launching Google Instant
  • given more attention to brands by displaying more search results from the same domain for a given search query.  I have seen examples where one site has the first eight placements and basically has 80% of the SERP coverage.  Is this really the best user experience?
So Google has made unprecedented change in the past 12-15 months with more to come.  Something is definitely going on at the Googleplex.  Even thinking about how the whole Eric Schmidt transition was communicated.  Has Google gone too corporate?  Have their forgotten about their motto of "don't be evil"?  Barry Schwartz has had a number of great post over at SEO Roundtable.  In one of his recent posts he suggests that  people who have been hit hard by the Panda Update and who have taken corrective measures are not seeing any improvements although Google engineers have hinted that once you have addressed the issues you can/may expect to see rankings come back with Google's next crawl of your site.  In Barry's post he states:
I feel like I have talked and written about the Google Farmer/Panda update way too much, but the truth is, about 40% of you were impacted by this update in a bad bad way and even though you are making changes none of you are really seeing any improvement in your rankings.
This goes along with what I am seeing as well.  Our team has been working non-stop on cleaning up the quality of our site's content.  We have not done anything that goes against Google's webmaster guidelines (that we can tell), and we have taken drastic measures to abide by Google's rules.  However as I always state, we are always at the mercy of the algorithm.  Google has caused a lot of stress in my life in the past month.  Now if I was a black-hat SEO I may not stress, but the fact is that our team is by the book.  Yes I am an online marketer, but I am trained not to manipulate Google's results but to provide a successful experience for the user.  I acquired the majority of my skills at Enquiro where I spent nearly seven years in dealing with some of the largest brands out there.  We  were well versed in how people search.  Our eye tracking studies have been quoted throughout the industry.  I have a great understanding of how people search and about usability.  Yet with a Google Update all of this goes out the window.  Google is the dominant player.  For any web-driven business, you have to play by Google's rules.  This does not change our approach.  We are looking to provide the best content for our users and the best experience.  However Google, we need your help.  We need people to find our content.  We are not trying to create webspam, quite the opposite actually.

With Google's Panda Update, I'm not sure that we are better off.  There were a lot of innocent sites that have taken a major hit.  One of the sites that I work on just happens to be one of these.  Google I applaud your efforts to fight webspam, I just trust that you can correct some of the damage that has been directed at some of the "innocent bystanders" out there.

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posted by Jody @ 1:29 PM  
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