The Panda Update: the Mists Roll Away and All is Revealed!
I’ll admit that I planned to write this post some time ago, but I’ve been over-committed time-wise, to put it mildly. As it turns out though, it’s a good thing I gave the dust time to settle. Now is actually a very good point at which to take a look at what the Panda Update, rolled out on February 25, has meant for our Google search rankings.
For some sites, the loss of traffic due to Panda was drastic. Anywhere up to 90 percent, it seems, and when you’re talking about many thousands of visitors daily–well it’s a tremendous impact.
Now let’s stop and think about that for a moment: websites that had been doing many thousands of dollars worth of business on a weekly basis were now reduced to practically nothing. And in some cases they weren’t guilty of any crime, or of any short-coming, as far as experts could see. Talk about a stressful event!
It does take time to accurately asses the effect of any update. And in the event, quite a few of the websites most drastically affected by Panda report that their traffic has returned almost to normal levels, a couple of months later probably as Google fine-tuned the algorithm that was obviously penalizing some pretty good sites. But for some of them that’s still tens-of-thousands of dollars in losses!
I was going to compile a list of some of the sites affected, but see that my good friend Donna Fontenot has already done that!
Better a Guilty Man Go Free…
The fact they many of the sites have bounced back up doesn’t entirely vindicate the stress that was caused though–or the financial losses.
In his interview with Eric Enge over at Stone temple, Rand Fishkin said of the Panda update:
You can’t simply say “we would like to boost back up these five sites.” The reality is unless you rewrite the whole system you can’t individually boost up one site’s ranking. What do you do? Turn up a “this site is good” knob? I don’t think they have one of those.
He was referring to the fact that Google does seem to have made reparations for the effect Panda had on some huge sites. But the fact remains that it caused extreme stress to site owners who not only run sites according to high ethical standards, but who have huge personal and financial investment in their business websites.
Blocked From Adwords Too!
Along with a drastic decline in traffic, some of the affected sites couldn’t even purchase Adwords as a result of the update, according to SEObook.
OK we’ve taken a look at the Web-wide stress-effect that Panda caused. Now let’s take a look at what it seems Panda was trying to achieve. All the buzz sometimes makes it seem as if Google has suddenly slapped a whole new set of parameters on search. But even with Panda, this just wasn’t the case.
We can tell from the type of site most dramatically affected by Panda what the update was aiming at:
- Article sites
- Commercial website that relied on second-rate writers and link-builders.
- Tech sites that, traditionally, don’t have much in the way of quality content (they’re mostly graphics, figures and links).
And the particular crimes that these websites were supposed to have committed were:
- Having poor quality content, or worse, content stolen or scraped from other web sources
- Poor quality incoming links
Almost universally, SEOs have now been able to draw a firm conclusion from the Panda update that, as far as poor quality incoming links are concerned, they’re not merely harmless baggage: they can actually bring down your ranking. I’ve been saying exactly this for a while and few agreed with me. Now that Google has turned up the amplification a little, it’s easier to see that a high volume of low quality incoming links are clearly a burden. I wonder if it’s possible that Google has decided that hundreds of tacky incoming links might signal link purchasing, which of course Google also frowns upon. I’m just thinking aloud here though.
So what can yo do to remove those bad links? Sadly, once they’re there it’s not so easy to remove them.
The easiest way to protect yourself of course, is to limit them in the first place. Don’t even think of buying a cheap link service. Either you hire a professional SEO or search marketing service, or forget the whole deal. There’s simply too much at risk here.
Ultimately, if you want to recover from the Panda Update, or even try to protect yourself from future updates (which may be less kind than Panda), here’s a link to the famous 23 questions that you’re supposed to ask yourself to decide if your website is Panda-worthy.