Should YouTube Have Gained Visibility From the Panda Update?

    April 22, 2011
    Chris Crum

Google’s global roll-out (in English) of the Panda update seemed to leave some of Google’s own properties on the winners list, along with a handful of video sites. YouTube, which falls into both categories was a clear winner, based on the data we’ve seen from SearchMetrics.

Should YouTube be getting more search visibility in Google? Tell us what you think.

HubPages, one of the content sites negatively impacted by the update is asking why YouTube did so well, and HubPages got hit, while they both have similar models in terms of user-generated content, each with its fair share of lesser-quality content.

It’s a fair question.

HubPages CEO Paul Edmondson posted the following questions/declarations in a Google Webmaster Central forum thread:

  • What are the best practices for open publishing platforms due to the recent Panda update? In particular, where high quality content on a domain has been negatively impacted on average as much as any other content? Is it a question of content moderation, site architecture, both or something else?

    While we believe the democratization of publishing and earning potential is an important part of the progress of the Web, we want to avoid a situation where a portion of content negatively impacts the rankings of high quality content. It appears HubPages has been impacted by this while YouTube has not, despite HubPages having a more strict content policy. In Google’s view, what is the recommended moderation standard that open publishing platforms should enforce?

  • Open publishing platforms tend to use one of two domain models. WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger organize mainly by subdomain, while HubPages and YouTube organize all the content under a single domain. Is there a recommendation on the best practice for open platforms regarding architecture?
  • In an effort to give Google clues, HubPages’ internal linking structure promotes the best content. For example, we program the “related articles” suggestions with content that we think users will find useful, and we submit sitemaps with a set priority so Google knows the most important content. We also understand the challenges of fighting off spam, spun articles and various forms of attacks; we believe we do the industry’s best job of fighting spam in an open publishing environment where every individual can have a voice.

Interestingly enough, Google has already even gone so far as to write a guest post for HubPages’ blog, providing tips on how to make content better for AdSense.

So far, Google hasn’t responded to Edmondson’s forum post.

Google did, however, drop an interesting stat in an unrelated post on the YouTube blog: 30% of all YouTube videos make up 99% of views. Here’s the quote from YouTube’s James Zern: “Given the massive size of our catalog – nearly 6 years of video is uploaded to YouTube every day – this is quite the undertaking,” he said of transcoding videos into the WebM format.. “So far we’ve already transcoded videos that make up 99% of views on the site or nearly 30% of all videos into WebM. We’re focusing first on the most viewed videos on the site, and we’ve made great progress here through our cloud-based video processing infrastructure that maximizes the efficiency of processing and transcoding without stopping.”

Another interesting point of note is that Demand Media (which operates eHow, which escaped the wrath of the initial U.S. Panda update, but was hit in the most recent version) is the biggest supplier of video to YouTube. eHow videos on YouTube still often appear in Google search results.

HubPages announced some new changes to its editorial policy, to crack down on affiliate links in articles. They’ve also decided to eliminate a news box, which ironically was originally designed to make pages contain more relevant information. A HubPages writer going by Ellen B. shared some interesting information in the comments on one of our articles, discussing the site’s content policies and impact of the Panda update. She writes:

Some years ago I attempted to take my notes from a college art history seminar I had taught as a graduate student — my own notes, my own lectures — and convert them into Hubs so I could earn a little adsense money from them. The only link I had was to my own travel diary of a trip I took to Greece, as a photo credit to demonstrate proof that my photos were my own (and, yes, some visitors might be interested in my trip to Greece, where I nattered a lot about Greek art).

They were wildly successful on Hubpages, but eventually every single one got shut down as overly promotional. I was selling NO PRODUCTS on them.

Meanwhile, I wrote similar informational, educational articles on Squidoo, and some of them earn $30+ a month. There are more ads, which I honestly don’t like, but I can’t knock the traffic and take-home pay. My Squidoo pages include links to many more educational resources and sites I’d recommend to students studying Greek art.

The Panda update knocked Hubpages traffic below Squidoo’s. This honestly surprised me. But one thing I wonder is whether they’re shooting themselves in the foot. As far as I can tell, you can barely link out to anything… even before this latest policy was put in place. Linking to sound, informational, un-spammy, and above all RELEVANT content which is related to your topic provides value and content. Hubpages won’t let its users do that. Squidoo does. There’s also Squidoo’s long-time aggressive internal system of banning, deleting, and taking down spammy topics and duplicate content, but I think Hubpages has similar policies… or does it?

I’m unsure why Hubpages got hammered harder than Squidoo. It’s a good idea not to keep all eggs in one basket anyway, so learning and posting on both is surely a good idea. Also, it’s good that the two sites operate differently, so you’ll never get burned on both. Yet I fear Hubpages may be learning some of the wrong lessons from all this.

Dana, another WebProNews reader, writes:

I write for Hubpages, and my traffic has not recovered yet either. I had a huge drop initially, and then my best hubs have slowly risen to about 3/4ths of what they used to be.

I am very pleased with Hubpages’ strategies to make Hubpages a higher quality site, as there are many many serious writers there.

As we speculated regarding eHow, it’s entirely possible that Google’s domain-blocking feature has contributed to HubPages’ search visibility woes. When Google announced the most recent roll-out of Panda, it also announced some tweaks to the U.S. algorithm, that it said impacted about 2% of queries, including the addition of domain-blocking as a ranking signal in “high confidence” situations. With eHow, it seemed likely that the site would be among the top-blocked sites, simply because it is generally one of the first named in discussions about “content farms”. Something similar may have happened with HubPages. The site was initially impacted by the U.S. Panda update, so if enough people blocked the domain from their results, Google could’ve considered it a “high confidence” situation. Again, just speculation.

It’s hard to imagine how many people may have blocked YouTube from their search results, but given that it’s the most popular video site on the web, and the fact that Google owns it, it’s not so hard to imagine Google keeping YouTube out of the “high confidence situation” category, even if there is a large amount of less than stellar-quality videos on the site.

For Earth Day on Friday, Google used a doodle with two pandas in it for its logo.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts about YouTube with regards to search quality. Should YouTube have gained from the Panda update? Comment here.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.