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May 15, 2011

The Google Post Panda Debate and Fallout – A SPN Exclusive Article

Lately, like many full-time webmasters, I have been spending a lot of my time dealing with the Panda/Farmer Update – Google’s major Algorithm Changes which they did in February with further adjustments in the months following. This update was a major “game changer” since even some very prestigious sites saw their rankings drop and the debate/fallout is still continuing as I write this material.

Figuring Out “Exactly” How Google Ranks Web Pages Has Become the “Holy Grail” of SEO.

Webmasters and marketers have been debating these “ranking factors” for over 10 years now and that discussion will continue far into the future or for as long as Google remains the dominant search engine on the planet.

Of course, I have formed my own opinions and views on this matter, mostly from the information I get from running 9 or 10 websites. But mainly I derive the majority of my beliefs from observations of some major “keyword battles” which I have been fighting for about as long as Google has existed.

In other words, I have been competing for some major keyword phrases in Google for years. I have been closely tracking and monitoring these keywords over the long haul. I have had some of those valuable keywords on the first page of Google for over 6 or 7 years – many of them in the top spot.

In the process, you do learn a few things about Google and how pages are ranked.

Most of all, you learn that there are a lot of myths out there. For example, many SEO experts insist you must update your site/pages often. But I have one site which I have barely touched in over 4 or 5 years and it still ranks in the top spot in Google for its targeted keyword phrase “Internet Marketing Tools.”

Now I have been constantly building backlinks to this site over the years, but I have not updated it or changed the content much since it was created. I have a few sites which I don’t promote with link building and they have dropped off the map in Google.

What this tells me about Google is that quality one-way links is a very important factor in how Google ranks pages. These keyworded links back to your homepage and to your interior pages are extremely important for getting top rankings.

Actually, I would bet the shop, that if you ONLY concentrated on this factor you would achieve those top spots in Google. While, of course, there is no need to ignore the other ranking factors, if you did, and concentrated most of your efforts on link building, you would still get to the first page of Google. At least that is how things were working…

Then came Panda!

The Google Panda Update threw a monkey wrench into the whole ranking game. It is more or less, the ultimate filter which can override all the other ranking factors. It finds poor quality content and filters it out or lowers its rankings in Google’s Index.

The key here is that this Panda filter doesn’t just rank your web pages, it can rank your whole site. In other words, webmasters have to worry about the over-all quality of their sites because if you have too many of what Google believes to be “poor quality pages” then your whole site could drop in their rankings.

At least this is my reading of the recent updates and changes. If you want some advice dealing with the Panda Update, here are 23 questions directly from Google which you should ask about your content’s quality.

Google’s Panda Update Advice

If Panda struck your site, then you must take a closer look at all your content and make adjustments so that Panda (Google) perceives it as all top quality material. Also, you have to look carefully at your internal linking structure and avoid excessive “keyword spamming” within your site.

For example, one of the keyword phrases I track religiously is my own name! Since I have a rather unique name “Titus Hoskins” it has been easy for me to track how Google has ranked it over the years. Google in the past had usually listed my Ezinearticles Profile in the top spot, but after Panda it now lists my main site under that keyword phrase.

I have seen this in other lucrative keyword phrases I track and having hundreds of interior keyword links pointing to a page on your domain will no longer get it to the top spot in Google. This could be one of the reasons why Ezinearticles was hit so hard by Panda. Previously, the link at the end of each article pointing to an Author’s Profile page and boosted the Profile page to the top in Google. The same was true for many article listings, but no longer.

On-page elements must be in order and factors like site load times and speed have become more important. Writing quality, style, spelling, and grammar have also taken center stage. So too has the trust factor. Can your content or site be trusted? There is also an ongoing argument about “bounce rates” and whether or not Google can even measure these? You can find an interesting discussion on this issue here:

Algorithm Update – Is Bounce Rate a Ranking Signal?

My own opinion on this is that Google can track your every click on the web and has massive amounts of data derived from your usage of their search engine (cookies-R-us), the Chrome Browser and countless programs such as Analytics, Adsense, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, etc. All this anonymous data can be compiled, analyzed and dissected to create their ranking metrics. They would be foolish not to use this data.

Videos are Winners

Of course, I haven’t survived on the web for this long without learning a few tricks. You must go where Google is going.

Like many others, I have noticed videos and pages with videos on them weren’t hit hard by the Panda Update. Ignoring for the moment that Google owns YouTube, videos have always done well in Google SERPs and Panda hasn’t changed that in any significant way.

For years now, I have been enriching my web content and pages with videos – mainly through YouTube – not only because Google owns it, but because everyone uses it. I believe videos are a good way to get traffic and help your rankings plus videos are a form of quality content around which you can build channels and an online community.

Because I believe videos play such an important role in Google’s SERPs, I have created several channels on YouTube. And, I just recently created another channel around my main site. These channels contain simple videos and are usually created from my articles.

Panda Fallout…

Webmasters must constantly adjust marketing tactics to successfully compete in the Post Panda Google. As always, you have to assess algorithm changes to see how they have affected your rankings and traffic. While many sites were untouched by Panda, the rankings of many “authority sites” dropped and the damage was greater than in past updates.

Hopefully, one major consequence of Panda will be that webmasters (myself included) will have to take a closer look at all of their content and filter out the inferior stuff as well as improve site speed, minimize ads, remove pages with little or no real content, fix broken links and make sites more user-friendly. Do all this, not just to please Google, but because having a clean, fast and easy-to-navigate site filled with unique top quality content is not such a bad idea.

More Information:

One of the best discussions which I have found on the whole Panda Debate can be found on this very helpful page from WordTracker:

Google Panda Update Survival Guide

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author who is a full time online marketer. If you found this article helpful, why not get other valuable information by subscribing to our Bizwaremagic YouTube Channel and/or our Bizwaremagic Twitter Account. Titus Hoskins Copyright 2011.