SES New York 2011: Panda: the Aftermath

SES New York 2011: Panda: the Aftermath

24th March 2011

The Panda or Farmers update was one of the biggest algorithm updates Google did in the last years.  I was really looking forward  to hear this session called “Panda : the aftermath”. a discussion moderated by Mike Grehan, with Frank Watson, Jonathan Allen and Danny Goodwin of Search Engine Watch.

Mike starts the introduction and remembers the people that they should be thankful to Google for sending such a lot traffic through their serps for free! You shouldn’t rely too much on a third-party sending you so much traffic. Maybe you should take a few precautions before the third-party decides to change something?

Frank Watson reminds the people that they should spend a lot of time to be updated on changes Google eventually does on their system. Read blogs, go to conferences, etc. Besides that he says that Google is not the government. It’s not illegal to violate Google’s guidelines. People should find the next loophole and game the system again.

Grehan: Blackhats don’t work like Brands, so they don’t care about updates like Panda!

Danny Goodwin gathered a lot of information about Panda and sums up the biggest changes:
–  Google gets more on grammar and spelling. Check your content and fix it. Danny says that one guy dropped because of a spelling error in a h3 tag! Google does word counts and they will look for balance between ad and content.
– Internal Linking: if you’re pointing links to every page, you’re not telling Google which pages are important. Check your internal linking.
– Duplicate content: your content should be unique, original.

Grehan: What is Content? Panda update is on content. But for example is still ranking number 1 on currency conversion terms. There’s no content on the site, just a widget and some ads, so how is that site still ranking?

In a poll about 33% of the people in the crowd stated they were hit by the Panda update. A woman from the audience (“Dani”, I hope I spell here name right) comes up the stage and tells her story. She has an IT community site and had about 90.000 visitors a day from the states. After Panda she lost over 80% of her traffic to about 15.000 visitors. At least here international traffic got up by 30%, but it’s more difficult to monetize.

Mike asks what she’s doing now to get back on track. She says she goes into Webmaster Tools everyday checking everything (404 pages, checking for duplicate titles etc.)

Mike asks if she got an apology of Matt Cutts, but she didn’t get him to answer. Mike: “don’t think you’re the only one” 🙂

Another man from the audience has a unique gift shop (I quote:”nonsense you don’t need is my business.” :-)) He says that he lived comfortably since 1998 relying on the Google rankings. Now his “engines are on fire”.

He wishes that Google would give a warning or something, so he had a little bit more time, to change his site. Mike asks him if he shouldn’t be thankful to Google and give Google a bit of the money back by putting more into Adwords. The owner of the gift shop says he does, but having these niche product he gets hit by the “low search volume” reduction on Adwords, so a lot of his keys won’t trigger an ad.

A discussion starts about a warning system. Frank Watson says that maybe we should go back to check the different datacenters.

The panel calls up Thom Craver, author at Search Engine Watch, on the stage. Thom gives some more insides on the Panda update. The scrapers were hit 1st of February and at the 24th of February they attacked the content farms.

He’s sure that also bounce rates and user experience are two factors Google is looking for now. Mike confirms this: “Anchor text was the most important signal. Now it’s the toolbar.”

At the end of the Session they ask Christoph Cemper if he can say something about the links. Christoph investigated the backlink profiles of a lot of sites, that were hit by Panda, but he’s pretty sure: “it’s not the links”.
Jonathan Allen says however you should keep on doing offpage link building. Also for your long tail keywords.

To sum up things at the end:
– Check your content for quality,spelling, grammar etc.
– try to decrease bounce rates. The worst signal is when users go to your page and come back to Google after a few seconds to do another search.
– don’t rely on just one channel. If the majority of your traffic is coming from Google, fix it. Use other channels, because you’re to vulnerable!


Written By
Evert Veldhuijzen is consulting various international brands about different aspects of online marketing. His company Netlead is in affiliate business and develops websites for his joint-ventures.
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