panda

As the dust settles after Googles infamous Farmer or Panda algorithm change, many businesses are now asking themselves what it means for them and their SEO strategy.

It's well known Google constantly tweaks their algorithm but recent criticism that content farms were increasingly dominating scraped, shoddy,
keyword-dominated
rubbish that
barely makes sense
search results and lowering the tone and quality of the internet forced the company to try to remove as much derivative and cheap material as possible. The aim of the algorithm change was to see that original and quality journalism from publishers and newspapers (who invest in good writing) would not be buried in a pile of scraped, shoddy, keyword-dominated rubbish that barely makes sense.

Weve all seen it, and many of us who work in SEO are guilty of using it (and writing it) too. You know the stuff. If youre writing an article for a limo hire company in New York who want to be on the first page of Google you might submit an article to Ezines or Buzzle entitled Limo Hire in New York that starts:

So, youre looking for limo hire in New York? Well, for the best limo hire in New York, why not

The internet is awash with such rubbish, 70% of which barely makes sense.

Those of us who write for a living have at least tried to put out interesting and original articles for clients, which, more out of professional pride than necessity, are both readable and simultaneously provide a backlink. But weve all also had clients who arent afraid to say they couldnt care less about the content, as long as they get the backlink.

The question now, however, is how much that attitude needs to change. Googles algorithm adjustment seems to have affected approximately 12% of search results so far. The aim of the change was to punish scraper sites and content farms and push them down the SERPS so that legitimate sites and sites with decent quality content rank higher. The general feeling out there is that this has worked, to a point. Sites such as ezinearticles, hubpages, buzzle, associatedcontent, suite101 and many more content farms have indeed been hit hard, with ezinearticles dropping down 71% in total keywords. One estimate quotes ezine as losing 130,000 positions on Google. Similar figures are quoted for many of the other content sites. Yet they cannot be too surprised. Whilst ezine articles started out offering articles that were fairly good quality, in recent years the standards have dropped considerably to the point where there seemed to be no point to the articles other than backlinks.

To be fair to ezinearticles, they took the blow on the chin and responded immediately with some strict tightening of standards. However an exchange between Ezinearticles CEO Chris Knight and a copywriter, Susan Greene highlights the problems facing both sites such as ezines and writers of good quality content. In addition to a number of new measures on quality, Chris Knight mooted the idea of no follow links; in response ezine user Susan Greene wrote:

"Not sure what Pollyanna planet youre from but let me assure you, EzineArticles does not exist to provide information that is beneficial to the readers. EzineArticles is a business, not a government organization or charity. EzineArticles was created to make its owner(s) money. Theres nothing wrong with that, but dont fool yourself into thinking theyre a bunch of do-gooders. By the same token, the majority of us who publish on EzineArticles dont do so to benefit readers. We too are running businesses, and EzineArticles helps our own websites get traffic and ultimately sales."

And theres the rub. Hundreds of other ezine bloggers joined in and added that they wouldnt be writing content out of the goodness of their heart and that if ezine articles removed the no follow link, they would not be writing there anymore. Consequently Chris Knight bowed to pressure and removed the suggestion of no follow from the table. And you can bet your bottom dollar that ezine will, as a consequence, stay lower down in the rankings.

article writers wanted for crappy content

The same attitudes persist in a lot of other places. Content and quality is treated as an afterthought, whilst everyone concentrates on ranking and gaming the system. Similarly, those copywriters who occasionally dirty themselves on Elance or Odesk will know the sinking feeling as you read through the jobs on offer and see people asking for 50 articles on acai berries, 400 words each, for $40.

This is why the latest Google algorithm is a step in the right direction. By all accounts there is some way to go and a number of sites who put out decent quality content are feeling quite aggrieved that they have been slapped down too. Likewise many people are suspicious of how Demand Medias ehow site seems to have improved in the rankings, post-farmer. But these are mere wrinkles to iron out. The fact is that anyone who cares about quality should be happy about the change. The more quality-orientated the search results become, the better for the user and consumer.

And for your business, the strategy is simple now. Make your site something to be proud of, a source of quality content. Think about what Google is looking for:

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites"sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites"sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

Dont stop using keywords as part of your business strategy, or posting articles for backlinks. Indeed this article will contain a backlink at the end. But the deal is that to get the back link, you put some time and quality into the article.

By posting high quality articles and filling your site with high quality content everybody wins. Build it and they will come! Be original. And if you cant do that, find a copywriter, someone like me, to do it for you! Meanwhile Im off to write those 50 articles on acai berries

How did you fare the Panda update? Do you fear the next one? Think Google is playing fair game?

Greg Dickson

Greg Dickson who writes a daily blog for the Bedouin Group about issues affecting contractors, covering everything from taxation to Umbrella Companies. For more content like this please reach out to me on twitter.

Umbrella Companies

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7 Responses to “Google Panda: They're Right, You're Wrong–Now Get Writing [opinion]”

  1. I think it's great Google removes junk from the results. A lot of the article and spining industry is pure junk. It looks like my website also got a minor hit, because I have lost my page 2 ranking on one of my main phrases. The page went down to page 10, and I have removed the page now. The page had some snippets of text borrowed from the product page of the affiliate product.

  2. PauliusR says:

    My online business is completely dependent on Google's search results, so I'm afraid of every change, even if those changes are minor and I feel like I haven't done anything wrong, the risk always remains. Anyway, I agree that it's a positive change and let's hope that our hard work will pay off

  3. Jon says:

    One of my sites got hit very bad. I am working hard to clean it up as there is a lot of old outdated content that is duplicated or just poor quality. Hoping it helps me bounce back. If I do bounce back I will probably be in a position to write all about it. My change log is already 257 rows long and I only started 2 days ago, so plenty of content there, just hope it is useful.

  4. Maciej says:

    You are right, there is way too much crap sitting in the search results and your limo driver example hits the nail on the head. I think Google's move to clean this effort up in the article space will be great for search….after the dust settles of course.

  5. Marcus says:

    Necessary evil unfortunately, some innocents who have been wrapped up in the whole back links thing will also catch out but people need to learn that SEO should be based around quality content and relationships rather than looking for cracks in the system.

    Ultimately, it's tough love, but that's the best kind in the long run.

  6. Wayne Barker says:

    Great article Greg,

    All we hear is quality content this and quality content. Make it worthy, useful – research it well, add nice pictures. We hear it again and again because its true. Do you want find shoddy content when searching? absolutely not. I have harped on about it for a while now, but i think this was a great move by Google. Let the guys who put the effort into their content get a bit of visibility!!!!

  7. Ivana says:

    I got whacked by Google Panda myself aswell…

    I've recently been looking for ways around the Google Panda update and I did a lot of analysis on my own sites.
    Listed below are several key points to consider:

    1) minimize bouncerate on your websites
    2) get rid of/nofollow/noindex thin and low quality web pages
    3) increase Click Through Rate in the serps (E.g use crazy call to actions and things in your page titles)
    4) give a lot more increased value with your website (improve users onpage time)
    5) interlink your website through optimized anchor texts
    6) use a privacy policy, about us, contact us, google maps location, SSL, address/phone number, images, subtiles, paragraphs, bulletpoints etc etc (every "achievable" added quality factors you can think of)
    7) Achieve additional quality one-way links with good anchor text variation.

    Link building has to be done in a very diverse and consistent fashion.

    Another thing, I am a 'beta' tester of LinkALoha at the moment and i'm seeing GREAT results. I think they are going to open a few new spots shortly, you guys should take a look. Those guys are great