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July 19, 2011

Google’s Panda Update: Haters, Cheaters and Consequences

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Whenever Google has a major algorithm change or update, like clockwork, you can count on a huge army of “haters” to come pouring out of the woodwork complaining about the injustice of it all. Google’s last major update, “Panda” was no exception. The criticizing and complaining came fast and furious and non-stop. And even though the update occurred months ago, people are still posting diatribes about it on websites across the Internet. Sheesh…get over it, already!

Or, as they say in the hood, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game!”

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about those individuals whose website took a hit, who are just venting – blowing off a little steam. I can appreciate and understand their frustration.

No, I’m talking about all those Google haters out there (you know who you are) – malcontents who gripe and complain about anything and everything Google does – for no other reason than the fact they hate Google for its sheer and utter dominance.

I’m particularly amused by those individuals who threaten they are going to get revenge and teach Google a lesson. They say they’re going to boycott Google and start optimizing their sites for Yahoo and Bing. Yep, that’ll show Google who’s boss alright.

The fact of the matter is, they should have been optimizing for Yahoo and Bing all along. You should NEVER put all your eggs in one basket – even if that basket happens to be the most powerful search engine on the planet.

Diversification wins the day – always has. Be smart, and try to get as much traffic as you possibly can from all three major search engines. You can start by registering your site with all three search engines. To register your site with Google: Google Webmaster Tools.

The process is similar with Yahoo: Yahoo Site Explorer, and Bing: Bing Webmaster Tools.

What are the benefits of registering your site with the search engines? There are many including:

o Keyword relevancy percentage grading

o Access to top search queries on the respective search engines

o Access to crawl errors, search engine feedback on sitemaps and robots.txt

o Latest data regarding incoming links and internal links

o Helpful and constructive suggestions for HTML optimization

o Valuable insight into crawling and indexing activity on your site

…Just to name a few.

And just like during the heyday of the Big 3 automakers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, when GM was unquestionably the most powerful automobile company on the planet, on the Internet, the Big 3 are Google, Yahoo and Bing. And Google is unquestionably the most dominant search engine on the planet.

But despite Google’s dominance, it’s still important to optimize your site for all three major search engines. Because in addition to the aforementioned benefits, Google is losing market share (albeit slightly), while new-kid-on-the-block Bing is rapidly gaining market share.

“Google lost 16 percent of its market share. It dropped from 73.9 percent last year to just shy of 64 percent. Bing on the other hand grew handsomely. In fact, Bing grew its market share a whopping 75% to 17 percent of the search engine market from 9.7 percent last May 2010.(Source: CompetePulse)

This fact is bolstered even further when I analyze my own stats. Even though the vast majority of my search engine traffic still comes from Google, I’m starting to see more and more traffic coming from both Yahoo and Bing consistently, instead of sporadically like before.

Speaking of Bing, Roger Janik, President and Founder of ServerSideDesign.com, has written an excellent article about Bing’s recent surge, as well as Google’s recent loss in market share titled, Google Losing Market Share in Search Engine Wars.

But getting back to Google’s algorithm changes, the following are a timeline of Google’s major updates:

o 2003-05-01 “Fritz” update
o 2003-05-16 “Florida” update
o 2007-01-25 Googlebombs “defused” update
o 2009-02-20 “Vince” update
o 2010-05-01 “Mayday” update
o 2011-02-24 “Panda” update
o 2011-05-10 “Panda 2.1″ update
o 2011-06-16 “Panda 2.2″ update (Source: ToddNemet.com)

We all know Google implements these earth-shattering and game-changing updates from time to time. But instead of griping about it, have you ever stopped to consider why Google has these updates? I have, and whether you agree with its methods or not, Google has always maintained its mission is to deliver “the most relevant and useful search results possible.”

Unlike a lot of cynics out there, I believe that’s exactly what Google is trying to do – deliver the most relevant and useful search results possible. But that’s not the only reason for Google’s perpetual algorithm changes. Google is also concerned about maintaining the integrity of its search results, while trying to stay one step ahead of cheaters who relentlessly attempt to manipulate Google’s SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages). And it’s not always the usual suspects either.

“Google built its business on the strength of algorithms that yield speedy results. The company constantly refines those formulas, and sometimes takes manual action to penalize companies that it believes use tricks to artificially rise in search rankings. Recently, it has cracked down on retailers J.C. Penney Co. and Overstock.com Inc.

Google acknowledged it “can and should do better” to beat back sites that “copy content from other websites” or provide information that is “just not very useful” but are ranked highly anyway.” (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Overstock.com was penalized for utilizing link exchanges that violated Google’s WebMaster Guidelines in an effort to effectively gain an unfair advantage in Google’s SERPs.

Overstock allegedly offered 10% discounts to teachers and students in exchange for links on coveted .edu websites. Exchanging links for a discount is a clear and flagrant violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

As a consequence of being spanked by Google, Overstock’s sales dipped 5 percent. In addition, Overstock suffered a whopping 32 percent loss in organic traffic. And while a 5 percent dip in sales might not sound all that significant for a Fortune 100 company like Overstock which had revenues of $1.1 billion in 2010, it can potentially amount to tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Like I said earlier, just like elections have consequences, so too does cheating!


David Jackson is a marketing consultant and the owner of Free-Marketing-Tips-Blog.com – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business! http://free-marketing-tips-blog.com

13 Responses to “Google’s Panda Update: Haters, Cheaters and Consequences

    avatar Martin Dimmock says:

    I must agree with much of what you have written David; we have become so used to using Google to get our website to the top of the SERPs that we have forgotten that Google’s primary purpose (apart from the obvious: $$$) is to provide useful results. In a way, perhaps these updates are needed because there is a struggle between Google’s Advertising businesses and search functions. It’s a fine line to tread.

    http:harryadney.com

    avatar Amelia says:

    I found myself nodding along to your article. Optimising a site for just one search engine is absolutely daft, but I still maintain that the bulk of my efforts should be focused on Google, simply because that’s where the majority of my clients’ traffic comes from.

    Like you, I can’t help getting annoyed with people who gripe about alogrithm updates. Like you, I do actually believe (rightly or wrongly, or just plain naively) that Google’s primary focus is to display the best results in the fastest time for whatever query is typed in… With this in mind, I find myself working more and more on making alterations to my clients’ websites, as opposed to the old system of generating a lot of links (all relevant) – as this appears to impact performance more these days than ever before. I firmly believe this is the way that search is heading, and that is where the focus should be. Obviously, links are still very important and I am not saying otherwise, but I think the level of importance has shifted – certainly in the last 3 years or so! And, my prediction is that this trend will continue – I am really interested in how Google +1 will influence listings – but this is just another opening for the spammers I fear… What are your thoughts on that?

    avatar Bookingelf says:

    Many of the haters talk about what ‘google does’ like they were paying for the services provided by Google. It is a free service, so like it or not, use it or not. I would be angry too if one of my sites after being on top would receive a big drop… but that still would be just a “damn it” because nobody told me to rely on the traffic provided by google…

    avatar Shannon says:

    Well written. I have found many of my pages flagrantly copied or cleverly reworded on a numberr of sites. Many of those sites are now nowhere to be found on the first pages of search results. It is also a good reminder that unique and original content is king, not pap or spin!

    avatar Tony says:

    Dear David,

    I must disagree with your comments and like many in the SEO Industry you can see your own bias and self interest in play. The reality is that Google use to be a great search engine and one that the average internet business owner could work with making it a win win situation, but this no longer the case.

    It’s in your interest to side with Google and that is the way you both make your money, what you don’t like is when the stark truth of Google is now being seen for what it is. The basis about all this comes down to MONEY and there is none greedier than Google, this is all about getting more people into there Pay Per Click and nothing it’s as simple as that…!!!!

    Advertising dollars notwithstanding Martin, there isn’t any question in my mind, Google cares about being the “best” search engine on the planet.

    If everyone played by the rules, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. But as long as you have cheaters trying to gain an unfair advantage, the updates are a necessary evil.

    Amelia, I’m not a big fan of Google+1, so I don’t use it. My biggest beef with Google+1 is everytime you click to vote, your vote is seen by everyone in your Google account – friends, family, clients, co-workers – everyone. I have a problem with that.

    Also, once you vote, you can’t take it back or hide your vote – which has implications of its own.

    avatar Tony says:

    “Even though the vast majority of my search engine traffic still comes from Google, I’m starting to see more and more traffic coming from both Yahoo and Bing”

    Why optimise for them if they are going to find you anyway?

    Surely the best way to optimise for the big 3 is to make your site properly in the first place?

    avatar Rick says:

    Although I’m really not a big fan of Google and I have to agree on most of what you are saying, especially about nobody should put all their eggs in only one nest and instead try to optimize for all search engines and even better, try to get as much traffic as possible through referring websites I strongly disagree with you saying, “Google has always maintained its mission is to deliver the most relevant and useful search results possible.”
    I can tell by my own experience, using Google for researches, Google delivers a much lower quality search results than BING does.

    Yes, Google does send most of the organic traffic but is it really targeted and quality traffic? Not for us. The bounce rate on visits referred by Google stands at whopping 70% in compare of 30% for referred visits coming through Bing or Yahoo.
    Now why would that be? It clearly tells me, Google’s search results are not as good anymore as they used to be. They are sending traffic on search terms and to pages of our site that are totally irrelevant to to either our content or the search term of the user.

    @Rick: Which search engine has the better search results is subjective and really a matter of opinion. But since you’re trashing Google’s search results in favor of Bing’s, here’s an eye-opener: Bing’s search results closely mirror Google’s – suggesting Bing is cheating by copying Google’s search results.

    Bing doesn’t deny this by the way. In fact, they actually confirm it. But don’t take my word for it. You can read all about it in the February 1, 2011 issue of SearchEngineLand. The article is titled, Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results.

    So your argument about Google having inferior search results to Bing doesn’t hold water. In fact, it proves the exact opposite. It proves Bing itself thinks Google has the superior search results. Otherwise, why cheat and copy Google?

    avatar John says:

    If Google’s primary focus is better search results, then why do I continually get irrevelant search results?

    I keep hearing this same thing over and over again ad nauseum, yet Google’s search results do not match what they say the focus is on, and rarely match my search query.

    I haven’t gotten relevant search resuts on Google since I don’t know when. Maybe that’s why I use other engines for true results and not have my privacy invaded and get tracked while searching.

    avatar ArtfulWhiz says:

    There are many sites created for “fly by night” schemes, and that is unfortunate.
    On the other site of the coin, there is big G, that is gaining too much power with the intentions that many questions. For now we have to “answer” to big G, and make all the necessary adjustments.

    avatar The Wrath of Panda: Google’s New Algorithm Update says:

    […] Panda first hit the search scene in February of 2011. The goal: low high quality websites responsible of copying and/or scraping content material. Google is within the enterprise of returning correct and fascinating search outcomes, and websites that goal to cheat and steal others’ content material, or just launch unreadable or lackluster content material themselves, are menaces to the system. As such, Google continues to take purpose in an effort to forestall these websites from any measurable rankings. […]

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