Quantcast

Google “Panda” Algorithm Update – What’s Known & What’s Possible

Google Shares Some Clues, Impacted Sites Left Guessing

Get the WebProNews Newsletter:
[ Search]

Google’s recent algorithm update aimed at improving the quality of search results has captured a great deal of attention – both positive and negative. The general consensus seems to be that the results are in fact better now, but still not perfect. Perfection will likely never be achieved, but there are still some glaring criticisms out there about Google’s most recent attempt.

Having had some time to reflect, what is your opinion of the update? Let us know in the comments.

Despite the improvement in overall search quality in general, there have been many sites to suffer the consequences of the update – some deservedly and others maybe not so much. As Google will never reveal its secret recipe in its entirety, there are plenty of clues out there, and even facts that Google will share. You can criticize Google’s mystique all you want, but there’s not denying that they do communicate with the webmaster community to a great extent, even if they don’t always tell you everything you want to hear.

Google’s Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal – two of the most instrumental voices in the recent update – shared some clues and insights in an interview with Wired this week. Before we get to specifics, there were some interesting things mentioned by the two that are worth noting. For example, Caffeine, which sped Google’s indexing, led to a flood of content – both good and bad. This seems to have helped the “shallow” kinds of content that this most recent update targeted – not stuff that is quite spam, but…well, shallow. We also learned that Google calls the update “Panda”.

They revealed that prior to the update, they sent out documents to outside testers/raters, and asked them questions about quality. It would be interesting to know who these raters were, but no such luck there. Users were asked things like whether they would feel comfortable giving a site their credit card info or giving medicine from the site to their kids (I wonder if anyone was asked if they felt comfortable getting their brain cancer information from a freelance eHow writer with no credentials in the field), whether they considered the site to be authoritative, whether it would be ok in a magazine, whether it has “excessive” ads, and other questions. It would be great to be able to know more of those questions, but we can only work with what Google has revealed.

“And based on that, we basically formed some definition of what could be considered low quality,” Singhal is quoted as saying.

“We actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side,” said Cutts. “And you can really see mathematical reasons…”

“I got an e-mail from someone who wrote out of the blue and said, ‘Hey, a couple months ago, I was worried that my daughter had pediatric multiple sclerosis, and the content farms were ranking above government sites,’” Cutts is later quoted as saying. “Now, she said, the government sites are ranking higher. So I just wanted to write and say thank you.’”

Again, why is eHow still ranking for “level 4 brain cancer”?

Google says it still looks at feedback, and Cutts even said that if someone has a specific question about why a site dropped, he thinks it’s “fair and justifiable and defensible to tell them why that site dropped.” He also said that Google’s most recent algorithm contains signals that can be gamed (hence the lack of full transperency). In other words, it can still be optimized for.

Finally, the site Suite101, which data from SearchMetrics lists as the biggest loser in percentage (in its organic performance index) was brought up in the interview. Suite101 and eHow are often compared and labeled as “content farm” type sites. When asked why Suite101 took a much bigger hit than eHow, Cutts simply said, “I feel pretty confident about the algorithm on Suite 101.”

It would be very helpful to understand the differences Google sees between these two sites. It doesn’t seem very clear by looking through the sites that there are obvious differences in quality. I’m sure it varies on both.

We reached out to Suite101 a few days ago for comment on the update and its impact, but have yet to receive a response. I’m even more interested to hear what they have to say, now that these comments have come out. Update: Suite101 referred us to an open letter from CEO Peter Berger to Google’s Matt Cutts.

CEO Peter Berger stressed the importance of quality in content when we spoke with him last year.

“Every week, several thousand people apply to become Suite101 writers,” he told us. “While we only accept a portion of applicants based on our non-negotiable quality standards, we do have many successful writers on our site who do not consider themselves ‘writers’.”

“We see it as Suite101′s mission to enable people – anyone who can write well and with deep understanding of a subject – to achieve their goals,” he said. “These might be earning money, addressing large audiences, building up a personal professional brand, or simply enjoying creative freedom in a nurturing, peer-oriented environment.”

Results from people with a deep understanding of a subject should lend themselves to quality. Whether or not Suite101 delivers on this is open for debate. Clearly Google doesn’t think so, practically making the site the poster-child of what not to do. The mysteries continue…

What we know Google is looking at with the Panda update:

- User comfort level in the trust area (think credit card/medicine comments)

- Is it considered authoritative (this would apply some indication of expertise on topics covered, I would think)

- Is the content quality good enough for print? (I’ve seen plenty of crap printed)

- Are there too many ads? (How many are too many, and does the ad network matter?)

- We know Google has its definition of what could be considered low quality

- Google uses a “classifier” to draw a line in the sand

- We know that so far, Google has not used indications from the Chrome Extension (emphasis on so far. Google hinted in the past that this data could potentially be used to tweak the algorithm).

- Google looks at feedback, at least to some extent

- Based on comments from Cutts, Google will tell you why your site dropped (getting that communication flow going may not be the easiest thing to do, but I have personally witnessed Cutts sit down with someone at a conference and look at their site with them.)

- The algorithm can still be gamed. It can still be optimized for. (If you were hit by the update, there are things you can do to get back in Google’s good graces. In other words, you’re not necessarily banned just because of your brand.)

- Most of the changes in rankings will be done algorithmically, but Google will take manual action in some instances (see JC Penney)

-If you use any auto-generated content keep it separated from the original high quality stuff, and block it from search engines. Google’s John Mu said recently, “If you do have such high-quality, unique and compelling content, I’d recommend separating it from the auto-generated rest of the site, and making sure that  the auto-generated part is blocked from crawling and indexing, so that search engines can focus on what makes your site unique and valuable to users world-wide.”

This is basically in line with another statement from Google obtained by Search Engine Land: “Sites that believe they have been adversely impacted by the change should be sure to extensively evaluate their site quality. In particular, it’s important to note that low quality pages on one part of a site can impact the overall ranking of that site. Publishers who believe they’ve been impacted can also post in our webmaster forums to let us know. We will consider feedback from publishers and the community as we continue to refine our algorithms.”

If you can think of anything else that is “known” about this update, please feel free to comment.

We won’t jump to any conclusions, but here are…

Some things that are possible that may be worth considering:

- Old fashioned design may play a role. Simply from the aesthetic point of view, this may make a site appear less trustworthy (less likely that consumers will be willing to give up their credit care info). We wonder if this played a role in the EzineArticles and Foner Books examples we looked at.

- There is possibly a threshold that can be crossed for what is considered too many ads before your site gets points taken off for quality. Some have tried reducing the number of ads (again, see EzineArticles) to try and boost rankings.

- Duplicate content (to some degree) may play a role in this recent update. EzineArticles, again, is a prime candidate for this. Articles from the site are published other places – probably the majority of the content from the site is duplicated at other places (besides just scrapers). eHow content is uniquely written for eHow. There are plenty of people that will suggest much of this content is rewritten based on other existing articles, but that’s beside the point. The content itself is unique to eHow (again, scrapers aside).

Other sites like Business Insider, The Huffington Post, and even the New York Times, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal will syndicate content from other blogs, but this duplicate content does not make up the majority of the content from these sites, and this is probably why it’s not frowned upon in these cases. Even WebProNews has had a blog partner program in place for years, in which we syndicate select posts from our partners, but this content has never dominated WebProNews. It’s never been the majority of what we publish, but a small percentage.

- Excessive amounts of very short articles may be a factor taken into consideration, because if that’s the majority of what you put out, the majority of your content is likely “shallow”. Now sometimes, short posts are sufficient. Sometimes there’s just not that much to say, but if these kinds of posts dominate, there’s a good chance there IS more to say about a lot of it, and someone else probably IS saying it, which makes those people better candidates for better rankings.

- eHow may still be ranking well at least partially because it has established a lot of backlinks over time. The nature of these links could come into play. There is some interesting discussion about this in a WebmasterWorld thread.

- Better, consistent page structure could also play a role (as brought up in that same thread…look at ehow vs HubPages (which was hit by the update).

- Update: PotPieGirl.com has some very interesting data, after running a test on seven key phrases that attract large amounts of spammy content. This might be very telling of at least one aspect of the Panda update. The following chart sayst it all. Look at the difference in percentages between EzineArticles and eHow.

Another dataset looks at the same phrases for articles just from the last month:

“In the last month, Ezine Articles has had close to 39,000 urls found/crawled in the Google index that have one of these 7 phrases on them. That means that 2.82% of the EzineArticles.com urls Google has found/crawled in the last month have this phrase on them,” says Jennifer (Pot Pie Girl), who put this data together. “That is almost 39 THOUSAND web pages in the Google index in the past month with one of those 7 phrases on them – from ONE SITE.”

More on what Google Algorithm Update casualties have to say.

If you have any insight into more things Google may be looking at (specific to this update), discuss these in the comments as well.

Google “Panda” Algorithm Update – What’s Known & What’s Possible
Top Rated White Papers and Resources
  • http://www.rjdinternational.com RJD International

    The new design makes the titles and pictures stretched up and down a little. Or maybe that is just me.

    • http://www.ientry.com/ WebProNews

      What browser are you currently using and what operating system?

      • http://www.rjdinternational.com RJD International

        Chrome and windows 7. It’s nothing really big, just seems a little stretched on the homepage.

  • http://www.justoutsourcing.com JO

    Well written article! It reminded me of the fact that writers don’t own the web — meaning there are plenty of ways people can get a message through to the masses without using or worrying about content (think software, games, video, etc.). This phenomenon really only affects those who’ve focused on just one cash cow: content. Tsk, tsk. Smarter marketers are probably laughing. :-o

  • Tenfold

    You really love Google don’t you Chris… You always have to find something positive in them don’t you Chris…

    “You can criticize Google’s mystique all you want, but there’s not denying that they do communicate with the webmaster community to a great extent, even if they don’t always tell you everything you want to hear.”

    I really would like to see a screenshot of your Citibank bank account’s latest transactions Chris. :-) Especially incoming wires. :-)

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Just calling it like I see it. Cutts is always out talking to people if not posting webmaster videos….There are plenty of positive things to say about Google. They dominate the market share for a reason.

      • http://oceanofweb.com ATUL

        They dominate the search market as its the most widely used SE. they are the ldest search engine. Had there been any other SearchEngine who used to change its algo so frequently, people would have stopped using it…

        ATUL

      • http://www.granite.ie/about/robert-carpenter/ Robert Carpenter

        A good extensive post Chris but I could not agree on your comment that Matt Cutts will tell you why your site dropped. Don’t get me wrong he’s a great speaker and puts himself out there but I’ve been present at many of his talks and while he will field questions and look at your website with you, he will not get into specifics re important topics that you won’t already find on the various google websites.
        He will repeat Google guidelines and recall best practices but he won’t tell you what to do to fix specific issues/topics you are facing.
        It’s always frustrated me how Google and their reps. avoid the tough questions yet scores of people in the industry come away from every event and say how wonderful the advice was!
        Quality content that authorative and trusted website’s link to voluntarily will always win out in the end.
        Reducing ads and keep them non-dynamic is good advice from A.P. below. Review your ad space the same way you should before publishing new content :)

  • http://www.laokay.com Adsense Publisher

    We’ve always been ahead of the curve and one of our major decisions that seems to prove that now is we decided about a year ago we would rather stick with one ad network, replace that ad network’s ads with direct advertisers as they would purchase the space, and limit the number of ads that were displayed instead of throwing mostly ads and very little content. We’ve always been about giving people what they are looking for and our sites do not flood our pages with ads. Our rankings have dipped a little before this update, but since then, our rankings for the most part have been climbing up the ladder. While others were busy gaming the system and throwing up as many ads as they could, we were busy working on the quality of our sites, and still are.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Sounds like a good plan.

  • http://www.suburban-glory.com/blog Andy Walpole

    One big factor that you may have missed is that all the sites that have been adversely effected have general content and are non-specialised.

    One of the sites listed as taking a big hit is urban75.org. This is nearly 8,000 pages and mostly written by one guy over the last 15 years. It is unique content with no adverts whatsoever.

    However, it is a general, non-specialised website dedicated to a wide variety of topics including football, politics, music and travel.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Could be worth considering, though it doesn’t explain eHow. But if eHow meets enough of the other quality factors, it may have enough points working in its favor to counter that.

    • http://www.butteredham.com/blog/ Aaron B.

      I know of at least one niche site (a wedding vendor directory/blog) that took a big hit.

      • http://www.hayatoglunakliyat.com/ hakan unal

        very nice .. tnx all ..

  • http://www.potpiegirl.com Jennifer (PotPieGirl)

    Hey Chris – thanks for mentioning my post over at PotPieGirl.com about my theory on this Panda/Farmer mystery.

    While I might be totally off my rocker with this one, it still speaks volumes to me. When you consider I only took ONE keyword sample phrase from each of those major/’known for junk content’ markets, it baffles my mind at just how MUCH content on various terms for these topics these sites in question might have. It’s staggering.

    If I’m Google and want to clean up and thin out my index, I’d be starting in these areas, wouldn’t you?

    Now, Google said this algo update would affect 11.8% of their search queries, but they did NOT say that was ALL this update would cause changes for. I think other signals have been tweaked too, but the sheer mass amounts of content daily on these 7 topics might really be coming into play.

    I don’t think the NUMBER of ads on a page is really a direct signal, but I do think the presentation of said ads can cause a high bounce rate – which totally could be a signal in play here (as well as time on site, page views per user, internal links, deep EXTERNAL links to internal pages, quantity of new content released each day, etc etc)

    Squidoo seems to be hanging tough now and I think that is a direct result of them voluntarily changing their guidelines back in 2009 and disallowing new content on these topics back then. My hat is off to them for choosing to be proactive back then so they aren’t stuck scrambling to be REactive now (as so many other sites are at this time).

    Also, according to comments my readers have left, eHow became very strict about the content they allowed to be published. While the “quality” might not be up to everyones standards, they sure keep it clean in the areas of those 7 markets, don’t they?

    Thanks again for the mention. I’ve been reading your stuff for a long time so it naturally tickles me to see my own content mentioned in your article.

    Keep up the great work!

    Jennifer
    ~PotPieGirl

    • http://www.seattleokay.com Adsense Publisher

      The bounce rate that Google shows us all in Analytics is not exactly what you would think it to be. It means people have exited to another page (internal or external). A low bounce rate means people have basically closed the tab or the browser window after looking at the page they were on.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for reading and for chiming in. Some very interesting findings indeed.

      I definitely agree that presentation of ads could be a factor. I notice that EzineArticles stopped displaying ads in the middle of articles since the update.

      Chris

  • http://eb-arts.com Eric Brown

    I think you need to back off of eHow and Demand a bit. You keep mentioning them in these articles but look at your own data above. eHow doesn’t even come close to the other sites listed, but I see very little attacking going on where they are concerned. Last I checked .03% compared to 1.99% and up was a drop in the bucket and when compared to 10+% it seems like a rain drop compared to a downpour. But, alas I am not a math expert.

    It seems like you have a personal stake in promoting Google and bashing eHow and Demand. Hopefully, their lawyers are reading this.

    • vybixa

      Well put. Up to now, apart from the couple of articles I have written for eHow (and the reciprocal links I got from them), I had never thought of it as a spammy site. Indeed, the Panda update seems to have thrust it into that category, and specifically WPN seems to have! Clearly, I will not classify a site I have written for as spammy, however, even your own quoted numbers indicate that it does not deserve that tag (borne out by the Panda update itself).

      Mr. Crum, is it beyond you to start giving eHow some positive vibes smilar to those you consistently give to google?

      • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

        I think I’ve always maintained that some of eHow’s content is higher quality, but much of it is not, and that’s why so many people complain about the site. It’s Google’s responsibility to figure out which is good and which isn’t. Even on eHow articles that are of decent quality, however, there has often been other, more authoritative content that arguably should have been ranked higher.

  • http://luxury-homes-bahamas.com/ Glenn Ferguson @ Bahamas Luxury Real Estate

    Although I’m not a webmaster its great information to have Chris. Any idea how this affect smaller amount of syndicated articles which may result in duplicate content?

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I can only guess, based on experience and what I’ve read, but it doesn’t seem to me that smaller amounts of syndicated articles will hurt you too much – as long as unique, original content is the majority. However, I’m not sure how much brand plays into that. Like I said before, publications like WebProNews, Business Insider, and even The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and CNN syndicate articles from other blogs (with permission of course), but these are all sites with established brands that Google seems to already have given some amount of authority.

  • http://www.dats-it.net shayne

    Strangely,I’ve never really SEO’d my site,nor has it tons of content,links or submissions, yet it has been steady on the first or second page for the best of keyphrases for the last 3 years.What say you SEO masters?

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I don’t consider myself an “SEO master,” but when you write for users, content can often become semi-optimized naturally. In terms of keywords anyway, sometimes the natural flow is good enough.

    • http://www.seattleokay.com Adsense Publisher

      Ever heard of dumb luck?

      My boss started 1 directory site about 8 years ago as nothing more than a local directory when there wasn’t any good local directory sites out there, and was more of a hobby than a money making website, and now we have over 175.

      I’m far from being an SEO expert, but we seem to be doing ok as we have many many pages that show up for a page 1 result when you search for certain things on Google, and we tend to rank slightly higher on Yahoo for the same query.

    • http://www.localmapsguru.com/local-maps-guru-blog.html Jeff M

      What are your best 3 search phrases?
      Not to get picky, but I looked at your site and it does not come up for any of your meta keywords, title tag keywords or content keywords.

      Also, you list your services as search engine optimisation (misspelled). You do have a PR3, which is not bad.

      • http://www.linxhurricane.com Lesley

        In Australia – that’s how it’s spelt optimisation

  • http://www.WebHousingAuthority.com Coral Atlas

    It’s not as complex as all that. Simply follow the money not the algorithm.

    Individuals attempting to build a web presence with limited human capital are displaced by the corpocracy. The black box of google is transparent for large corporations but opaque for you and I

    Google is a for profit corporation and the emphasis is on volume profits.

    The intellectual assets of individuals is harvested and used by large corporations within a framework that is manipulative at best.

    Sorry google – but you’ve pulled the wool over the eyes of small entrepreneurs and individuals whom you rely on to purchase your services as well as the products and services of your advertisers.

    • http://www.littletravellers.com alex

      Very well said…We should first ask why is eHow and other content farms are writing the so called “articles”? It is not to help people in what they looking for or a good advice but sipmly to make money from adsence.

  • http://www.imresourcecenter.com Doug Champigny

    At a time when divorce is at an all-time high, credit card debt has hit critical economy-crippling levels and droves of people are abandoning television to get their entertainment online, Google seems to penalize sites for content relating to those topics… And you still think they’re relative to today’ online searchers, eh Chris?

  • Lawisevil

    It is clear that Google is giving everyone another Chrome job with Panda. What is sad is people who are supposed to be smart and independent thinkers are buying the con. The vast majority of search results on Google are manufactured sites for shilling or for ad sense type of activity.

    I use a marker of “law dictionary” and always find 9 of 10 of the top sites what would be called “fake” law dictionaries. All of them are clearly manufactured sites. They are 150 year old law dictionaries revived in complete form or in part form for the sole and obvious purpose of duping anyone looking for a true legal definition.

    The only law dictionary that might possibly be called legit in the group is one that is allegedly made for lay people but that too is used for shilling and adsense. There are two legit professional law dictionaries in the U.S. Neither one of them has ever placed in the top anything for the past 10 years.

    While math and page rank might be a partial solution for search algorithms there is a vastly easier and almost 100% solution that is simple to implement but then you don’t make 20% of the revenue that Google makes off this scam they are running.

  • http://www.motoblogz.blogspot.com/ moto buzz

    would it effect my blog’s search results too.?

  • http://www.aktivtek.no søkemotoroptimalisering

    I didn’t notice any change in SERPs at all. May be I’m just lucky :)

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Are you in the U.S.?

  • http://www.walidmrealtor.com walidmrealtor

    Very insightful article. Thanks for the reference and link to potpiegirl.com – excellent detail regarding her research of Google’s effect on the site’s mentioned here.

  • http://www.kika.ca Adonis

    Thanks for this update, really worth knowing and I hope many site owner will experience a good ranking on this new algo.

  • http://yumantoko.blogspot.com/2011/03/google-melawan-content-farm-allogaritma.html yumant

    lately I am pleased to write in a blog, usually I use the word excerpts from other web. I created a scientific writing possible by including the source. if google will accept it as an original work. I think google would be more sensitive to the title that we created even though the contents of a web there are many similarities but if the title made me feel as unique possible effects of new allogaritma will have an impact not so big.

  • Brandon

    So from my understanding, the new algorithm change may not affect e commerce sites as greatly as other sites. I haven’t seen a significant change in my rankings recently.

    • jojo

      It did affect my ecommerce site. I went from 700 plus hits a day to 75. I have 9000 products and use the manuafatures provided descriptions. Its not gonna be good for the other ecommerce sites that do the same.

  • http://www.weballways.com Radha

    Hope, it would be good for organic SEO campaign.

  • http://www.gregsonline.com Greg

    In this article WebProNews they listed this quote

    “Based on comments from Cutts, Google will tell you why
    your site dropped (getting that communication flow going may
    not be the easiest thing to do, but I have personally witnessed
    Cutts sit down with someone at a conference and look
    at their site with them”

    How can I get Google to tell me why my site dropped?

  • http://visionefx.net Rick Vidallon

    Google is reversing itself. In previous articles and postings Matt Cutts said that they are not the ‘Internet police’ and do not decide what is good or bad free speech (or in this case websites). I would ask; Why is Google making adjustments on the fly to their algorithm based on case by case complaints?

  • Kevin

    Hi,

    I thought I would comment on how the changes from Big G has affected a few of my sites.
    I will say that I do not have any complaints about this new change from Big G. The changes G made last May in their “May Day” changes, now they hit all my sites hard! I even follow the SEO of a big name marketer who designed his site building course according to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and my sites still sunk!
    Now, my sites are ranking back where they should be. I only put original content on them, the articles are longer, and I do all my own research and writing. Before building a site, I now brainstorm to try to include anything and everything that I think a person would need when they stop at my site. Also I should mention most of my sites are on a hobby which I have practiced for 30+ years, so I know a good bit just from experience.

    I am sorry about all the good sites that got booted, that truly does suck. Although, when dealing with an algo and the internet, this is going to be the way things are. The only other way to change this whole thing, would be to have human judges making fair, unbiased judgments about who stays and who leaves, but that is not cost effective or practical. So we just grin and bear it.

    Kevin

  • http://www.sahelmarketing.com SEO Expert SF Bay Area

    Every Google update is a small step forward better quality search results. It’s necessary to clean up all the mess out there to provide the end-users the information they are looking for without wading through a maze of useless articles.

  • http://www.hopebuildssuccess.com Ed Rude

    The Google profile stuff is the type of suff that keeps me away from places like facebook.

    For me, that is simply an intrusion on my privacy.

    My website does not sell anything – insteaad it simply gives info – no reason to have any idea what I look like – the info is worthwhile with or without info and pictures about me.

    • Beamer

      And this is why I don’t have a Facebook account. The information they ask for is none of their damn business and totally invades my privacy.

  • http://www.johnbeagle.com John Beagle

    The Great Panda update! I appreciate your thoughtful analysis of the latest Google Update. Its good to know that Google is getting low value and scraped content down in the index. That’s my biggest beef, my content gets scraped everyday, then I see it in Google alerts. Sometimes the scraped content ranks better than my original.

    The index is better, now I have to get back to work, improving my content.

  • http://www.lenagott.com/2011/03/03/article-impact-analysis-from-google-algorithm-update/ Lena Gott

    I write primarily for Suite101, one of the websites hit hardest by this update. My personal article traffic took a 43% hit the day the changes went into effect, and that seems to be the new status quo.

    I conducted an in-depth analysis of my worst and least impacted articles and posted it on my blog, lenagott.com (my name links to the actual post). For what it’s worth, lots of my content directly competes with government websites for traffic because my specialty is federal income taxes and recent federal legislation. I aim to produce high quality analysis for the everyday American to use in making financial decisions, but my thoughtful advice is now buried due to Google’s bias against Suite101.

    I would strongly suggest Google continuously work on this algorithm to look at individual writers/pieces of content, not whole websites, in the case of so-called “content farms.” I originally chose to write for Suite101 because I had no clue how to start my own website back then. I still post the same well researched articles on Suite101 that I would if they were posted on my own website. To say that the articles are bad because they are on Suite101 is insulting; to me, it’s like saying that anything I publish anywhere online is not worth reading. What Google doesn’t take into account is that certain professionals like myself (certified public accountants or lawyers) must uphold themselves to rigorous professional standards. If I write it in an article for all to see, my information has to be 100% accurate; otherwise, I could be in danger of losing my license. I’m sure factors like this don’t matter in the algorithm, but I think they should. Now, eHow articles written by anonymous contributors are now shown in place of my articles. It’s very frustrating to see my accurate work trumped by rehashed how-to lists sometimes copied word-for-word from the IRS website. That’s not quality.

  • http://www.m25cctvinstallers.co.uk cctv installers

    I have several locally targeted small sites with a .co.uk such as www.chocolatefountainstockport.co.uk and www.weatheralgarve.co.uk which have been dropped completely from google.

  • http://www.altmktg.com Russ Alman

    As a web developer primarily working with small businesses on tight budgets, I always teach my clients the same principles:

    1. Build your site in a CMS and keep it updated.
    2. Have a blog and/or news section in your site; update it with new articles at least a few times a month.
    3. Keep your content relevant to your business.
    4. Understand the basic, logical rules of SEO and SEF pages (non-technical people can learn this in a hour or two).
    5. Actively participate in the social media and create backlinks to your website updates.
    6. Participate in relevant forums on related websites..

    Google will always continue to update their algorithms to penalize those who try to cheat the system, and people will always be looking for new ways to cheat. But anyone who follows these 6 core principles above will consistently get decent organic results in the search engines over the long haul.

    Russ Alman
    Olympia, WA

  • http://scholarshipseasy.com scholarships

    Who is saying that the results are better? I keep hearing about this, but I’m in several different niches that I build websites in – and every single keyphrase I’m after, the quality has decreased DRAMATICALLY. I’m not talking about a couple phrases either, it’s well over 100+ different phrases. Friends have reported the same. So I know I’m not alone in this. In fact, a few of my really really low quality sites that I haven’t had time to update are overtaking some of my other sites that are very high quality with very useful information and updated on a regular basis. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

    • Beamer

      “Who is saying that the results are better?”

      I’d like to know the answer to this question myself. Maybe they were talking about their own sites? Long before the algorithm change, G’s results were crap and they still are. I’m using Google less and less and other engines more and more. Very refreshing!

      • Frustrated

        I am seeing the same. In the wedding industry, searches for phrases like wedding planing do bring up a few good sites like The Knot, but Wedding Wire, owned by Martha Stewart is no where, or buried, while sites like thelittleweddingguide.com is on page one?
        I think we’re still seeing a broken algo. Let the dust settle and see what happens.

  • http://www.customwagons.com Jay Jones

    We are a niche market web site, family owned, been in business for over 45 years, the only company on the internet in our niche market that is listed with the Better Business Bureau and we have an A+ rating. We sell our products worldwide due to the fact that no other country can manufacture our product as well as we do. For the past nine years, we have been listed in the top five in a number of key words that described our little niche market products; we are now listed as number 10. The companies that are listed above us are nothing more than drop shippers who have been in business a short time and do not manufacture anything. Panda did not help us.

  • http://prioritycarpetclean.com jimm

    If my site gets dropped by Google how do I get them to tell me why they did so and how do you go about getting back in their good graces. Do you fix all issues and then do a reconsider on google webaster page ?

  • http://www.medicaresupplement360.com MedigapDude

    I won’t be able to sleep until I figure out what it is that separates the New York Times and Huffington Post from other sites. Maybe Google’s algorithm has gone liberal. lol

  • Ian

    Interesting article, and letter.

    I’ve gotta say I did have a chuckle reading this when talking about content quality:

    “Old fashioned design may play a role. Simply from the aesthetic point of view, this may make a site appear less trustworthy (less likely that consumers will be willing to give up their credit care info)”

    :D

  • http://www.ijproductions.com Ivan Lee

    Hi Chris – Thanks for the awesome information- I will chat to my SEO guy about it.

  • http://tothefuturewithlove.net/after_the_pink_goat Deni

    I think the whole philosophy of defining authority by credit card trust is wrong. Because a quality site is not alway one that sells things. Sometimes it’s about information, sometimes even a small part of the whole article gives you what you need and that’s all. Not everybody is obsessed about shopping and I don’t see why you should force people to shop, by pushing shopping sites higher in search.
    I don’t defend content farms, but what is a newspaper site if not a content farm. This is what we all do – gather content, analyze it the best we can and then share our knowledge with the rest. And while it’s good to put general content farms down in search results, we all read the stories of people with genuine original content who suddenly dropped way down in search.
    And anyway, isn’t it interesting how Google is likely to offer you irrelevant information from the same content farms (or forums or other social media sh*ts) when you search for something specific – like scientific article? I find that most curious. How come peer-reviewed journals got lower authority than other sites? Isn’t this odd? And how come the LANL server arxiv.org is so badly indexed and usually you have to specifically ask for results from it, so that you get a scientific article and not some totally unrelated thing?
    I honestly think that Google misuse their power. Instead of fighting for freedom of speech (in the form of finding free relevant information when you need it), they force on us some shopping sites claiming that that’s what we need. Well, that is not what I need! I need better and more relevant search based on my specific needs and not to webmasters needs or Adsense/Adwords needs (note I am a webmaster and I use Adsense).

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I haven’t seen any indication that the credit card thing is a factor for sites that don’t sell things. It’s just one of the things they were looking at in general. My guess is that when they were asking about this (to the “raters”) it was specifically related to sites that were selling things.

  • http://mbainternetmarketingmanager.blogspot.com/ Pedro Neira

    An affiliate company saw a drop of 90% in their traffic after the Panda Update. It’s a directory site. Probably due to some dupplicate content issues… althoug in a Directory that’s difficult to manage

  • http://www.ads.blogspot.com bflame

    One of article site gain benefits from recent algorithmic changed infused by Google. I was using unique content on my articles and mu back links got uplifted

  • http://www.flyerstoyou.com David Daniels

    Great article! Two things I would LOVE to see Google implement. The first being in an industry we cater to, Real Estate. EVERY single Realtor in the country is attempting to incorporate some sort of GoogleJuice into their site. Unfortunately, the ones who seem to be winning the battle are the ones whose sites read like this:

    “Looking for a house for sale in Birmingham? We specialize in Birmingham houses for sale, because houses for sale in Bimringham are what our area of expertise is. So, if buying a house for sale in Birmingham is what your housebuying goals are, then contact the people who sell the most homes for sale in Birmingham.”

    I can’t stand that sites like that are able to rank on page 1 EVERY SINGLE TIME!! They become incomprehensible and/or impossible to read, and it’s obvious that those sites are designed for traffic generation only without any REAL content. Yuck!

    I’d also love to see some sort of way to prevent fraudulent sites from coming up so high in search rankings. Perfect example is doing a search on “Reseller Hosting”. We’ve signed up with several of the top-ranking sites, only to find that the “pay a year in advance for the best rate” was actually paid to some “host” run by a 14-year old in Pakistan whose site turned out to be a sham, but somehow still ranks #1 thru’ #20 in a Google search. Shameful if you ask me.

    Just my two cents.

    • http://www.forkliftdeals.com.au Sale

      You Wrote:

      “Looking for a house for sale in Birmingham? We specialize in Birmingham houses for sale, because houses for sale in Bimringham are what our area of expertise is. So, if buying a house for sale in Birmingham is what your housebuying goals are, then contact the people who sell the most homes for sale in Birmingham.”

      Now this is what I call Spammy!!!

      By the way, you spelt Birmingham wrong lol. Try changing your user name to Birmingham or realtor or house for sale or atleast something relative to what you are trying to achieve. Personally I would change your avatar name to Real as after looking at your website, which i absolutely love, it would give you the best benefit.

      I do hope your sales pick up as I hear it is pretty tough in your part of the world. Let’s hope you don’t need to distress sale.

      Anyway, only short term benefit in this and long term disaster as you dilute your site.

  • Donna

    What I find hysterical is when there is mention of too many ads. When I logged into my adsense account today I had a message saying that I only had two ads per page on one of my websites and I could certainly fare better with the addition of yet another ad per page. The message goes on to tell me exactly which pages need more ads and seven specify sizes. So, is this just ads that are not adsense ads? sigh

  • http://nicknorris.net Nick Norris

    I’m still the #1 Nick Norris in Google!

    As long as you’re not pushing spammy content, you shouldn’t see a big change in your rankings. I had a few affiliate sites drop in the SERPs, but all of my legit sites are still going strong, some have actually improved a bit.

    I support Google’s decision to update their algo. If they want to stay relevant, they need to make sure that their index is relevant too. It’s not the first time, and it definitely won’t be the last.

  • MikeR

    We had hired an “SEO Specialist” before I got to my current company who posted articles on several of the content farm sites addressed in Google’s Panda update. I didn’t really think much of these links until now. Should I now go find them all and get them taken down? Will they actually hurt us now?

  • http://www.marfaoriginala.ro adidasi

    Google is looking at many factors like fresh content,and many other things and is telling us what it wants from us as webmasters.All we have to do is listen to the big G.

  • http://copy77.com copy77

    Sounds like a good plan.

  • http://www.centerforhealthscience.com Center Health Science Medicine

    Wow this is a huge update that has harmed some big players in the internet world, while boosting other sites. It is very interesting to watch and learn from. we shall only test and see what happens in the next few weeks

  • http://www.mrbreakfast.com Eddy Chavey (Mr Breakfast)

    Thanks for the article Chris. I posted my experience with the algorithm change on Google’s Webmaster Central Forum, as Google has encouraged people to do. But so far, no one from Google has given any real feedback on the forum to the multitude of people asking questions and expressing dismay over the recent changes. I’m posting here hoping that someone from Google might be reading your article, since it’s unclear whether or not they’re reading their own message board.

    New Google Algorithm & Breakfast

    For 10 years, I’ve operated a website about breakfast – just breakfast. Everyday I write a product review, add a recipe or contribute other meaningful content – no tricks, no gimmicks – just a guy dedicating his life to breakfast. Site users can contribute their own recipes or restaurant reviews. Thanks to my efforts and a beautiful community of breakfast lovers, the site now numbers over 15,000 pages with over 2,600 recipes and nearly 10,000 restaurant reviews. Everyday, I wake up and make sure anything contributed the day before is meaningful and pertains directly to breakfast. Then, I research and write… about breakfast.

    Like so many others, I saw a substantial drop in visitors after the Google algorithm change. The site dropped from #1 in the rankings for “breakfast” to #6. Overall traffic declined about 30%. I never took the #1 position for granted. Quality content was always the goal… but that resulted in a lot of pages. I feel that Google has mistaken hard work for a search engine tactic.

    Please consider one aspect of my site:

    A year and a half ago, I launched a section of the website called “The Cereal Project” – an encyclopedia of every breakfast cereal ever made in the U.S. Right now it consists of 1,375 breakfast cereals – each one with it’s own page, with pictures, descriptions and old commercials.

    Search term: “Breakfast Cereal”

    In recent months, I’ve seen The Cereal Project rise in Google’s rankings. From page 10 to page 6 to page 3. Not to sound all Charlie Sheen but.. the reason it rose was because it is the definitive place to find information about breakfast cereals – the only place like it on the internet.

    On February 24, The Cereal Project dropped from page 3 to page 53. Google’s top results for “breakfast cereal” are now Wikipedia’s list of breakfast cereal (which is missing about 800 cereals included in The Cereal Project), a cartoon strip and a page to buy a fictitious Star Trek breakfast cereal which says “Happy April Fools Day” when you click the buy button.

    This is more than me complaining or feeling sorry for myself… this is a real problem with the Google Algorithm.

    I’m not an SEO professional… I’m just a guy who dedicated his life to breakfast and used to be rewarded by Google for it. I understand and appreciate Google’s efforts to weed out profiteers who aren’t making meaningful contributions to the web. Hopefully soon, their algorithm will learn to distinguish sneaky search engine tactics from passion and hard work.

    (Addendum: For fun, search for “French Toast”… as of 4:30 today, the top listing is a school uniform company.)

    • chris

      Hey chris, first time reader here, good stuff. question, does anyone know why ecommerce sites took a hit. it seems like not many but i know mine did and reading some comments, it appears others did, as well. all the talk has been about content farms but what bout other sites that got hit… could they have devalued any types of links?

  • http://www.japaneseconnection.net Rose

    We experienced some strange happenings on our Google ranking for the last few days. It captured our home page and used that name vs using the description at the top. We are an auto repair business in Colorado Springs and do our own seo and website stuff. After it threw us around ranging from page 1 to page 4, it finally put us up higher on the first page than before. Kind of weird but has proven to help our site tremendously.

  • http://www.bestpingpongpaddle.com Jordan Foutz

    My question deals with how widely sites will be effected that have several inbound links coming in from ezine, ehow, squidoo, etc. Has there been any definitive communication on the juice passed on from article site links.

  • http://vlddan.blogspot.com Moweed

    In my opinion these Google milestones are very off targeted from the user’s point of view as well as from the web developer’s part. The great majority of sites that were affected by the new Google algorithm are small sites that counted on the Google rating to develop and grow. And sometimes the small websites are better organized and can provide more accurate information. I’ll explain my point of view regarding these milestones:
    - “Is it considered authoritative (this would apply some indication of expertise on topics covered, I would think)” – first of all Google in order to decide the authoritativeness of an article Google itself should have a specialist in that certain field. They may have but if you take into consideration how many topics can be font on the world wide web is sincerely doubt it. I’ll give you an example: 2 of the websites that have gained from this “recalculation”are tripadvisor and wikipedia. These two websites are made up from opinions and articles of users, more or less prepared in a certain field of expertise as is the case of wikipedia and more or less objective in the case of tripadvisor. And I think that in this case the examples can go on and on. So this criterion could be countered.
    -”Is the content quality good enough for print? (I’ve seen plenty of crap printed)” In my opinion is puerile to think that this may have been a condition for dropping some websites. What does anything has to do with the search engine? Is Google planing to print a book with articles the web and is trying to sort good and bad articles?
    -”Are there too many ads? (How many are too many, and does the ad network matter?)” why should this be a criterion? First of all most of the ads on the websites is primarily from Google (an important source of revenue for both sites and for Google), second if the ads if do not obstruct the user I really don’t see where is the problem.
    If Google would have wanted a fair fight the could have noticed the web masters your site has problems over here, and over here, you have until xx to solve the problems. But it seems that the trend is to favor the main players at the expense of small websites. In conclusion the main message that I’ve received from Google is: Over the years you’ve earned money from us, now is our turn to earn money from you.

  • http://psychologyknowledge.com David J Berndt

    I look forward to when we have some hard numbers on factors that may be contributing. A simple discriminant function analysis, looking at variables that predict membership in two categories: the sites that dropped significantly when contrasted with those who improved with the new Panda algorithm. Can anyone explain to me how “trust” and “authority” are assessed for sites that are not edu. and org? Isnt it just external links now and maybe page rank?

    It seems to me, looking at the sites that are ranking, Google has decided that brand names as trustworthy, something that is a somewhat spurious assumption. Might be true for Pepsi, but Fox?

    Fox improved, with the Panda criteria, and most of America would never consider buying a used politician from them. How can Glenn Beck be considered an authority…

  • http://www.fourdivisions.com Four Divisions

    Now all the content accepting site should update there faq’s once again.. ;)