Google’s Panda Update at Raleigh’s SEO meetup

by Ilias Carré on June 9, 2011

in Search

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Although Google’s Panda update has been out for quite some time now, the Raleigh SEO Meetup last week discussing Google’s Panda update was excellent. Unfortunately it was the last meetup for the group’s founder, Ashley Berman, and we all wish her the best of luck as she leaves the area. Here are some of the ideas we discussed in addition to a little research I did on my own.

Google pumps out updates about 500 times per year, but just like their Caffeine update that let them scour the internet a lot faster, the Panda update is a big one. One of the clearest discussions I can find regarding this update is an interview between Rand Fishkin (CEO and Co-Founder of SEOmoz) and Eric Enge.

According to Fishkin: “Google is using the aggregated opinions of their quality raters, in combination with machine learning algorithms, to filter and reorder the results for a better user experience.”

Their main target was content farms, such as eHow, ezinearticles, Suite 101, and mahalo, which generally include content that is low quality, copied or re-spun, or created by paid writers for the purpose of ad revenue and enhancing search results. The original rollout of Panda impacted about 12% of the U.S. rankings, and updates have been made since to affect more. Matt McGee’s post on Search Engine Land shows data regarding how these rollouts affected companies. One “unspoken” target was Demand Media, whose revenue model is based on using an algorithm that identifies topics with high advertising potential, then paying writers to produce content to fill those targets. One of the flagship sites of Demand Media, eHow.com, interestingly survived the first round of the Panda update, but Google certainly made sure they didn’t survive the next one.

Right Before the initial rollout of Panda, JC Penney became somewhat of a poster child for using content farms as a New York Times article exposed a link scheme they were using to appear at the top of search results for a huge range of products. Google subsequently penalized JC Penney’s search ranking for 90 days. For those of you interested, Vanessa Fox wrote a nice summary of this story.

Social media will play into the algorithm a lot more than it has been and not only the exposure you get, but also who it comes from as they try to measure how valuable they believe the opinion of a person is. Data from Facebook and other major social networks continue to play into the algorithm, along with the recent introduction of Google’s +1 button. User preferences such as Chrome’s Personal Blocklist plugin, released February, which lets you block sites from Google’s search results will also play a part.

Here’s an interesting post about Twitter’s effect by John Doherty on SEOmoz: The Tweet Effect: How Twitter Affects Rankings.

Unfortunately a lot of sites that should not have been affected saw their rankings drop dramatically. Vanessa Fox offers a detailed post of what you can do to regain rankings. A lot was covered and a lot more could have been discussed. There is a ton of information out there and trying to read through all of it can be a full-time job, and that’s why people sharing their ideas at these meetups is so valuable. Happy Googling…

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