SES NY | Panda: The Aftermath

By Lauren Kade | Mar 23, 2011
More Articles by Lauren


When people think about pandas, they generally think of the furry bears in zoos, or all the movies with cute depictions of Pandas.  But as Stephen Colbert will tell you, they are still bears! The Google Panda update was unpleasant for most people, a good kick in the butt by a more Kung Fu panda, if you will.  A highly anticipated session here at SES New York, “Panda: The Aftermath,” discussed the infamous Google Panda/Farmer algorithm update and the impact it had.

Speakers included:

“Brothers and sisters, we gather here today to mourn the passing of many of our webpages.”
– Mike Grehan

So what is this Panda/Farmer algorithm update?

The Panda update (also known as Farmer) was an update to the Google algorithm in February 2011.  It was designed to target sites using black hat strategies and sites with low quality, but many sites playing by the Google rules saw huge hits to their rankings and, subsequently, visits to their site.

Jonathan:

SEO is all about managing risk, so if you got hit badly by an algorithm update it probably means you were doing the right thing – pushing the envelope.  It depends on how much power you want and how fast.  You can take the quick and dirty route, or safe and slow.

Frank:

If Google is pushing us, pushing against content farms and other areas, we should be pushing back at Google.  Google isn’t the government, you’re not breaking the law by pushing the envelope.

Mike:

And a lot of those people who do black hat made a lot of money and don’t really care about Google algorithm updates.  The people comlaining about the Panda update have all been people utilizing white hat strategies.  Black hat companies don’t care, they just move on to the next thing.

What is the new update emphasizing?

Danny:

Google is now getting big on spelling and grammar.  A misspelling in the H3 tag could seriously affect your rankings.  Also watch internal linking.  If every page links to every other page on your site, you’re not telling Google what your big money pages are.

Mike:

And it’s a lot about content.  Low quality can mean a page without much text on it, so make sure your pages are rich in content.

What exactly happened to people who got hit by the Panda update?

Audience Input:

A technology forum with over a million users is a great example of a site that has great content, has a lot of user input, that got hit very bad with the update.  Their users went from 90,000 visitors to 15,000 visitors overnight.  They don’t do any black hat operations, they have no clue what happened.  They’ve done a lot of SEO recovery strategies, and have seen a bunch of increases internationally, but their US traffic has not budged since the Panda update. (Panda only affected the US).

An owner of a whacky online gift shop says he got too comfortable.  He did all the content edits over and over and did everything the same since 1998.  Organically speaking, he was untouchable, always in the top 3, so he didn’t bother to ever branch into PPC and diversify.  Looking back, he would have diversified so that if something changed, he would not have been so devastatingly hit.  He wishes that he had been warned so he could have diversified sooner and prepared

Frank:

They should warn us when they’re going to do an update, but it’s hard because Google doesn’t want to give away too much too soon.

Audience:

Maybe we should be treating every day as if there’s an update happening, and not get comfortable, and work on our strategies and work to diversify daily.

Was anyone affected positively by the update?

Business Wire: A few years ago, their chief competitor was killing them in the rankings so they started to look at their whole website, not using link farms, doing things the “hard old fashioned way” and have been growing their visits over the past year and a half.  After the Panda update, their competitor dropped in the rankings and Business Wire moved up.

Mike:

So there are two ways of looking at that really.  What you said makes sense, but many people believe that if you don’t use black hat in some of the competitive areas, it could be like showing up to a gun fight with a knife.

Frank:

We should all just forget about search engine optimization, and instead do user optimization.  You’ve got to be able to convert better with the visits you’ve got at the moment.  Get away from bowing down to Google and focus on the users.

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