I wanted to jump on the Panda bandwagon and share a number of thoughts and observations I have/had on the update. I’ve talked to lots of people and watched what happened to a number of sites and came away feeling this was another link update. (Big shock there eh?) Let me break it down:
1. I raised an eyebrow after reading Google’s latest panda post, not because of the content (which was pretty yada-yada) but because of the comments. Normally people do a lot of kissy-kissy at the end of those posts but not this time, take a look:
• This article is unmitigated prevarication”
• I believe I’m stupider having read this than when I started”
• You sirs, to me, are no better anymore than Microsoft.
Ouch. Definitely no brown nosing going on there
2. I didn’t find anything new or overly helpful in the latest Google post dropped to be informative and helpful. I’ve read variations of these points this past winter, then again a week before the post was made and several times before that. As I read through the laundry list of helpful tips, one point stood out for me, (highlighted):
In case you don’t feel like clicking the image it says:
Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
Now that’s a new one, or new to me I should say. I’ve never seen an official statement from Google about excessive ads and I spent a good deal of time searching to prove myself wrong. After reading and thinking about it, I started applying the single point of “excessive ads” to other points listed and found I could tie the ads issue to almost everything they said. Take a look:
• Google: Would you trust the information presented in this article?
• Debra: Would you trust the information presented in this article if it was filled with an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
• Google: Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
• Debra: Does the site have duplicate, overlapping or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations and an excessive amount of ads?
• Google: Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
• Debra: Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis or is it just filled with an excessive amount of ads?
• Google: Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
• Debra: Are the articles short, unsubstantial or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics and filled with an excessive amount of ads?
Interesting pattern. But don’t misunderstand me here, I don’t think this is about ads or the amount of content on the page or the idea Google has figured out a way to rate “quality”. I think what we’re seeing with Panda is about the affect excessive “crap content” (such as an abundance of ad and little else) has on a web page in terms of making that page an attraction point. Crappy content doesn’t attract editorial linking and without good links, your pages go Panda.
Yep, I think this is a link tweak. Again. Google loves links too much not to have them factor in an update, they hint about the need for links in the tips above. Let’s play the “what Google really means” game again:
• Google: Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
• Debra: Does the page/site have authority links pointing to it?
• Google: Would you trust the information presented in this article?
• Debra: Would you link to this article? Would you vouch for it by linking to it?
If you answered yes to either question, chances are you didn’t lose anything in the Panda update. But if you answered no, a lack of good links to content filled pages is probably the reason. Take a look at this Panda thread and skim the posts; note the sites complaining and the reasons the Google reps and the senior forum folks respond with. Click through to the “victim” sites and get a load of what some people try to pass off as content. One guy swears up and down he and the wife do all the writing and don’t host excessive ads. A glance at the site shows every internal page hosting Adsense and affiliate links, there’s little (if any) original content to be seen. Add to it I couldn’t find a single inbound link to one of their internal pages and BAM! More Panda poop.
3. Google’s been adamant the update was done algorithmically, I’m hard pressed to believe a manual slap was implemented given the large number of pages missing or pushed to near oblivion. Reps dropped hints about an upcoming link change and frankly, it makes sense given the amount of emphasis Google places on links.
Another thing to support my theory this was another link tweak: everyone I’ve talked to admits losing interior pages that didn’t have inbound links from “good” pages. They were linked to via natural navigation but did not have outside links pointing in. Remember… links pass link popularity based on the amount of authority/trust/PageRank/age the host page has. If your internal linking structure is weak and your only link juice is homegrown, chances are the link popularity passed was not enough to save it from Panda.
4. I also think Jim has something here when he mentions the possibly of ‘pogo-sticking” being incorporated as well. Google is filled to the rim with Caffeine brim making it easier now to add click through/bounce rates data to the algo. More data is more data to use in determining if the search public likes what they see. Plus one anyone?
5. As for the other conspiracy theories like lack of tweets, toolbar usage and Agent Ranking… I don’t think they’re heavy hitters when it comes to defining factors. I’m sure there’s a lot of small points factored in but overall? They’re probably very supporting cast players. To me, links are center stage with everything else a contributing factor. But then I’m always a little biased when it comes to links.
From where I sit, you can write the most spectacular content and upload it to your site but at the end of the day, if you don’t promote it, no one will see it. And if no one sees it, no one will:
- click it (bounce-back/click through data)
- bookmark it (links)
- tweet it (links, signals)
- feature it in the media (links, signals)
- blog about it (links, signals)
- add it to credible sources like Wikipedia (clicks/exposure)
So yeah, this Panda update is about the role good content plays in your search results but it’s more about the links it takes to make that content sing. My old tagline sorta sums it all up IMO:
“it’s not linking, it’s marketing”.
There’s a lot of opinions out there, add mine to the mix. Here’s a list of Panda posts by some very smart people:
SEODojo Radio Podcast: http://seotrainingdojo.com/panda-update-and-outing-seosenough-already.html
Mark Nunny/Wordtracker: http://www.wordtracker.com/academy/google-panda-farmer
Wired Interview with Googlers Cutts and Singhal: http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/03/the-panda-that-hates-farms/
Rob Young/SE Journal: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/dealing-with-googles-panda-part-one/29464/