Google’s Results After A Year Of Panda Updates

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    It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since Google first launched the Panda update. OK, who am I kidding? It feels like an eternity ago. But it’s been a year. How much work have you done on your site to comply with Panda in that amount of time?

    Now that you’ve had a year to get to know it, how do you think Google has done with the Panda update? Was your site affected? For better or for worse? Do you think Google did a good job in making search results higher in quality and relevancy? Let us know in the comments.

    Earlier this month, when Google ran down its publicly known algorithmic changes for the month of January, it mentioned what still appears to be the most recent change to Panda. It said:

    “We improved how Panda interacts with our indexing and ranking systems, making it more integrated into our pipelines. We also released a minor update to refresh the data for Panda.”

    This change had actually been confirmed in January, but was spelled out one more time (as much as Google will in fact spell it out). Just to make sure this was in fact the most recent Panda-related adjustment, we asked Google. A spokesperson for the company responded: “As mentioned in January, we’re continuing to improve how Panda interacts with our indexing and ranking systems, making it more integrated into our pipelines.”

    So, it sounds like the improvements are still ongoing, but no major Panda update since that particular announcement.

    This list has been referenced plenty of times by myself and others discussing the Panda update, but as Google tweaks it, these things will continue to be important to keep in mind. Possibly even more than ever, considering that it’s so much more “integrated into the pipelines”. It’s the list of questions that provides “guidance” on how Google looks at the issue of search quality.

    • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
    • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
    • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
    • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
    • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
    • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
    • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
    • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
    • How much quality control is done on content?
    • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
    • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
    • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
    • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
    • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
    • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
    • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
    • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
    • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
    • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
    • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
    • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
    • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
    • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

    It’s a well put-together infographic for sure, and provides a nice visible timeline of the various iterations of the Panda update, but it really only scratches the surface of the affects the update has had on the web – the struggles of webmasters who felt their sites were unjustly impacted for the worse. We heard a whole lot of stories over the last year. We covered some of them, but only a fraction. For some sites it was clear that their quality was lacking, and didn’t really deserve to be ranking over higher quality sites, but for others, we had to wonder if Google was making the right call. Some sites were able to recover (fully or partially), while many, no doubt, just gave up and started over. Some had to make huge adjustments to their entire content strategies.

    No better example of this exists, than Demand Media, widely considered the poster child for the content farm concept – a concept, which ultimately led to the Panda update’s existence in the first place, and its early pre-Panda nickname the “farmer update”. Demand Media’s eHow property, specifically, was the main culprit, though other of the company’s properties were named from time to time in the visibility reports from third parties referenced in the above infographic.

    Amazingly, the initial Panda update a year ago didn’t have any impact on eHow, but that would change in future iterations. It ultimately led to an huge shift in strategy for Demand Media’s content arm, which included the addition of a new user feedback system, the deletion of thousands of articles, and the reduction in new article assignments. All the while, the company has been expanding its social presence, and forming content partnerships to boost the quality and reputation of its eHow brand, which has a top 20 domain in the U.S. Demand Media’s properties get 100 million visitors per month.

    The Panda update has had such an impact on this company that it still has to talk about it in its earnings calls. They just had one a couple weeks ago, and declared that the last Google algorithm update to affect eHow as in July. Panda 2.3, as its referred to in the infographic, was on July 23. There have been 5 Panda updates since then, so it would appear that the company has learned how to cater to it.

    I’m not going to dig back through all of the Panda stories of the past year, because frankly, there are just too many of them. A lot of anecdotes, a lot of theories, and a lot of analysis. There’s enough to write a sizable book. Maybe one day.

    One important thing to note, which is also referenced in the infographic, is that Panda is only one of over 200 signals Google uses. It’s an important one, but there are a lot of other ones. A lot of other important ones. These days, the big controversial Google signal is “Search Plus Your World“. There’s a lot of criticism about how its damaging relevancy. I’ve seen examples where Google’s “freshness” update has hurt relevancy. The lack of realtime search isn’t helping things either.

    In a week or two, Google will likely give us a look at the changes it has made to its algorithm since that January list. Then webmasters and SEOs sill have even more factors to consider in the elaborate quest for gaining visibility in the world’s largest search engine as it continues to become more personalized to each user. Nobody said it would be easy, but these things are worth paying attention to.

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