Several weeks ago I attended a session at SES New York titled “Panda: The Aftermath,” which discussed the Google Panda/Farmer update in February. Many people gathered to mourn their website’s lost rankings and to gather hope that they could recover. But up until this point, the Panda update has only affected the United States. On April 11th, Google expanded the Panda update to include all English language searchers outside the United States.
How Have Websites Been Affected?
Search Engine Land has a great blog post of how several websites have been impacted in “Winners & Losers As Panda Goes Global? eHow, Bing’s Ciao.co.uk & More.” The post shows the results of Sistrix’s measurements of visibility scores before and after the update. Topping the list is eHow’s UK site which took an 84% hit in visibility. Other sites with big drops included ciao.co.uk, Bing’s comparison shopping site, which saw an 81% drop in visibility, and Associated Content from Yahoo which showed an 82% drop.
Mahalo, a popular user-driven content site, saw big losses during both the initial Panda update and the expansion. According to a blog post on MindBox SEO by Fred Meek, Mahalo suffered a serious financial hit after the first update and was forced to make layoffs. After the recent expansion, Mahalo saw a 77% drop in visiblity on Sistrix’s chart. Now, the site is looking for more “expertly written content” in an attempt to recover. In a quote by CEO Jason Calacanis, he explained that Mahalo will rise to the new challenges: “We support Google’s effort to make better search results and continue to build only expert-driven content. We’re hopeful that as Google continues to tweak their algorithm our experts and their content will be rewarded.”
Google’s blog post announcing the expansion of the “high quality sites algorithm” was, surprise!, very positive. They describe all the great responses they got after the initial update, “searchers are finding better results, and many great publishers are getting more traffic.” Google also states that they have included some user feedback in the expansion, including data on sites that users have blocked. They explain that if your website saw an impact from this new change, you should re-read the Google quality guidelines for tips about how to improve your site.
In theory, the Panda update was designed to target sites using black hat strategies and “low quality” sites such as content farms. But from what I heard at the SES New York session, many websites that were only using white hat techniques were hit badly. For example, a popular technology forum with high quality user content experienced a big drop in rankings, and have recovered only minimally since the initial update. So what will happen next? Only time will tell if these sites will be able to rebound rankings. In the meantime, hold on for the ride. And remember to keep your hands and arms in the vehicle at all times.