Google Panda Update Chews Up Search Queries

I’ve been critical of Google’s algorithm practices in the past because even though they are much improved, they still reward too many SEO tricks, too much inferior content and too few small businesses. Despite efforts to improve search engine results, the black-hat marketers and the click-bait spammers always seem a step ahead.

But the past week may be the biggest indication yet that Google is making vast improvements in the right direction.

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First up was the release of Panda 4.0. For the uninitiated, Panda is the code name of Google’s filter to prevent low-quality sites from ranking high in search engine results. The formula is complicated, but it’s essentially the filter designed to prevent “gaming” the system to prevent high search engine scores through duplicate pages, excessive back links and other tricks to manipulate search engine results. Google indicates the update impacted about 7.5% of English-language queries — a very significant number overall.

A second update was also made to Google’s Payday Loan Algorithm. The algorithm targets “spammy queries” and goes after link schemes designed to capture search engine traffic illegally. While Google says the algorithm impacts roughly 0.3 percent of search queries in the United States, it still is an effective tool in Google’s battle against spam on the web.

Many major websites suffered significant hits in search metrics in the wake of the Panda update, according to Search Engine Land. The Panda algorithm update led to traffic drops of more than 50 percent or more from Google for sites including Ask.com, Examiner.com, DealCatcher.com, Health.com and more. On the other hand, some sites saw extraordinary gains in Google traffic, such as eMedicineHealth.com, ConsumerAffairs.com and EatingWell.com.

Among other sites that that took big hits last week was eBay. But according to Recode.net, eBay’s drop in search engine visibility was not due to Panda 4.0 but due to a “manual action” by Google to punish eBay for creating pages designed exclusively to capture search engine traffic. RefuGeeks.com says their research indicates that category and subcategory pages designed almost entirely for search engines and not organic, direct traffic among the pages Google removed from searches.

The manual adjustment against eBay serves two purposes. First and foremost is to penalize a major website that manipulates the search engine system to create an unfair advantage. Second and just as importantly, it’s a shot across the bow of other major sites to shape up their SEO or face punishments far worse than simple algorithm adjustments.

Even though Panda impacted less than 10 percent of search queries, it still marks a significant shift for Google away from spammy, black-hat website toward sites that focus on quality content. Google has always stated that is their goal, and while Google has been effective in punishing the ever-adapting tactics and black-hat marketers, it’s struggle has been rewarding small businesses that focus on quality content. Taken as a while, the actions and updates Google initiated las week are a sharp swing in the right direction.

Coincidentally, my friends at Smirk New Media hosted a Google Partners Connect event in Oklahoma City.  The event was designed to help business learn how to grow their business online. Among the  messages from Google was the need to focus on fresh, quality content. For a rundown of some of the tips and key messages from the event, be sure to check out Smirk New Media’s timeline for #PartnersConnect. It’s another reminder that quality content, customer service and personal networking are the keys to online success.

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