Since Google launched the controversial Panda update in February, anxious webmasters and publishers have been waiting for the day when it would go from just a U.S. change to a global change. That day came this week, as Google announced it had expanded the "search quality" algorithm worldwide for English language users.
Have you been impacted by the global roll-out of the Panda update? Let us know.
Many sites were reported to have lost major traffic and search rankings as a result of the U.S. roll-out. We've expected these sites to be further devastated as Panda made its way to more countries.
Side note: just in case there is any confusion (there has been in the past) since Google didn't use the word "panda" in the latest announcement, Matt Cutts did call it that:
Believe it or not, not everyone's quick to comment on how their traffic has been impacted. EzineArticles was one of the sites that was hit hard, and quickly began making changes to its content approach following the U.S. update. They talked about this on the company blog. No new blog post yet.
The last time I reached out to CEO Chris Knight for comment on the site's traffic post-Panda, he didn't want to offer any - although he did provide another update on the blog in March.
Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis, who had to resort to layoffs because of the Panda update did comment on the situation. "We were impacted starting on February 24th and haven't seen a significant change up or down since then," he tells us. "We support Google's effort to make better search results and continue to build only expert-driven content. This means any videos and text we make has a credentialed expert with seven years or 10,000 hours of experience (a la Malcolm Gladwell)."
He pointed to the following examples:
"Everything we're doing is now expert driven. Period," Calacanis says. "Google's Panda update has ended the age of casual, non-expert-driven content. We're hopeful that as Google continues to tweak their algorithm our experts and their content will be rewarded."
Morris Rosenthal of Foner Books (a Panda victim whose story we looked at here and here) tells us, "As far as the algo goes, I think my initial take was 100% on. It's just brand names and social sites now. I'm even seeing Google Answers ranking for many queries, despite the fact they shut Answers down in 2002! But it was 'social.'"
Last week, we looked at a report from marketing firm iCrossing, which seemed to indicate benefits for big brands as well.
We've reached out to Suite101, and Demand Media for comment on the update, and have nothing so far.
Google's Amit Singhal told webmasters, "Based on our testing, we’ve found the algorithm is very accurate at detecting site quality. If you believe your site is high-quality and has been impacted by this change, we encourage you to evaluate the different aspects of your site extensively. Google's quality guidelines provide helpful information about how to improve your site. As sites change, our algorithmic rankings will update to reflect that. In addition, you’re welcome to post in our Webmaster Help Forums. While we aren’t making any manual exceptions, we will consider this feedback as we continue to refine our algorithms."
Following the initial launch of the Panda update, we looked at some things that are known and some things that are possible, with regards to what publishers and webmasters should take into account. Given Google's specific reference to their quality guidelines in the latest announcement, this seems like the best place to start. Here's Google's list of "specific guidelines":
- Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
- Don't use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
- Don't send automated queries to Google.
- Don't load pages with irrelevant keywords.
- Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content. (emphasis added)
- Don't create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
- Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
- If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.
They also get into "basic principles," which deal with avoiding obvious black hat techniques. I'd suggest reading this whole page of webmaster guidelines, which deal not only with quality, but also design/content, and technical guidelines.
"Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site," Google says. "Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the 'Quality Guidelines,' which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise penalized. If a site has been penalized, it may no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google's partner sites."
Google is also experimenting with better communication with webmasters who do reconsideration requests, according to Cutts:
The link goes to a Search Engine Roundtable article looking at an email a webmaster received from Google's Search Quality team. Here's an excerpt of the email:
If you've experienced a change in ranking which you suspect may be more than a simple algorithm change, there are other things you may want to investigate as possible causes, such as a major change to your site's content, content management system, or server architecture. For example, a site may not rank well if your server stops serving pages to Googlebot, or if you've changed the URLs for a large portion of your site's pages. This article has a list of other potential reasons your site may not be doing well in search.
If you're still unable to resolve your issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
While the Panda update has really only been around for a couple months, a lot has happened on the Google search quality front since its initial launch. For one, they announced the +1 button, and clearly said it would be used as a ranking signal.
They also started letting users block domains. This was also brought up in the latest announcement, as Google is now using it as a ranking signal. Signhal's specific words on that, were " In some high-confidence situations, we are beginning to incorporate data about the sites that users block into our algorithms. In addition, this change also goes deeper into the 'long tail' of low-quality websites to return higher-quality results where the algorithm might not have been able to make an assessment before. The impact of these new signals is smaller in scope than the original change: about 2% of U.S. queries are affected by a reasonable amount, compared with almost 12% of U.S. queries for the original change." (emphasis added)
That is a big difference, but it will be interesting to see how some of the sites reported to have lost the most from Panda, fare over time.
Do you think Panda has improved Google's search quality? Share your thoughts.